afaqs!

Who's making the audience cry?

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | August 26, 2009
Ormax Media has formulated a study which rates TV characters from Hindi GECs on their likeability among audiences

Broadcasters can now track which characters on TV channels are most liked, and which are not able to connect with the audiences. Ormax Media has formulated a survey, 'Characters India Loves', which ranks 125 characters from Hindi general entertainment channels on the basis of their likeability.

This will be a quarterly study and will map the likeability of television characters across SECs, genders and markets. The legwork of the survey was conducted between July and August this year among 2,000 respondents (regular and heavy viewers), which comprised 70 per cent females and 30 per cent males. The parameters were: audiences between the age group 15-44 years, SEC A, B, and C in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Indore.

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The respondents were asked to name any one of their favourite characters on television, and no clues about the programme or channel were given. In the second question, the respondents were asked the reasons behind their preferences.

According to the study, Anandi, the protagonist from Balika Vadhu on Colors, is the most liked character; while Akshara from Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlaata Hai on STAR Plus, came in second. Rajeev Khandelwal, the host of Sach Ka Saamna, took the third place.

The top 10 characters differed for male and female audiences. For instance, in women's preferences, Rajeev Khandelwal ranks No. 7; whereas men have ranked him first. While Salman Khan and Rakhi Sawant do not feature in the top 10 liked characters for women; among the men, Rakhi Sawant's popularity is double that of Salman Khan's.

"The study unveils interesting facets about how audiences perceive characters on television. For instance, Akashdeep Sehgal is the most liked character on Sony's show, Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao, despite his demeanour on the show," says Shailesh Kapoor, director, Ormax Media.

Other inferences were that among males, non-fiction characters rated high on popularity. Apart from characters from top rated shows on the top three channels, STAR Plus, Colors and Zee, characters from SAB and NDTV Imagine also rated high on likeability.

Kapoor states that broadcasters can use the study to gauge the contribution of characters in each programme, find out why certain characters aren't doing well and work on it.

From a programming perspective, it can help channels decide the further storyline, build and accentuate liked characters and shorten the track of less popular characters.

afaqs! spoke to a few programming heads to get their reaction to this proposition. Ashvini Yardi, programming head, Colors finds it a good proposition. For daily soaps, she believes, characters are most important and hold the story together. While most channels undertake internal research of this kind, a survey on such a big scale will prove beneficial.

"Besides knowing which characters are liked, it will be crucial to know what audiences like about the characters," she says. More than non-fiction, she thinks this survey will be beneficial for fiction shows, as they run for longer.

Ajay Balwankar, head, programming, Zee TV says that programming decisions are usually more gut-led. "There is instinctive gut and educated gut. The latter is analytical and based on surveys and ratings," he says.

Balwankar says the survey can be useful, based on what kind of respondents are included in the survey.