Why do top Hindi GECs stay away from sitcoms?

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | August 21, 2012
The top Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) have lately been shying away from the comedy drama shows or sitcoms. Is it because of the new niche product, SAB TV or are they trying to focus on other niche genres?

Hum Paanch

The times of Hum Paanch and Dekh Bhai Dekh have long gone for the top Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs), since the only comedy that is visible on this flock is of the stand-up variety, which is more of a reality show than a comedy show.

Channels such as Star Plus, MSM's Sony, Viacom's Colors and Zee TV have lately shied away from the comedy drama shows or sitcoms. Has the new niche product, SAB TV, limited their reach or are the channels trying to focus on other niche series of products?

Fear of losing the grip

The marketers observe that the GECs have got quite a grip over the female audiences. It is universally believed that comedy and sitcom are genres that cater more to male audiences. A senior media expert opines that female audiences are generally attracted towards melodrama and trauma, which is offered to them through the soaps.

He also states that bringing a sitcom in the prime time slot means the experimentation with a new set of audience (implies male), which may create a negative effect on the otherwise loyal audience of the channel (read: female). The expert adds that though the comparative costs of sitcoms are less than those of soaps and reality shows, the channels try to keep away from them in the fear of losing a share of their loyal audience base.

Availability of a niche product

It cannot be ignored that these channels enjoyed a loyal set of viewers for their earlier sitcoms such as Hum Paanch (Zee TV), Dekh Bhai Dekh (Sony), Hum Sab Ek Hain (Sony) and Khichdi (Star Plus). However, it can be said that the channels have recently started focusing on the other genres more than the comedy dramas. It must be noted that the latest popular comedy show on GECs was Khichdi, the second season of which came to an end in 2006 on STAR One (now Life OK).

Shripad Kulkarni

Anita Nayyar

Marketers believe that the availability of a niche product in the genre, Multi Screen Media-owned SAB TV, is also a turn-off for other channels. Shripad Kulkarni, CEO, Allied Media, says, "Though the channel shifted its ownership and even jumped from being a GEC (launched in 2000) to a comedy channel (2003) to a youth centric channel (MSM bought over in 2005) to again a comedy channel (2008), it has created a niche for itself."

He adds that the channel has established itself with a lot of properties that talk for themselves. "It might be possible that these kinds of shows are not working much for the other GECs," he adds.

It's not just about GECs versus SAB TV

A general entertainment channel caters to a wider range of audience as compared to the niche channels. With the unmentioned elimination of one of the genres (that is, sitcom), the channels are all fuelled up to focus better on the other genres of programming.

Anita Nayyar, CEO, India and South Asia, Havas Media, says, "There are many newer innovations happening with the 'daily soaps' genre itself. Social problems are getting involved. There is a shift from one female protagonist to couple-centric stories. The channels are actually focusing on other genres."

She opines that there is no gap felt due to this one less genre when one analyses a programming mix of a channel. "One-off comedy won't make much of a difference, I believe. It's simply a new definition of the offering," she adds.

Kulkarni of Allied Media states, "The GECs are left to newer formats and newer programming, rather."

Also, the marketers say that there is a certain consistency in the story line when it comes to daily soaps or the reality shows, for that matter. "With this consistency in the series, it ensures a consistent viewership to the channel. Whereas the sitcoms are more episodic, wherein the appointment viewing is lesser," adds Nayyar. Hence, she believes that the assured ratings are at risk with the GECs.

It must click

Both broadcasters and marketers believe that the one trouble with the sitcoms is that the writing and casting is very important if the show must resonate well with the audience. A broadcaster, on condition of anonymity, says, "There are a couple of shows that have a tinge of comedy. But a full-fledged sitcom is not to be seen on the top four GECs. The major problem is that it is difficult to make a good comedy - it must click."

Citing the examples of Mrs Kaushik Ki Paanch Bahuyein (Zee TV) and Parvarishh (Sony), he mentions that humour can be inculcated in the running script.

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