How important is personality building for mass television?

By , agencyfaqs! | In | September 08, 2003
It helps, point out analysts, if a mass channel has a character, feel or personality to it

Mainline channels may have different shows at different time slots, but a viewer, especially of the three frontline channels, may observe a peculiar trend.

STAR Plus has a host of family-led shows - Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand, Kehta Hai Dil, Kahin Kissi Roz - driving viewership for the channel. These shows may sport a distinct identity, set of characters or a peculiar storyline; but what remains unchanged is the projection of a family, which, in a way, predetermines the assortment of characters and their machinations.
On the other hand, Sony has protagonist-led shows such as Kkusum, Heena, Devi and now Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin to ZEE's mixed basket of offerings comprising shows such as Astitva - Ek Prem Kahani, Kittie Party, Lipstick, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai or even Thursday Premiere.

STAR and Sony, quite clearly, have a definite attribute defining the channel, especially during prime time, which is the most important period for a mass entertainment channel. ZEE, in contrast, has opted for a positioning plank, which is "innovative and experimental within wholesome family values". As Apurva Purohit, president, ZEE TV, explains, "My viewers are the explorers who want something new and different, which is why my shows are different."

For STAR, family entertainment is a clear driver and all shows are tweaked accordingly, as Tarun Katial, senior vice-president, content and communication, STAR India, points out. "From the time we went Hindi, family entertainment has been our clear denominator. We realise that most households are single TV in nature and television viewing, especially during prime time, is very much a family affair. Within the family, we try and appeal to different audiences with our programming," he emphasises.

On his part, Sunil Lulla, executive vice-president, Sony Entertainment Television, agrees that protagonist-led shows "stand out on the channel". "They are our strength," he says.

Against these assertions, the point is, how important is character building for a mass channel? In other words, should general entertainment channels try to define a channel driver, a personality or identity, being dependent as they are on the next big idea or show? Does it help if a mass channel has something to identify itself with?

"I would think so," says Jasmin Sohrabji, senior vice-president, MediaCom (Grey's media wing). "There is a pattern to how people approach a channel and if you stand for something, it definitely helps a channel in getting people of that mindset to tune in." Ravi Kiran, managing director, Starcom India, west/south, elaborates, "As a channel you should have an idea of where you are going. People, no doubt, want to watch shows or programmes. However, channel character is certainly helpful."

With television being a dynamic medium and the general entertainment space prone to pulls and pressures with new programming waves emerging every few years, is it worthwhile for a mass channel to earmark a space for itself when the tide could turn any which way?
"Unlike a product brand, a channel is defined by its shows. It is what you put up that counts," says an executive with a production house. "Channel executives need to watch out for emerging trends and keep their eyes glued to ground realities. Even production houses could aid or abet in the process by tweaking their product when they sense that a wave is round the corner."

Says Katial of STAR, "It is a two-way process. What you put up gets you the audience, which, in turn, builds the brand as well as your identity. Once that happens, the channel driver or attribute per se emerges and you can put new shows on air depending on your channel attribute or identity."

With mass entertainment channels waking up to the need to position their products (read properties) to a certain audience or mindset, one certainly hopes novelty and innovation are not given a short shrift in the quest to build brand character. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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