Anirban Roy Choudhury

Kumkum Bhagya: Life after topping BARC's charts

Zee TV's daily soap - now 860 episodes old - was the most watched show in its genre thrice in a row. A look at what this means to the makers.

Recently, week after week, Colors' supernatural drama 'Naagin 2' topped the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India's charts. It was a same result different Thursday kind of scenario in the Hindi general entertainment space. Since the last few weeks the monotony seems to be fading, as another Ekta Kapoor and Balaji Telefilms daily soap 'Kumkum Bhagya' has started to make the number one slot its own.

Kumkum Bhagya: Life after topping BARC's charts
"Pragya and Abhi, and their chemistry is what has worked for the show. Add to that the surrounding characters; to me, the show today is number one because people (viewers) have fallen in love with the characters, they have invested their emotions in Pragya and Abhi," says Deepak Rajadhyaksha, deputy business head, Zee TV.

From the Balaji Telefilms stable, Kumkum Bhagya started off as the tale of a simple, unattractive girl - Pragya (Sriti Jha), who has a heart of gold, getting married to a dashing yet arrogant rock star Abhi (Shabir Ahluwalia), owing to some unforeseen circumstances. How they find the better side to each other and love engulfs them was the prime concept. But with new twists finding way, the two, though in love never get a chance to be together as problems keep entering their lives uninvited. The show has emerged as Zee TV's flagship asset. As of today, 860 episodes of the show have been aired.

The channel does not get into the creative proceedings and likes to leave it to the production house to look after. "Number one or not, we do not get into the technicalities which are left for Ekta and her team to look after."

Kumkum Bhagya: Life after topping BARC's charts
The channel instead devotes time to orchestrating the marketing initiatives, "We believe in promoting the show in an organic and hygienic way. That will continue to happen; yes, whenever there is a high point in the show, we promote it more aggressively than usual. We back all our shows, but Kumkum Bhagya, as it is Zee's flagship show, is always given special attention," adds Rajadhyaksha.

Now that the show has emerged as a leader in the Hindi Speaking Market (HSM), the deputy business head is eyeing more revenue. "Kumkum Bhagya has always been a (time) slot leader, so from that point of view, the rates were premium. Now that the show has become number one in the HSM markets, it will help us raise the price and get the desired rates," he asserts.

While the production house does the creative part, the channel stays awake at night to find answers to "A couple of questions, 'how to market the show and how to build and sustain the reach'," says Rajadhyaksha.

Only when there is a major high point in the show, a twist in the track, the channel uses outdoor as a platform for promotion, otherwise it sticks to digital and the TV channels of Zee Network, "We also go outside Zee at times when there is something big happening on the show," he adds.

A media planning expert who prefers not to be named says, "I don't think that just because the show has become number one, there will be a change in the rates. Trading does not happen on weekly basis and inventories are sold well in advance for a show like Kumkum Bhagya. Yes, when they get in the next sponsor, they might charge them more but ad rates will stay the same."

As per sources, a ten second slot during the show is priced at Rs. 1.5 lakh. The channel pays the production house Rs. 8 lakh per episode to produce the show.

Kumkum Bhagya: Life after topping BARC's charts
For a writer, the number one slot is more pressure than happiness or relaxation, says Anil Nagpal, the writer of Kumkum Bhagya. "When you are number two there is great zest to be number one, but when you are number one, there is a great fear that you will be number two, so there is no happiness or relaxation," he states.

Nagpal who is also credited for writing, 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii', 'Kyunki... Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and 'Kkusum' follows ratings very closely. "In an ideal scenario, writers should isolate themselves from ratings and follow sheer creativity, but in reality that is not the case. I am obsessed with ratings! I analyse them, understand them and fashion my shows as per the ratings," he informs.

He too believes it is because of the two lead characters that the show has done well for over 800 episodes. "We did not over-dramatise or over-utilise Pragya and Abhi and that has worked for us," he says.

Daily soaps and time-leaps go hand in hand, we often see generations evolving in the show; Kumkum Bhagya has taken the opposite route. It has been over three years that the show is running, and it is yet to take a time-leap. It is because the writer wanted to keep the characters fresh and young, informs Nagpal. "I did not want my Abhi and Pragya to age that fast; at the same time, we have seen leaps not working elsewhere too. So, we decided to go against time-leaps and luckily it worked for us," asserts Nagpal.

So, is it time over for Naagin and supernatural craze in the GEC space? "Don't write them off," says Nagpal. He explains, "We have to understand that cricket takes away the remote control from the woman in the house. Naagin and other weekend shows are now competing with the likes of IPL and Champions Trophy. Once the matches are over the shows will pick up again."

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