Earlier this week, Star started re-telecasting the 20-year-old soap at 5 pm, daily. Will it fetch an audience by appointment?
For eight years, families across the country convened in front of the television at 10.30 pm every weekday to be welcomed by Tulsi into the Virani household. For many, the family’s tears, joys, festivities and controversies became their own as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi became a part of Indian households. With 1833 episodes, telecasted from July 3, 2000 to November 6, 2008, the show went on to become one of the longest Indian television soap operas.
Now, over 13 years after the show ended, Star Plus has brought it back to Indian television. It airs everyday at 5 pm on the channel.
It is quite a momentous occasion for the audience who enjoyed the show all those years ago. The comments on Star Plus’ social media announcement regarding the show’s return reflects the positive sentiment around it.
Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment, was the programming head at Star Plus, when the show launched.
Vanita Kohli Khandekar, in her book ‘The Making of Star’, describes how the show came about. “Somewhere in February or March of 2000 she (Ekta Kapoor) met Nair and pitched the idea of a daily prime-time soap, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. The idea: examine what happens when a daughter-in-law becomes a mother-in-law. When the tapes of the first four episodes landed in the Star office in June, ‘I told my programming team, “don’t react to this, we are too intellectual”,’ laughs Nair. Kyunki was bright, garish and over the top, going by the standards of the shows airing those days.”
Speaking to afaqs! on the retelecast, Nair said, “I think it’s a wonderful idea. Kyunki is an iconic show. It will be nostalgic viewing for the older audiences and will introduce the show to a new generation who haven’t seen it at all. Since daily soap operas remain the most popular fiction format on GECs, a retelecast of India’s most popular soap ever is a no-brainer.”
"It will be nostalgic viewing for the older audiences and will introduce the show to a new generation who haven’t seen it at all."Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment
The concept of bringing back old shows on television is not new. During the pandemic-induced first lockdown, when shootings had stalled and no fresh content was available, Doordarshan brought back some of its iconic shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s, including Ramayan, Mahabharat, Circus and Byomkesh Bakshi. DD National claimed that it became the most watched entertainment show in the world on April 16 with 7.7 crore people across the globe watching it.
Similarly Zee TV also aired Pavitra Rishta during that time. Star Plus has been airing many of their previous shows, including Iss Pyaar ko Kya Naam Doon and Saath Nibhana Sathiya, at the 5 pm slot for sometime now. These shows are also a decade old, but not much has changed on Indian television since then. However the same cannot be said about the two-decades-old Kyunki.
With the advent of OTT web series and exposure to international content, the audience has greatly matured since then and the content has also gone through a drastic transformation. The era that the show is set in is very different from today- in other words, they were simpler times. Will the social media generation of today accept the twists and turns of this family saga? Moreover, the show ran for eight years- a very long time indeed, for both the channel and the audience.
While this made sense during the lockdown period, due to the lack of content, one wonders at the reasoning now. Especially since the show has been freely available on the OTT platform Disney+Hotstar for quite a few years now. Viewers can watch the show at any time they like. Then why would they go back to an appointment viewing on television?
“The reach of broadcast is many times larger than the streaming apps at present. A move like this targets a different audience, has no content cost and all revenue earned is profit,” Nair explains.
Moreover, the channel is airing the show at 5 pm. Traditionally the channel aired soap operas during the prime time in the evening and aired the repeats during the afternoon. The 5 pm to 7 pm slot is generally viewed by kids when they return from school.
Who does the channel intend to target through the retelecast at this time?
Paritosh Joshi, an independent media and communication consultant, worked as head of revenue at Star, during the duration of the show. He says that while the show may have no value for the millennials, it means a lot to the older generation.
“The show was also the story of a transformation in India. At that time, it had just been 10 years since liberalisation happened and there was a certain unease with wealth. But all that was now changing. The kind of content that TV began to create 20 years ago began the normalisation of opulence. So for those who were above the age of 20 when the show first aired on television, this is not merely nostalgia, but it was also a sense of their right to enjoy the finer things of life.”
“Many of those who watched the show then are now entering a stage of life when they have much more leisure time. They've spent the last 15-20 years in peak career scenes. These people have time on their hands and also disposable income. So as an advertising proposition, it will talk to an older audience,” he added.
"These people have time on their hands and also disposable income. So as an advertising proposition, it will talk to an older audience."Paritosh Joshi, independent media and communication consultant
For those people, who are in a different stage of life, 5 pm is a good time to air content. “They can’t telecast at primetime anyway, there will be a lot of competing new content,” Joshi said.
Joshi says this could be an experiment on the part of Star. “If they discover, let’s say, in 13 weeks that it is not getting the traction that they desired, then they will take it off air. But if it does well, they may even promote it to a slightly better day part,” he said.
Hitesh Malhotra, CMO, Beauty & Industry, Reliance Industries, feels the millennials and Gen Z generation will stay away, but it may attract people in the 40+ age group. So the property becomes attractive for categories like NBFC, insurance, fintech, automobiles and real estate.
“It could create a little initial nostalgia, but I think people will eventually switch back to the non-appointment based OTT viewing even if they have to pay a slightly more premium."Hitesh Malhotra, CMO, Beauty & Industry, Reliance Industries
He cautions that it is not a very sustainable model to advertise on these retelecasted shows as people will eventually switch back to OTT viewing. “It could create a little initial nostalgia, but I think people will eventually switch back to the non-appointment based OTT viewing even if they have to pay a slightly more premium. The boomer generation have their own engagement on social media groups. They have taken a more evolved journey for content consumption than just sitting every week and waiting for one episode,” he said.