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Battle of soaps vs reality shows: Latter has won

Colors must be very pleased — the opening ratings for Khatron Ke Khiladi are quite good. It seems that audiences are enjoying seeing showbiz beauties perform high voltage action stunts / grapple with slimy critters under the watchful eye of Bollywood star and stunt king Akshay Kumar, writes Poonam Saxena.

tv Updated: Sep 19, 2009 00:57 IST
Poonam Saxena

Colors must be very pleased — the opening ratings for Khatron Ke Khiladi (KKK) are quite good. It seems that audiences are enjoying seeing showbiz beauties perform high voltage action stunts / grapple with slimy critters under the watchful eye of Bollywood star and stunt king Akshay Kumar — even though they saw more or less the same thing last year in the first season of KKK.

But the ratings uncover an interesting new fact about the turbulent GEC (general entertainment channels) segment, where all the players have been locked in mortal combat for many months now, with each one trying to up its ratings and claw closer to the No. 1 position.

Which is: Not so long ago, top-rated soaps were channel drivers. If you had a few soaps and serials to which viewers were addicted, you were literally on top of the world. Star Plus retained its numero uno position for years on the basis of its saas-bahu soaps.

But I think the rules of the game have changed now. Today, a consistent combo of hit soaps, hit shows and hit blockbuster films/events is what will deliver consistently high ratings.

Let’s take the example of Colors, which has done exceptionally well since it launched last year.

In the last ten weeks, Colors has been No. 1 six times. Here is its content line-up: Currently it has successful soaps like Balika Vadhu and Na Aana Is Des Lado in its kitty. It also has ambitiously mounted reality shows which unfold with relentless regularity.

Barely had India’s Got Talent ended when KKK launched and the moment KKK gets over, another big ticket show will take its place — Bigg Boss, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan. The Big B’s return to the small screen after so many years is quite an event and the show should open well. (And naturally Colors has been routinely showing Bollywood blockbusters to garner ratings).

Of course all entertainment channels have always had a mix of soaps, reality shows and movies/events; there’s nothing new in the mix itself. What is new is that given the cutthroat competition in the GEC segment, no channel can afford to relax for even a minute on any of these three fronts. Only if a channel has all three cylinders firing will it be in a position to stake its claim to being the market leader.

For example, NDTV Imagine had a big hit in Rakhi Ka Swayamvar (so much so that they’re already planning the next in their Swayamvar series with the late Pramod Mahajan’s son, Rahul Mahajan).

But their soaps aren’t exactly scorching the ratings charts. Zee’s soaps and shows do well but it doesn’t — not as yet anyway — have the kind of A-list glamour that Colors has with shows like KKK. Sony’s reality shows have always done decently but for some reason, its fiction shows always collapse even before taking off. (The last proper success was Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, and that was ages ago).

Star Plus is the only other channel which has top-rated soaps like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Bidayi; it has also managed to grab viewer interest with controversial but gripping reality shows like Sach Ka Saamna. (The channel has just launched another reality show, The Perfect Bride, and I’m fascinated at the participation of the boys’ mummyjis. More on the show next week).

But the way things look right now, one thing is clear: entertainment channels have to constantly create excitement to pull in viewers. If they don’t, viewers switch channels. Simple.

As to what all these ‘exciting’ soaps and shows are like, well, that’s another story.