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BW Businessworld

Battle Royale For Eyeballs

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If you watch television even occasionally, you would not have failed to notice that the kind of programmes that are beamed today are very different from what used to be the staple fare five years ago. The so-called reality show genre seems to have become extremely popular. Strictly speaking, reality shows always existed — the quiz shows that featured ordinary participants were reality shows after all. Kaun Banega Crorepati redefined the quiz show genre with its celebrity host and its monumental prize money, but it was still rather tame compared to what we see today. The new generation of reality shows are far more voyeuristic, and they push the envelope in terms of getting participants to do strange things. While different reality shows have had differing success rates in terms of audience ratings, what is apparent is that as a genre they are here to stay.

Meanwhile, even in terms of family dramas — the soaps that all entertainment channels depend on — there are more storylines being explored today than in the past.

All these have had quite an impact on the business of running television channels. Suddenly, what used to be a somewhat predictable business is undergoing a lot of change.

General entertainment channels get the lion's share — almost two-thirds — of the Rs 8,000 crore advertising that go to television channels. Star Plus was the king of general entertainment channels for almost a decade. It stayed comfortably ahead of both Zee and Sony in the audience eyeball stakes.

Unfortunately, it failed to react to the changing audience tastes quickly enough. In the past couple of years, a number of new challengers have jumped into the fray. While some of them bit the dust early, at least one — Colors — took over the leadership position from Star Plus for several weeks. A rejevunated Zee has also been providing tougher competition than it has in the past. It also briefly took the pole position last month.

Now Star is hitting back with all it has in its armoury to grind the challengers to dust. Sach Ka Samna, the controversial programme it launched a few weeks ago, is the first salvo in its fightback. Will the channel succeed in its goal? Read Senior Associate Editor Gurbir Singh's analysis on page 28.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 17-08-2009)