Rangmunch.TV: You have done Star One shows like Dil Mil Gaye, Mile Jab Hum Tum, and have also been partially associated with Geet hui sabse parayi. When we hear that Star One does not have a reach, what does that exactly mean and where does the ownership lie to ensure that it reaches far and wide?
Vivek Bahl: ‘A channel does not have a reach’ simply means that there are not enough people watching or interested in the content of the channel. It is not about pushing either of the channels – Star One and Star Plus - to increase their reach. For us both are equally important. Infact, it is more important for us today that Star One works.
TAM (Television Audience Measurement) take two things into account – Reach and Time Spent. Time Spent is how long people are watching each episode. It is the average amount of time the viewers spend watching a particular episode. Out of 22mins of content, the time spent would be the average number of mins the people being measured under TAM spend watching an episode. For eg., Time spent for popular shows like Yeh Rishta, Pratigya, Balika Vadhu are anywhere between 14 and 16 mins at the most.
And Reach on the other hand is the number of people out of the entire TAM space that are watching it. Sometimes what happens is that, while shows like Geet have an excellent time spent of 12 to 13 mins, they have fewer people watching it than say a show like Balika Vadhu, which despite having a similar time spent has many more people watching it. The low reach of Geet eventually brings its ratings down. Ultimately, the TRP ratings depend on these two factors put together.
Rangmunch.TV: In India, we have Reality shows, which come in seasons. So why is this concept not seen in the case of Daily soaps?
Vivek Bahl: Oh! We all would love to have the Season concept for our daily soaps where we can write around 200 episodes, then take a break & work on creating the next season. We did try the concept with our show Ba Bahu aur Baby but it did not work at all. India as a market is still very new unlike the West where Television has been around for a longer time. However the Channels don’t have the confidence as they feel once the show goes out of viewer’s sight, they disconnect with it completely & do not return to watch the next season.
People’s memories are short lived; hence, we have stuck to doing daily, weekly & Bi-weekly shows. However even weekly & bi-weekly shows have not been able to garner the desired TRPs. People have now been asking to bring back Bidaai since it was such an iconic show. But we do not know how much that is going to work or how much the audiences are still looking forward to that show. Like for example the show Choti Bahu has come back but its not doing well. Therefore, the Channels have their own apprehensions for not coming back in seasons.
Rangmunch.TV: Is it because of the benchmark that season one sets for itself?
Vivek Bahl: May be. People build their own expectations regarding the show & then get disappointed if it does not match up to what they had expected it to be. While in non-fictional shows, the viewers are aware that except for the format, everything else would change, like the host & the contestants.
Rangmunch.TV: Since there is a lot of research that goes into deciding the concept and then launching the show, why do we still have shows closing prematurely?
Vivek Bahl: Research will only guide you, you need to be smart enough to use it in a manner that helps you but it will not guarantee hit shows. Almost every film abroad is based on research yet 90% of their films flop. Similarly here too, research will just tell you whats working and whats not. Unfortunately, it does not write episodes or do casting for you.
We used research for our show, Yeh Rishta but the show could have still flopped. After the casting is done, you can test the show for say, 20 episodes when they are on air, to see whether the viewers like Akshara (the protagonist of Yeh Rishta) and if they do not, what do they not like about her. It is important to be intelligent enough to incorporate the findings into your writing and still write the show well. Instead, if you follow research blindly, then all shows will end up looking similar.
We do a rating of the research internally before launching a show. For instance, we did it for our show Behnein, just for the first episode, and the viewers loved it but the show eventually did not do well.
Rangmunch.TV: Apart from the market research that Star as a channel does for each of its show, how much of a value addition are the various online forums that put forth viewers’ opinions & suggestions?
Vivek Bahl: Yes, we definitely keep tabs on various online forums as they give instant & genuine feedback. But it also depends on the kind of show & viewers they cater to. Like for instance, incase of Navya, which is a youth based show, I would take these forums & their feedbacks very seriously, but would not blindly follow them. I always strike a balance between the viewpoints of the younger & the older crowd watching the show as per my research. It really depends on how intelligently every channel person & creative person uses that feedback.
I also feel that forums should be vigilant towards the contents that are posted by the viewers as there are some who seem to have vested interest where they try to run down a show. Even before Navya had launched there was a lot of negative comments on the promos that were aired since it was coming in the Tere Liye slot. Considering the large number of viewers accessing these forums its not very easy to exercise controls hence the Channel needs to approach this in a mature manner in deciding what to react to and how.
Rangmunch.TV: Dil Mil Gaye on Star One had a TRP of 0.2 for more than a year. What motivates the channel to continue airing such a show with low TRPs?
Vivek Bahl: Eventually, it will depend on economics & hence Star One is once again going into re-invention. A show might have a rating of one & still earn revenue depending on two things. Firstly how much you are spending on it & secondly whether the advertisers will see value because the show caters to a certain kind of viewers. There might be a Star Plus show which has a rating of 3 but the advertiser might want to target the Dil Mil Gaye kind of audience & hence will still advertise on that show. If he can make money like that then that is how niche channels with niche shows will evolve in India.
I guess a few years down the line, we will have youth channels but at present, the time is not right because the advertisers still go by the TRP ratings of a show. As a result, it becomes difficult for channels to produce that show with a TRP of one. Once the advertiser realizes that even though a show has a rating as low as 1, since it attracts a younger crowd, which is exactly their kind of audience, they see benefit in placing their ad with the show, and that is when you will start seeing some money pouring in even for low rated shows. Today the market is not mature enough but it will eventually happen. When I am saying it will take time, I mean 5 to 10 years before these kinds of evolvements happen.
Rangmunch.TV: What is the new Star plus HD all about?
Vivek Bahl: It is about giving better quality to viewers. The colours & pictures on HD look much better & glossier. However, our cameramen in Navya are still struggling with HD since it’s a new technology and need more training for it to be used in an optimal manner. Even if you watch it on a non-high definition TV, the content still looks better because it is shot on High Definition. The west has been using HD much before us so it is high time that India too follows the trend where technology is concerned.
Rangmunch.TV: We have many national as well as international viewers for shows like Geet who would like to buy the DVDs of their favourite show & store them. So can we see DVDs being launched for shows in the long run?
Vivek Bahl: I don’t know why in the long run, actually it should happen right away. It is a good idea. I should ask our marketing & management people if there is a reason for it not happening in India. I am sure there is a market for it & the channels should explore this option.
Rangmunch.TV: So can we hope to see DVDs of our favourite shows being launched at some point in time?
Vivek Bahl: Yes definitely.
Niharika Vidya Sagar