Contradiction in content and viewership profile of mass entertainment channel have gone against the Indian derivative of the international show, says A. L. CHOUGULE.
In highly competitive television business, non-success of an aggressively promoted and star-powered show often gives joy to rival channels, while the channel airing it gets defensive and expresses pride for attempting something out of the box. But 24 is probably one series that many television professional must have hoped to do well. Leaving aside professional rivalry, there is unanimity in the industry that television entertainment needs to break away from traditional family drama.
24 has the best ingredients – a tight and racy plot, drama, action, adventure, thrill, competent star cast, well-known faces, good execution and finest production values. It’s like an episodic movie and it is an adaptation of an international fiction series, which retains key elements of the original fast-paced format. And yet it has not delivered on promise.
It may have got fabulous response and glowing feedback on social media. But the response from TV audiences has been tepid – an average TVR of 1.5 (3134 TVTs) for the opening week was way below expectations. Ratings haven’t improved since the first episode was telecast on October 4. The response should have been better, if not the best, given that the show was promoted heavily for nearly two months. Incidentally, crime and investigation series CID which has been on air for 16 years is way ahead of 24 on rating charts.
The weekend slot – not meant for diehard fiction consumers – should also have worked in its favour. If weekend GEC viewers appreciate variety of content – thriller, comedy, courtroom drama, horror, supernatural and reality shows – they should have sampled 24 in bigger numbers, given that it is aired on number two general entertainment channel (GEC) Colors which enjoys higher reach and distribution.
At the time of launch of 24, Manisha Sharma, weekend programming head of Colors had said, “With 24, we introduce the Indian audiences to a new hybrid genre of entertainment that sees an interesting amalgamation of fiction and reality. Well on its way to become a cultural lexicon, 24 will offer the audiences never-seen-before action, thrill, suspense, drama and the exhilaration of solving complex cases real-time within a span of 24 hours.”
It is true that 24 is an unfamiliar fiction genre that a big segment of GEC audience is not used to watching. Though it is niche content, there is enough TV audience around that is exposed to niche shows on English GECs, lifestyle, crime, infotainment and other specialized channels which ideally should have tuned in to celebrity-powered 24 which has been adapted to Indian eco system. Though it interweaves complex storylines, it is a visual medley of powerful character led by protagonist Jai Singh Rathod (Anil Kapoor). The industry expected at least 2.5 TVR for the show. Why 24 fell short of expectations?
Probably the major reason, according to a senior television analyst, is that it packs too much in every episode. Add to that its roller coaster pace and innumerable sub-plots beneath the main plot and you have a complex drama for Indian viewers who are spoon-fed on a diet of detailing, close ups of good looking characters, loud music, dialogue baazi and three-main-scene indoor drama.
The moot point behind 24’s below par performance is that there is no marked difference between weekday and weekend GEC audience. While GECs’ prime target audience on weekdays are women in 15 to 45 age group, the audience profile does not change dramatically for weekend shows. In fact, the bulk of weekend audience continues to be same and the migratory audience which walks in on weekends is psychologically GEC audience. Going by GECs’ weekend content of past decade, 24 is not a hardcore GEC show for viewers in Tier II and III towns who appreciate CID Crime Patrol, Shapath and Savdhan India, but for urban mindset audience in big cities.
Clearly, it is a case of content disconnect. The contradiction in content and viewership profile has gone against 24. Buzz on social media is one thing and television viewership is quite another. Anil Kapoor is a well known film celebrity and his high profile debut on TV was bound to create chatter, but it didn’t translate into TV box office success. Another reason for tepid response to 24 is the disservice GECs have done to themselves in the past decade. In an effort to retain their core audience, they have driven away discerning audience to find their own choices of entertainment elsewhere. Obviously, the discerning urban viewer who had already seen the original may not have tuned in to the derivative, while those who had not seen the English version appreciated its Hindi adaptation.
The channel is hoping that 24 will do well, though the show is halfway through. Even Anil Kapoor has not given up hopes. “Ratings will improve as more and more people join in to watch it,” he says. Like Kapoor some people believe that 24 is beyond ratings. It may be but TV business is closely linked with measurement metric. However, 24 is not the only show that has failed to stand out. Be it fiction or non-fiction, every year a number of shows fail to make a mark. In any case the rate of success is not more than 20 per cent. Interestingly, despite thumb down from audience the channel and the industry feel that 24 has created new audience for the genre.