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Hot Seat

‘This business is like swimming, you have to jump in to know if you can swim or not’

Raj-Nayak-interviewA lot has changed since we interviewed Colors CEO Raj Nayak in July last year. At that time, Colors’ fiction wasn’t performing even though its non-fiction properties were leading the charts. Star Plus was a distant leader of the Hindi general entertainment genre, and Colors and Zee TV were in a neck-and-neck fight for the No. 2 spot.

Cut to the present and Colors has six of its shows in the top 10. It has been No. 1 in the genre for the past two weeks, and with ‘Bigg Boss’ launching soon, it is hoping for further consolidation of its position.

In an interview with TelevisionPost.com’s Gaurav Laghate, Nayak talks about the channel’s current shows and future strategy.

Edited excerpts…

Q. In July last year, when we spoke last, none of your fiction properties were among the top 10. How did it change?

We were working our way towards it. When you meet me the next time, your opinion would change further. Today, six out of the top 10 shows are from Colors. The top three non-fiction shows are also ours.

Q. How did you manage to change it?

Nobody has a magic wand. We have a strong creative team and everybody works very hard. There is an endeavour at any given point of time to get a good story. There is no formula for this. It’s a trial and error, but somewhere we get a feel of what will and will not work. We then put all the elements together and fine tune it.

Q. It’s like a dream run with six shows in the top 10.

The credit goes to the creative team headed by Manisha (Sharma). Somehow they have managed to crack it. There is also Deepak (Chhabria) in the fiction team. They have been able to hold the reins together, so all fronts are doing well.

Q. You have expanded your primetime, which now starts with ‘Ishq Ka Rang Safed’ at 6.30 pm. How is it performing and what is the plan for new shows?

‘Ishq Ka Rang Safed’ is building up, but more importantly, most of the other shows are working.

There will be more launches over the next 2–3 months. Right now, we are very clear in our minds that the channel is in a stage where it is doing well in fiction and non-fiction and we want to build from here and consolidate.

Q. So will you increase programming hours?

We will see what works best for us—increasing programming hours or replacing a show which is not doing well. We will do whatever makes economic and business sense.


“Right now, we are very clear in our minds that the channel is in a stage where it is doing well in fiction and non-fiction and we want to build from here and consolidate”

Q. ‘Balika Vadhu’ has completed 2,000 episodes. The story has completely changed from what it was at the launch. Do you think it has enough steam left?

Balika Vadhu’ is the longest-playing show on TV and is again bouncing back in ratings. I think it has legs for at least a year or two.

Honestly, we were stretching it a bit. It is an expensive show, not because of other things but because of increment over seven years. But we wouldn’t have continued doing it if we didn’t think it has legs. Today, the ratings are also showing.

Q. What about the second season of ‘24’?

You will soon get the invite for the press conference for the second season of ’24’. The biggest challenge is that of timing—many shows and limited time.

Q. ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’ has long lost its leadership in non-fiction. It has also gone weekly. What is the future for the show?

Overall, comedy average is very high on Colors. I think ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’ will also bounce back. Kapil has been a little busy with his movie launch [‘Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon’]. Now that his movie has become a big success, he will be back and get more time. If Kapil wants another slot, we will give it to him. We are open to it.

Q. But he has been complaining about availability. Do you think he will have enough time for more episodes?

Yes, Kapil will have more time. If Shah Rukh and Salman can do TV, Kapil Sharma can definitely do TV. And he has been a part of ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’ since its launch. That is what has built his brand equity. His success comes from the show as well. Now his film career will complement the show and his show will complement his film career.

Q. In between, you have also launched ‘Comedy Nights Bachao’, an insult comedy genre, something that has not been tried on Indian channels. Are there any plans to make it bi-weekly?

We want to first make sure that ‘Comedy Nights Bachao’ is built properly. It is a completely home-grown format.

If you talk about format, yes, we were not sure about it, but we gave it a shot. Unless you try, you never know. This business is like swimming, you have to jump into the pool to know if you can swim or not, and once you jump in, only then you know how deep the water is.

Q. We no longer see many movies on Colors, which used to be an integral part of the channel. In the last interview, you had said that you did not have another channel to support the high cost. Do you think now is the time to increase the number of movies on Colors, with Rishtey in tow?

Even now, our reliance on movies is very little. At this moment, there is no immediate plan to increase the number of movies airing on the channel. Movies are still not our priority. We will buy if it’s good value, but it’s definitely not in our must do list.

Q. Viacom18 recently got the licence for a new channel called Bandhan. Is this going to be a movie channel?

We got a licence, but there are no immediate plans of launching. We will speak at an appropriate time.

Q. You have launched new shows and movies on Rishtey. How is the channel shaping up?

We are sprucing up Rishtey little by little because we don’t want any knee-jerk reaction. At the moment, our focus is on Colors because it has to consolidate.

Q. How is the Colors brand helping regional channels?

It has definitely helped, in terms of both premium on advertising and viewership. Any activity by any brand resonates with all Colors brands.


“‘Balika Vadhu’ is the longest-playing show on TV and is again bouncing back in ratings. I think it has legs for at least a year or two” 

Q. What are the plans on the digital front?

Gaurav [Gandhi] has just taken over. He is putting a team in place, but it will take some time. They have just hired Monika Shergill. Soon you will hear from them on the digital front.

Q. Of late, there has been a lot of action in the digital space. Everyone from Hotstar to Sony Liv to Eros Now to Ditto TV is getting into original content. Do you see that as the future of content consumption?

This is herd mentality—anything new and everyone wants to be there. Any organisation that has got great content and has a good platform for delivery will be uniquely positioned compared to anybody else. If you don’t have both, then you are depending on the other. I think that is going to be a challenge.

I think while everybody is speaking about digital, nobody is putting their money where their mouth is. So the content money that is being spent on digital is still very small.

One of the reasons why consumption on different platforms like mobile, tablets, etc. has not happened is bandwidth crunch. I think once Reliance 4G launches, and if the bandwidth problem is addressed, then there will be a major shift.

Q. BARC is going to start releasing rural data soon. It has also revealed that this data will constitute over 40 per cent of GEC viewing. Do you think rural data might impact carriage?

I don’t think it will. All rural has been seeded already as it is work in progress for over two years now.

Q. So are you expecting leadership position in the rural areas as well?

I am hoping for it. Anyway, if we are not No. 1, we will start working towards it, and if we are No. 1, we will get further motivated.