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Colors Bangla: In search of the formula for success
MUMBAI: West Bengal, unlike Karnataka, is proving to be a tough nut to crack for Viacom18 EVP and project head of regional channels (Colors Bangla, Colors Kannada and Colors Odiya) Ravish Kumar.
While Kumar has successfully driven Colors Kannada (earlier ETV Kannada) to the No. 1 spot among the regional entertainment channels in Karnataka, his efforts to duplicate the same success in Bengal with Colors Bangla (earlier ETV Bangla) are yet to bear fruit.
Indeed, he has tried everything—from launching multiple fiction shows (original as well as remakes) to big-ticket reality shows like ‘Bigg Boss’ (a move that cracked the Kannada market) and ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’ to adopting an afternoon programming strategy.
Though the channel saw some growth in the viewership, it was far from enough.
Bengal is distinct from other regional markets, and what works in Karnataka may not necessarily work in the the Bengali market. The regional entertainment space is hugely lopsided here, with Star Jalsha and Zee Bangla dominating 90 per cent viewership, whereas Colors Bangla (earlier ETV Bangla) is trying to play catch-up.
According to Kumar, when Colors Bangla’s efforts had started to show some results, the measurement system changed. Today, it has a viewership share of 10 per cent among Bengali GECs. In contrast, Star Jalsha has over 50 per cent share and Zee Bangla has close to 40 per cent.
He says that the channel, which was on a growth curve, started seeing decline with the change in the measurement system. “We took a battering when BARC came out. It was very pronounced in terms of household data. Even if they have moved to individual-level data, we are nowhere close to where we were during the TAM era. We used to have about 140–150 GRPs. Now we are again in the 90s,” Kumar says.
However, in an unfazed manner, he adds, “We will work our way back and will not rest till we pull a Kannada in Bangla.”
As mentioned earlier, the channel has been trying a lot for the past two years since the takeover by TV18. While Star Jalsha and Zee Bangla had already become very strong players, the then ETV Bangla tried different permutations and combinations.
Big bet on ‘Bigg Boss’
Unlike Kannada, where ‘Bigg Boss’ became an instant hit, viewers in West Bengal did not switch their allegiances to the big-ticket reality show. However, Kumar does not feel that ‘Bigg Boss’ in Bangla was a flop.
“The jury is still out on whether ‘Bigg Boss’ in Bangla worked or did not work. The show definitely was a conversation topic, but one has to keep in mind that at that time the channel platform was weak. I don’t think the ratings are true barometer of the show’s success. If I go by word of mouth and conversations, were the people talking about it and watching it? Yes, they were. Did it translate into ratings? No,” he says.
He adds that the show, along with some fiction properties, did help the channel to grow from 80 GRPs at that time to 120–140 GRPs. “So I won’t conclude that it did not work for us. The situation was very different then. Now given a chance, would I like to do it again? The answer is absolutely!”
After being unable to make a dent in the primetime viewing hours despite launching 15 fiction shows and two big reality shows, the channel tried cultivating the afternoon band ‘Duronto Dupur’ in April last year. The then ETV Bangla launched four new shows between 1 and 4 pm, including ‘Gouridaan’ (a Bengali remake of ‘Balika Vadhu’). However, that too did not work and some shows were shifted to the primetime and afternoons were kept for movies.
Kumar agrees that while some fiction shows and ‘Bigg Boss’ did better, the afternoon strategy did not work.
“We tried the afternoon band strategy, but that didn’t work too well for us. Subsequently, we regrouped and came back. Now we are hitting the primetime with everything we have got,” he says. “One thing you will never find here is the lack of effort on our part. We are always trying, always waiting to get our foot in the door. Once we are able to do that, we will take the door off the hinges and break the wall. That’s what we are all about.”
“Our basic philosophy for Bangla will continue to chip away slowly,” he adds.
West Bengal is an odd market in terms of regional GECs. While the leader Star Jalsha is a copy of Star Plus in many ways (its top-rated daily show being a remake of Star Plus’ ‘Saath Nibhana Saathiya’ and a remake of ‘Diya Aur Baati Hum’ being another), Zee Bangla has dominant non-fiction programming (‘Saregamapa’, ‘Didi No. 1’ and the recently concluded ‘Dada Giri’).
Colors Bangla, meanwhile, is trying to make inroads with both fiction and non-fiction.
“About one to two years back, all our shows used to rate in decimals. Now we definitely have three to four shows that rate in the 1.5–2.5 range. That is a sign that the channel is growing organically,” Kumar notes.
He insists that Colors Bangla is not down and out, and that it is very much in the race. “Our efforts continue to regain our old spot. During Bengali New Year we did rebranding and now we are pulling out all stops to regain our lost glory and market share,” he says.
While ‘Maa Durga’ is its top-rated fiction property, two other shows also have decent viewership share—‘Sadhak Bamakhyapa’ and ‘Byomkesh’.
“Two shows in particular have started to turn the needle in our favour. One is a big mythology, ‘Maa Durga’, which is produced by one of the leading filmmakers in the Bangla market, Shri Venkatesh Films. The show is doing excellent for us. The second thing we have done is the series ‘Byomkesh’, which is done for the first time on TV,” explains Kumar.
“I think as we continue to take more and more such initiatives, the viewers will reward us. In fact, the viewers have already started recognising the fact,” Kumar avers.
Colors Bangla’s current arsenal
The channel’s original programming starts at 5 pm from Monday to Saturday. Between 5 and 6 pm, it airs a game show called ‘Ma-er Super Kid’. Its fiction line-up starts at 6 pm with ‘Saubhagyabati’, followed by ‘Bhule Jeo Naa Please’, ‘Gouridaan’, ‘Shesh Theke Shuru’ (remake of Colors Kannada’s ‘Charandasi’), ‘Ma Durga’, and the recently launched ‘Aponjon’.
“At 9 pm, we run a non-fiction show three days a week, and then we have ‘Byomkesh’, which is three days a week. We have carved out this slot to rotate shows,” Kumar explains.
‘Great Music Gurukul’ is a music reality show that has Hariharan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Javed Ali and Jeet Ganguly as mentors. After the culmination of the show, the channel will replace it with dance reality show ‘Bindas Dance’.
Non-aggressive movies play
The channel has a dedicated afternoon slot for movies where it airs repeats.
“We air repeats in the afternoon but we don’t buy many movies. However, we did acquire four movies at the time of the channel re-launch. We have been doing some movie premieres for the past few months,” says Kumar.