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Why is Star Plus stretching its fiction line-up to six days a week

MUMBAI: In a strategic move, market leader Star Plus has decided to stretch its fiction line-up to six days a week. This means that the Hindi general entertainment channel will soon have all of its 11 weekday shows run from Monday to Saturday, thus narrowing the need for developing weekend properties.

On Sundays, two new shows will surface to lend variety—‘Mad in India’ (a comedy show with Sunil Grover et al.) and ‘Ishq Kills’ (a show about the crimes of passion).

As of now, Star Plus’ weekday shows run Monday–Friday, from 6–11.30 pm.

While officials were reluctant to divulge any details, sources in the channel confirmed to TelevisionPost.com that the discussions of airing fiction shows six days a week had started in November last year. As it marks a complete change in the workflow orientation, the channel will be able to make the changes by mid-February, they added.

“We initiated the process in November as it takes over three months to get into the new system. The decision is based on the fact that barring a privileged few, India is largely a one-day-off-in-a-week country. Most people do not go out on Saturdays as it’s like another weekday,” a source in the channel said.

Many regional markets including Marathi and Bengali have Monday–Saturday programming. Earlier, some Hindi GECs tried to copy the formula by extending the programming till Saturday. But they eventually started showing ‘maha episodes’ or special episodes, putting more thrust on non-fiction during weekends. Many of these channels went back to the five-day schedule.

Colors will also resume six-day scheduling for four of its shows—‘Sanskar’, ‘Sasural Simar Ka’, ‘Balika Vadhu’ and ‘Madhubala’—from 1 February. Earlier, the channel used to have the same band on Saturdays, but it stopped since November last year. Instead, it airs 45-minute special episodes once or twice a month.

So, why is Star Plus taking the plunge? Is it because Star Plus does not have a strong weekend line-up? Or is it that it wants to leverage its strong weekday programming?

A senior executive of a rival channel said that Star Plus’ move is meant to cash in on its top-rated fiction shows. “Out of 11, six of its shows feature in the top 10 list. Its weekday ratings from fiction are twice as much as its competitors Colors and Zee TV. Its only weak spot has been non-fiction or weekend line-up, which it plans to redress through this move,” said the executive, on condition of anonymity.

He added that except for the top three, other channels might not be able to follow suit, as they don’t have such high-rated shows. “Apart from Colors, Zee TV also has a few shows which it can extend to weekends. I don’t see any scope for other channels,” he added.

Media planners also feel that the move is in the right direction and good for both the channel and the advertisers. “It is a very good move for the channel as well as for the advertisers. So far, Star Plus has been making expensive reality shows which were not performing well. The fiction shows will cost much less and will have equal or better viewership, so it will be more cost effective for advertisers as well,” said Madison Media COO Crest Karthik Laxminarayan. “It does make a lot of business and commercial sense.”

Another executive of a Hindi GEC believes that the strategy would suit Star Plus. “Its shows are tried and tested and can get good rates.”

Star Plus’ new strategy, however, runs a risk. “There is a risk of over-exposure of these shows. Another issue could be lack of too much variety,” says a senior programming executive.

Swastik Pictures creative director Siddharth Kumar Tewary, who is the producer of ‘Mahabharat’ for Star Plus, says that it will be challenging for the production house as they will have the same time for the number of episodes per week.

“Going six days a week is challenging for everybody. It requires a lot of planning and logistics. You may need more writers, more cameras and more units for the shows,” Tewary explained.