New Delhi, Dec 27 (IANS) Change, they say, is the only constant in life. The saying may not have been true for India's Rs.226 billion/ Rs. 22,600 Crores television industry for the past seven years but it certainly seemed apt for 2008.
A nearly month-long workers' strike, the end of long-running serials from TV tycoon Ekta Kapoor like 'Kasauti Zindagi Kay', 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii' and 'Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi', the success of new channels...the TV industry had a lot of surprises and shocks during the year. And all these marked a departure from set norms.
The strike by the apex body of cine workers, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), was for a hike in wages. They failed to reach a settlement with the producers' association and viewers had to bear the brunt by watching re-runs of shows.
According to Keertan Adyanthaya, general manager and executive vice president of STAR Plus, the strike had a significant impact on the industry.
'Thanks to the strike, producers are today looking beyond Mumbai to produce their shows as they realise the futility of putting all their eggs in one basket. The broadcasters have come together for the first time and have taken a united stand against an arbitrary increase in costs,' Adyanthaya told IANS.
'The strike was of no benefit whatsoever and everybody ended up losing - the federation lost wages for three weeks, producers had to incur costs on standing sets and broadcasters lost advertising revenue because of repeat telecasts of programmes,' he added.
Prior to the strike, the industry witnessed a flutter when Ekta's long running saas-bahu sagas ended.
New entertainment channels like NDTV Imagine, 9x and Colors brought in a breath of fresh air for viewers by offering more variety and meaning in their content and older channels - STAR Plus, Sony and Zee TV - tried to regain their popularity by revamping their programming content.
Said Tarun Mehra, business head of Zee TV: 'It has been a great year. Numerous channels were launched, the viewers were spoilt for choice and every existing channel worth its salt kept churning out content that was palatable for its viewers.'
New shows like 'Balika Vadhu', based on the evils of child marriage, brought about a change in subject and also introduced a child actor as a protagonist in mainstream television shows.
Also, 'Saat Phere', 'Kasammh Se' and 'Teen Bahuraaniyan' of Zee lost out to new concepts like 'Mohe Rang De', 'Radhaa Ki Betiyaan Kuch Kar Dikhayengi', 'Jasuben Jayantilal Ki Joint Family' and 'Uttaran' being telecast on new channels.
Most of these shows have drifted away from the typical saas-bahu sagas that the older channels have sworn by. Even the established channels were forced to end their top shows to introduce fresh concepts with shows like 'Sapna Baabul Ka...Bidaai', 'Santaan' and 'Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat'.
'In terms of quality, each channel is trying to raise its standard of programming. Also, all of them want their good share of the viewership pie and so they are trying to adjust their programming strategy accordingly,' Ashwini Yardi, senior vice president and content head of Colors, told IANS.
SAB TV also tried to strengthen its position with new comedy shows like 'Lo Ho Gayi Pooja Iss Ghar Kii', 'Main Kab Saas Banoongi', 'Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah' and 'Jugni Chali Jalandhar'.
This year, the TV industry also witnessed an overdose of reality shows with nearly all channels hosting at least one. Most shows like 'Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena' on Colors and 'Zara Nachke Dikha' on STAR One tried to make their presence felt by spicing up their content.
'Every channel tried different formats of reality shows. We tried showing stunts through 'Fear Factor', then 'Bigg Boss' and even 'Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena' was different in the sense that we brought in cricketers. Even though there is an overdose of it, reality shows are here to stay,' said Yardi.
Another significant alteration in primetime television was the return of mythological epics - 'Mahabharata' and 'Ramayan'. They made a comeback on screen in a digitally enhanced avatar with Ekta Kapoor's 'Kahaani Humaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki' and Sagar Arts' 'Ramayan'. There were also additions like 'Jai Shri Krishna' and 'Sai Baba'.
Bollywood also marked its presence on the small screen by stars hosting quizes and talk shows. While superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan hosted 'Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain' and 'Dus Ka Dum' respectively, others like Shilpa Shetty and Akshay Kumar hosted 'Bigg Boss' and 'Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi' respectively.
Even veteran actors Jeetendra and Hema Malini have joined the bandwagon by becoming judges on the newly launched show 'Dancing Queen'. A string of others like Hrithik Roshan, Sushmita Sen, Karisma Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Sonali Bendre, Arjun Rampal and Farhan Akhtar also plunged into the medium.
Apart from the new shows that were launched in 2008, the year witnessed the launch of a bouquet of channels offered by production house UTV Global Broadcasting Limited (UGBL). The company began youth channels Bindass and Bindass Movies, international movie channel World Movies, mainstream Hindi movie channel UTV Movies and two news channels UTV News and UTVi.
In the entertainment category, the year also saw the launch of various regional channels, including two by Rupert Murdoch's STAR. It launched STAR Jalsha and STAR Pravah to cater to the Bengali and Marathi viewers respectively.
This apart, STAR has joined hands with parliamentarian Rajeev Chandrasekhar's company Jupiter Entertainment Ventures for a joint venture - STAR Jupiter Entertainment Television targeting south India.
INX Network launched NewsX in March and announced plans for nearly nine regional channels.
Youth channels like Bindass, MTV and Channel V also saw an upsurge in viewership thanks to adventure reality shows like 'MTV Roadies', 'MTV Splitsville', 'Cash Cab' and 'Dadagiri'.
In November, 'reality TV' assumed a different meaning when the terror attacks struck Mumbai.
The 60-hour bloodbath that claimed over 170 lives provided for continuous feed of grim, sensational images, survival stories and political discussions across not just national but also international news channels. People remained glued to their TV sets, leading to a spurt in viewership of Hindi news channels during that time.
All in all - 2008 proved to be an eventful year of change for the TV industry.