We are looking to build intrigue around our new content: Manisha Sharma

Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18
Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18

The General Entertainment genre had a tough time during the lockdown period as all shootings were cancelled and there was paucity of fresh content. However, re-telecasting old classics as well as mythological shows helped revive the genre to a great extent.

Now as India has gone into Unlock 2 mode, shootings have been allowed, albeit with strict guidelines for safety of everyone involved in the shoot. Thus, shootings have commenced with minimal crew, strict safety protocols in place and confined to a controlled and closed environment.

Also read: Carrot Films unlocks the winners of its Lockdown Film Festival

The resumption of shootings has come as a huge relief for channels as fresh content will mean return of their core audience base, which had shifted to watching content on digital platforms and other genres on television, primarily News. With viewers’ content consumption habits having undergone a significant shift during the lockdown period, broadcasters will now have to woo them back with stronger storylines, creating strong affinity towards the shows’ characters, plot twists and more.

Colors has just announced its new show, a romantic thriller titled ‘Ishq Mein Marjaawan’, which will premiere on July 13, 2020 and will air every Monday to Friday at 7 pm.

Also read:
Colors out to woo back viewers with new show, ‘Ishq Mein Marjaawan’

Adgully spoke to Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18, to know more about what shooting in the new normal looks like, wooing back their core audience base, shifts in content consumption, marketing new content in the COVID-19 era and more.

What kind of a new normal is emerging as shootings resume? How has a TV serial set changed in these times?

We have evolved with time and recalibrated our standard operating systems in the new normal. In the new episodes that are being shot, we are covering the pandemic related subjects and seamlessly integrating it as part of the current storyline. We are also incorporating safety protocols and precautions like sanitization and other safety measures in our narrative to generate relatability. 

What standard operating procedures are you following while shooting? How are those impacting shooting schedules?

We are being extremely cautious and strictly abiding by the safety protocols implemented by the producers, broadcasters, and government fraternity. We are sticking to the timelines, creating a pressure-free environment, keeping a tab on the daily influx of people on the sets, and ensuring the same set of people are working together to keep risks at bay. We also have cast and crew members staying in or around the campus to avoid travel hassles. Regular fumigation of sets, access to medical services, placement of sanitizers, usage of N95 masks, regular temperature checks, and other necessary protocols are being followed by everyone. 

We factored in the lag and production pace before putting fresh episodes on air. Hence, we are working against a timeline and creating banks of episodes for all our fiction shows. The pre-shot episodes of ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ and some of our fiction shows enabled us to air new episodes a week before the stipulated deadline, putting us ahead of the other broadcasters. In the next couple of weeks, we will have new episodes for our entire weekday and weekend programming. 

Are outdoor shoots allowed amid these times? If yes, how are you managing outdoor shoots? What are the challenges faced?

At present, we are shooting in a controlled and closed environment while following safety protocols. As things get better, we plan to venture outdoors for the shoot.

With new episodes of current TV series set to hit the screens soon, how are you gearing up to promote the shows? What is your media mix?

The audience’s affinity towards their favourite characters plays a major role in re-establishing their connection with the show, and we are focusing on this very factor. Keeping our characters at the center, we have devised all our programming and marketing communication. They are the soul of the show and creating Kahani Ab Tak capsules that take the audience through their favourite characters’ journey so far has helped us to familiarise the audience with the show once again.

Additionally, along with the marketing surround sound, we are banking largely on the highpoints and various other storyline hooks to keep the viewers intrigued. Traditionally, we are looking at achieving that through shows promos across our network and non-network channels to build intrigue around the new content. The consumption of the digital medium has grown manifold and is becoming omnipresent across platforms, which is deemed crucial. We have been creating interesting video vignettes showcasing our characters while reiterating the time slots. We have a huge social media presence and we are also utilising that effectively to communicate with the audiences. We are also looking at creating clutter breaking communication for our shows along with high points as all the channels will be starting their respective communication as well. 

In your observation, how has the TV viewership ecosystem changed during the lockdown period? What has been your core TG’s TV viewing behaviour during this time?

The last few months have been life-altering for the broadcasters, producers, artists, crew members and most importantly, for our viewers. In the absence of new content, we have seen a shift in the viewers’ content consumption habits. In this phase, family viewing has gained more prominence, people turned to mythological shows for comfort and entertainment, the trend gradually picked up and the audience soon developed a palate for classics. At the same time, there was a great demand for the erstwhile shows, and soon reruns started to rule the viewership. As the content offerings now change with fresh episodes being aired, viewers will slowly move back to their original habit of appointment viewing. While the initial optics might be slow, we are certain that it will gradually pick up, owing to the engaging storyline, highpoints, plot twists and intrigue around the characters. 


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