‘GEC audience preferences quite narrow in India’

New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) From mushy affairs, tales from Indian mythology, a dose of horror and supernatural twists – stories on the general entertainment channels (GEC) are a mirror to the narrow audience preferences, says Myleeta Aga, Content Head Asia at BBC Worldwide. She feels there’s a wide scope for sports entertainment on television.

Whether it is a woman changing from to a fly or a gorilla falling in love with a girl — stories on the idiot box are getting surprising twists which are — fortunately or unfortunately — grabbing eyeballs.

Aga, who is also Senior Vice President and General Manager India, BBC Worldwide, feels there’s a touch of experimental content seeping in the market, but “there are not many success stories”.

“In India, GEC audience preferences are in fact quite narrow. Family drama, romance, mythology and of course in non-fiction, dance and singing are the primary genres. This is a reflection of a broader audience taste as well as socio-economic status,” Aga told IANS.

Aga, who is responsible for running BBC Worldwide’s business in India – including TV sales, consumer products and production, further shared that “With the best of intentions, commissioners have looked at experiments in different content – there are not many success stories.”

Despite the low success rate, Aga asserts that it should not “deter us from seeking new approaches to bring different content and stories to our audiences”.

Asked about what India lacks in terms of content, Aga shared that “there is more space for comedy, thrillers and game shows on GECs”.

“With youth and factual channels we expect more differentiated content,” she said, adding that the entertainment industry is broad with “sports as entertainment having scope to be a very exciting space to be in”.

As part of her remit, Aga oversees BBC Worldwide India’s current productions – “MTV Girls On Top”, “Fear Files” for Zee TV, recurring shows like “Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa” (Season nine) (the Indian version of “Dancing with the Stars” – a BBC Worldwide format) for Colors, recently concluded “Kaisi Yeh Yaariyan” for MTV.

There are several other productions including “Disney Mastermind”, “What Not to Wear India”, “Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Bangla”, “Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Kannada” and “Yeh Hai Aashiqui”.

So how is it decided which international concept will work in India?

The basic need to “entertainment and information” is always the deal breaker, Aga said.

“India is a large and diverse country. But content works when it appeals to audiences’ basic need to entertainment and information and is adapted to suit their viewing preferences. As a very simple example, when adapting ‘Dancing with the Stars’ for India, the first decision we made was to use Bollywood music to make it accessible and relatable.

“Whenever adapting formats for a market, we look to retain those aspects of the format that make it universally appealing, and then shape it to suit local tastes,” she said.

After establishing a stand in the Hindi market, BBC Worldwide now eyes regional market to grow in.

“We hope to expand, primarily our formats into the regional market in the year ahead. We are also increasingly working with my counterparts in other parts of Asia to look at using our capabilities in India to create pan-Asian content,” said Aga, who produced and launched Emmy winning show “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations”.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)



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