Specials

Peak TV and the year of the sheroes

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A barrage of shows from across the globe has left a thin line between pampering and spoiling our consumers for choice. It, infact, nudged the coining of the term, Peak TV.When John Landgraf, the King of FX, at an industry event for TV critics uttered the phrase “Peak TV”, he was trying to address a problem, a problem all of us face in our lives these days … WHAT TO WATCH? He was only trying to get our attention to the fact that with the volume going up, audiences will find it difficult to find good shows they can enjoy. There is so much of good television around, that at times it is exhausting catching up to these shows.

New streaming services will add to the existing list of services already present in the country from the ever-popular Hotstar to international services like Amazon Prime and Netflix. 20+ OTT players, pivoting business models, regional explosion, self-censorship, and the classic AVod vs SVod debate will continue for the time to come. In the West, Christmas came early to content lovers with the arrival of 2 more platforms Apple TV and Disney Plus. In this battle of the giants, we will see a few smaller platforms perish and the strain on niche English TV channels will only continue to grow in India. But I am not going to jump onto numbers of platforms and who stands where and who caters to what. As famously said, people watch shows not channels and so I am going to stick to what shows made news this year. But is a burnout in the horizon and will the hyper competition see fewer active players in 2020?

“Sheroes in Spotlight”

It’s been the year of the “Writer” along with the Year of the “Female hero”. From Phoebe Waller-Bridge picking up outstanding lead actress to outstanding writing for a comedy series to writing the new Bond Franchise  and Susannah Grant’s “Unbelievable, it’s been a definite year of the Female Hero, whether she has been in front of the camera or behind.These women have been behind some of the biggest hits of the year. Big Little Lies, Watchmen, Dead to Me and Glow Russian Doll were all shows led by female stars. But,also do imagine a year forcontent, where one forgets to actually talk about the last season of Game of Thrones or the last year of the 3 Masterchef Judges.

If in 2018 Wild Wild Country was the standout documentary series, 2019 was the year of the Fyre Festival and Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of blood-testing technology company Theranos, who went from the tech industry's darling to a pariah in just a matter of years. The streaming giants have exposed us to series of documentaries in 2019 from the ever popular All or Nothing to Drive to Survive or the much awaited docu-series on the Australian Cricket Team. Hopefully, these shows will continue to pave the wave for more docu-series, a genre which is under serviced in nature. It couldn’t reinforce Peak TV any better, not only is there an explosion of scripted content but also genres like documentary series which have added to the ever-expanding wish list.

The 200 million TV homes market

If anyone remotely thought the streaming hype and the world of OTT will dent the ‘bhagya’ of the popular soaps, they were mistaken. Even in 2019, we have an ‘Icchadari Naagin’ that continues to garner attention on primetime television sharing space with Yeh Rishta and Kumkum Bhagya. India will continue to remain a single screen market for the time to come and nothing will take away Indians from their staple diet of daily mother in law and daughter in law drama. This drama will continue to fold in front and behind the TV for the years to come. The mobile screen is going to compliment the TV screen, but not replace it in the next few years.Along with mainstream television, regional television is flourishing whether it is the nth year of the popular Marathi Show Chala Hawa Yeu Dya or the popular Tamil daily shows. The staple diet for most viewers is their daily soaps, which are complemented by the popular big-ticket shiny floor shows with big names like Salman Khan on the weekend on Bigg Boss, the popular TV format Big Brother is now in its 13th season or KBC which is now in its 11th season with megastar Amitabh Bachchan. These shows continue to rule weekends for the audience while the bahus take care of weekdays.

This is what makes India such an exciting market to work in for content producers. At one end of the spectrum, you have Taarak Mehta, Kundali Bhagya, and Kumkum Bhagya to a small show like Little Things that explodes suddenly as a Netflix original in season 2 to Family Man and Made in Heaven picking up all the accolades in their debut season. Delhi Crime was a standout female cop drama on the backdrop of the Nirbhaya case.

The phrase Peak TV suits India very well, with the mega bucks IPL cricket tournament attracting millions of eyeballs in the summer has made Hotstar a name to reckon with among the streamers in India. There is just so much to watch in these months with Cricket and Kabaddi leagues mushrooming in India. Hotstar launched its set of originals this summer in the middle of IPL and 2 shows that became household names were the popular BBC Drama series Criminal Justice and the popular Israeli drama Hostages, both launched with the same names in India. 

The obsession of franchises will not fade so easily, whether it is Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Love Lust and Confusion 2, Nagin 4, Inside Edge 2, the yearning to attract audience in a cluttered market will always remain high. This hype supersedes the reality in this Indian market.

The Chinese year of the pig has ended well for Hotstar and it abodes well for the theme of the “Sheroes”.Out of Love starring Rasika Dugal has emerged as an outright winner in the year, based on the popular BBC Drama series Dr. Foster, starring Suranne Jones who won the Bafta in 2016 for Best Actress. The show has put Rasika Dugal on the top of the list of female actors in the country and has only strengthened her case after Delhi Crime and Mirzapur. The real pleasure after watching this series lies in the fact that a powerful female protagonist is at the center of it all and the series has not treated the character like a victim, which not many players were willing to experiment with, at least with Indian originals to begin with.

Will the audiences continue to be pampered with more quality shows? Will mainstream TV get their ratings mojo back? Will English cluster in India survive the heat from the streaming giants? Will mobile phones become replacement devices? Will more platforms launch content services? A lot will unfold in 2020.

Let’s see what content choices it leaves for us in 2020 from being a year of sequels like Family Man, Delhi Crime, Mirzapur, Hostages, Criminal Justice, Out of Love to Peak TV staying  for a couple of more years, only time will tell.

(The author is business head, Productions BBC Studios. The views expressed are his own and Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to them.)

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