"We are being encouraged to flex our creative stamina": Viacom18 Hindi mass entertainment chief content officer Manisha Sharma

"We are being encouraged to flex our creative stamina": Viacom18 Hindi mass entertainment chief content officer Manisha Sharma

Colors recently released the Bigg Boss season 16 teaser.

Manisha Sharma

Mumbai: She’s been adding a lot of colour to Colors programming line up and ratings chart over the past decade that she has been in charge at the GEC. Whether it has been top fiction properties such as the various seasons of Naagin or non-fiction winners such as Bigg Boss, the broadcaster’s mass entertainment chief content officer Manisha Sharma has somehow or the other got her pulse on what viewers want.

And in 2022, Manisha is once again putting her bets on a show she has revived after putting it in the cold freezer for five years – the celebrity dance show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (Jhalak). In its tenth season, the BBC-format based, Jhalak, is being produced under the umbrella of BBC Studios India Production and premiered on 3 September.

In its tenth season, it airs at 8 pm on Saturday and Sundays and is being tomtommed as a celebration of dance, glamour, entertainment, and the journeys of the contestants. And it follows in the footsteps of other 2022 releases such as Dance Deewane Juniors, Khatron Ke Khiladi, Naagin, Harphoul Mohini, Muskurane Ki Wajah Tum Ho, Pishachini, and Saavi Ki Savaari.  

The generally reticent Manisha got into a conversation with Indiantelevision.com’s Deven Lad about all things Jhalak , content creation, challenges, and OTT platforms.

Edited Excerpts

On what works for Colors

Manisha: What works for Colors are the riveting storylines of its shows mounted on relevant themes and driven by relatable characters. Both fiction and non-fiction shows are loved and enjoyed by viewers especially since we have managed to achieve a balance between them. Colors’ numero uno status can be attributed to the fact it offers something for everyone. Our content slate is carefully curated, and it encompasses a wide variety of genres. At Colors, the presentation of content is paramount. It is pertinent to package the shows in a way that keeps the audience intrigued and hooked to the narrative and the cultural resonance.

On the emergence of OTT

Manisha: In my opinion, there’s no substitute for television in India. As a nation, we are very family-oriented and millions of households still watch television with their family at the dinner table. The medium provides a collective viewing experience to viewers and enables families to bond. The growing TV consumption is proof that TV is here to stay.

While the viewing patterns are changing at a fast pace with evolving technology, the core remains the same which is ‘storytelling! ‘There will always be an audience for a good story and there’s ample opportunity ahead in understanding these changes and adapting to them.

OTT will be more and more personalised. It is likely that the streaming players will customise their content keeping in mind their preferences. New genres will surface and the experience of watching content will become more immersive.

The preference for OTT is expected to extend from metro cities to tier II and tier III towns too as the amount of time spent watching content on OTT platforms has seen enormous growth since the pandemic. With the huge Indian population waking up to quality content available on OTT platforms, the viewership is only expected to increase in the coming years. While OTT continues to grow, it still is predominantly a form of individual entertainment, whereas TV continues and will be the dominant form of wholesome family entertainment!

On  Jhalak season 10

Manisha: A whole new set of contestants who are achievers in their arena bring their star power to this season. The choreography is top-notch, exciting, and experimental. The channel has fortified its social media strategy for the show so that viewers can be part of the contestants’ journey.

To amp up the season, we have introduced new elements such as the ‘Judges Popularity Contest’ along with the main competition, off takes of the contestants before and after the performance, and a Golden Chair immunity which the contestants will be competing for week on week. In every episode, we shall bring a strong streak of competition amongst the contestants, making the show even more exciting and engaging.

On the challenges for the new season

Manisha: The show comes back after a hiatus of five years hence getting together the right team was of utmost importance. Choreography is the backbone of this show and so our team went all out to secure the right talents for the choreography team. Putting together the right mix of talents was also a big challenge that we managed to overcome.

On the team involved in the creation

Manisha: There are several people involved in the creation of any show. Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 10 has a core creative group of four members and a backend production team of four to five members and both the teams are assisted by an extended group of creative producers, a reality team, a post-production team, and a production team that manages logistics and operations.

On  Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa streaming on OTT

Manisha: Yes, it is being streamed on OTT. Considering that we are implementing a full-fledged digital strategy, we estimate that it will reflect positively on its viewership. We have received an incredible response to the promos and the premiere episodes of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa season 10 and we hope to live up to the expectations of the audience, who have waited for the show for five years.

On expectations from Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 10

Manisha: Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 10 is all about celebrating dance, glamour, entertainment, and the journeys of the contestants with the fanfare that befits its revival after five years. We have contestants who are achievers and who draw creative energy under the mentorship of celebrated choreographers with a power-packed panel of judges and a super-talented host. We look forward to the continuous love and support of the viewers.

On fiction vs non-fiction

Manisha: Yes. Both have their challenges and pros. For reality shows, one needs to focus on getting real-life stories of the talent to connect instantly with the audience as the longevity of non-fiction shows is finite; whereas fictional shows are scripted and can be altered as per the requirements.

On opportunities in television content

Manisha: The audience is open to a wide variety of genres because of the content exposure that they’ve got in the past three years. This encourages us to flex our creative stamina and bring shows that are one-of-a-kind. We see this as an opportunity to provide a platform for talent, showcase unique concepts, and curate content that is aligned with international standards.

On the continuing TRP race

Manisha: Yes, TRP definitely is a key influencer in today’s time, and it is also a unifier for all broadcasters. Despite all the conviction and belief, we have in the concept and story, the characters and storytelling do get altered basis the ratings show garner.

On the future of television

Manisha: The swiftly changing market landscape and ongoing diversification make it difficult to project long-term predictions about the future of television. Traditional media will continue to hold a prominent share in the M&E industry as we continue to witness a growth in C&S penetration across India.

Also, there is still high headroom for penetration within the Indian households for a pay TV connection. For many households, TV continues to be the centre of the home and a significant part of family time. However, broadcast players have started realigning their goals, understanding these changing patterns, and adopting agile approaches for content development. As a result, broadcasters have been working towards tailor-making their content that is adept to multiple platforms’ front-end user interfaces.