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Exit of the TV age?

NIKHIL VARMA
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TREND Does the advent of high-speed Internet in India mean the end of the road for TV programming?

Changing with the timesAre television sets slowly disappearing from drawing rooms?photo: Reuters
Changing with the timesAre television sets slowly disappearing from drawing rooms?photo: Reuters

If you grew up in India in the 80s and 90s, television was a key part of your life. TV soaps such as Buniyaad and Hum Log drew audiences from all age groups, as did the Ramanand Sagar version of the Ramayana and Mahabharata . The 90s brought satellite television, and with it a multitude of viewing options was available in urban India. The images of the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf war and many such events brought millions of Indians closer to the rest of the world. At that time, TV news was in its infancy and so was the Internet in India. It all seems to have changed in a little over a decade. More and more urban Indians, armed with a high-speed Internet connection are junking the telly and looking at the Internet for their daily entertainment and news fix.

G. Sandeep, a CA student in Bangalore says, “I do not need a TV at home. It would have been unimaginable six years ago. I watch shows such as Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory online. I catch world news on the net and social media platforms.” He adds, “I feel that most television programming in India caters to people who are above 50 or homemakers. Programmes that supposedly target the youth are not-so-clever imitations of American sitcoms. News channels are torturous to watch, with their amplification of all events, big or small. It makes more sense to read the news from sources across the world on the net.”

Aman Joshi, a Bangalore-based media student agrees, “I watch some movies on television. However, I did not even realise that my cable connection had lapsed after the TV signals in most cities of the country were digitised. The Internet has since become my go-to channel where I watch my favourite videos, movies and news shows. I can also watch a cricket match without the irritating pop-up ads that make you miss out on the bulk of the action.”

Evolving

As the Internet makes deeper inroads into the country, how are TV channels handling the pressure? Ritu Kapur, programming head of A+E Networks that run channels such as History TV18, says, “We are making attempts to evolve with the times. We have the largest social media presence in the genre. We also create innovations on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We ran campaigns such as the Greatest Indian which went viral on the Net and managed to attract many people to the channel. It is important for channels to keep pace with changing times.”

A banker, Varun Ramachandran says his TV viewing experience has been enhanced, thanks to the Internet. “When I was a kid, most American sitcoms ran older seasons on Indian channels. That trend is changing. New shows such as Game Of Thrones are being telecast on HBO. I also feel that Indian news channels are as bad/good as their counterparts in the West. Channels such as MTV and V have made an attempt to reach out to the youth, but their shows mostly do not make the cut. I hope that with the Internet becoming such an integral part of our lives, more TV channels will change their programming. Else, they could lose out on the growing demographic.”

NIKHIL VARMA

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