TRENDS Does the advent of high-speed internet in India mean the end of the road for TV programming?
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 Ramananad Sagar rendition of Ramayana and Mahabharata . The 90s bought satellite television, 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 the cushion of 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 the city says, “I do not need a TV at home. It would have been unimaginable about six years ago. The shows I watch such as Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory , I watch online. I catch the news from across the world on the net and social media platforms.”
He adds, “I feel that most television programming in India caters to people who are above 50 years or bored housewives. Programmes that are supposedly targeting the youth are bad 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 about news from sources across the world on the net.”
Aman Joshi, a 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 was digitised. The Internet is my go-to channel. I can watch the videos I want, the movies I like, and the news shows I prefer. I can also watch a cricket match without the irritating pop-up ads that make you miss out a bulk of the action.”
As the internet makes more inroads into the country, how are TV channels handling the pressures of the internet age? Ritu Kapur, programming head of A+E Networks that run channels such as History TV18 and many others 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 like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. We ran campaigns such as the Greatest Indian after Gandhi, which went viral on the net and managed to attract many people to the channel. It is important for channels to move with changing times.”
A banker, Varun Ramachandran says that 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 seeing a change. 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 like 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 and more TV channels make changes to their programming. Else, they stand a good chance to lose out on this growing demographic.”