Entertainment channels ready to dodge IPL bouncer!

By Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Bollywood may have taken a backseat but Hindi entertainment channels are undeterred by the Indian Premier League (IPL) craze that will hit the small screen Friday. Most of the channels have launched new fiction shows to keep their regular audience hooked.

Imagine TV, formerly NDTV Imagine, has launched two new shows - "Jamunia" and "Kashi"- and Sony has started "Godh Bharai", with all three having aired their first episodes on International Women's Day Monday.

Sab TV kickstarted Indian satellite's first silent comedy series "Gutur Gu" earlier this month and others like STAR Plus and Zee TV have recently started airing shows of "Sasural Genda Phool" and "Behnein" respectively.

The channels feel cricket won't take their core audience away.

"The IPL is no big deal. It comes and goes and is a matter of just six weeks. But our shows run for a much longer time. IPL doesn't really take away what we believe is our hardcore audience. People will still come and watch our channel as much during IPL as they do at any other time. It doesn't affect us," Gaurav Banerjee, head (Content Strategy), STAR Plus, told IANS.

Anooj Kapoor, the business head of Sab TV, is nonchalant about the effect that IPL could have on his channel.

"Fortunately, in the last two seasons of IPL, we haven't got affected. I think that's probably because there is a section of audience that wants humour irrespective of IPL.

And whether or not the viewers come more fleetingly during IPL, they never go away. That's the reality of our channel and so we have no apprehensions," said Kapoor.

According to Shailja Kejriwal, executive vice president (content), Imagine TV, IPL will affect the viewership of entertainment channels only when they have lots of new shows or if most viewers have single TV homes.

"IPL could have a 15-20 percent effect on any new show that a channel may have launched. Not on a show that a viewer has been watching for over a year or so because once the event is over, viewers will bounce back for old shows.

"Also, in single TV homes, men want to watch cricket; so it is possible that women, who make our core audience, can't watch their favourite shows," she said.

Meanwhile, leading channel Colors has safeguarded its Television Rating Points (TRPs) by joining hands with IPL to launch a series of new entertainment initiatives around IPL and its players.

"With our IPL entertainment, we are sure a lot of cricket lovers will want to experience the thrill of 'cricketainmnet'. Last year IPL did dent our viewership a bit, but that was expected considering it's one of the most anticipated sports events of the year," a spokesperson from the channel told IANS.

Starting Saturday, the channel will see the launch of "IPL Rockstar" - a music competition to be held in the cricket stadiums. It will see 12 singers competing to be IPL Rockstar 2010 and will be judged by ace crooners Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher.

Colors will also have a special IPL edition of "Fear Factor - Khatron Ke Khiladi" in which various cricketers will compete with one another in adventurous tasks. To be hosted by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, it will be showcased later in the year.

An "IPL Awards Night" is also in the pipeline as part of the special offerings by Colors.

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