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Colors Kannada: The journey to the top

MUMBAI: From a No. 5 position two
years back, Colors Kannada (then ETV
Kannada) has come a long way to
reach the top position in its market.
The regional GEC from TV18
commenced the journey to the top in
March 2013 after the launch of the
Kannada-language version of ‘Bigg
Boss’, with actor Kiccha Sudeep as
host. Thereafter, it has been like a
dream run for the channel that
sprinted to the second spot in less
than a year in a genre that was
dominated by Sun TV Network’s Udaya
Deciding to be independent of movies,
the channel started building on
weekday non-fiction properties (‘Bigg
Boss’, ‘Indian’), and followed it up
with a strong fiction line-up.
In April this year, two years after a
major programming overhaul, there
was another big change in the offing.
ETV Kannada was rebranded as Colors
Kannada, shedding its 14-year-old
ETV branding and assuming a younger
and more colourful Colors brand.
Incidentally, with BARC India ratings,
the channel also hopped on to the No.
1 position, breaking the dominance of
Southern major Sun TV Network in a
market pegged at around Rs 500 crore
(Rs 5 billion).
Viacom18 EVP and project head of
regional channels (Colors Kannada,
Colors Bangla and Colors Odiya)
Ravish Kumar says that the channel
has grown on the back of pure
programming, events, innovation and
most importantly hard work of the
Media buyers also acknowledge the
change in the market. Madison Media
COO Karthik Lakshminarayan states,
“While Kannada is a Rs 500-crore
advertising market, Colors Kannada is
the new leader and they are doing
pretty well. The market has seen a
change in leadership from Udaya TV to
Colors Kannada.”
A big boost of non-fiction
A media observer comments that ETV
Kannada was an old brand that needed
steroids for growth, which could be
either big films or bigger reality
shows. The channel went for the
“When we took over ETV Kannada, the
equity was very strong and it was the
foundation for us to build on. That’s
when we introduced ‘Bigg Boss’ in
Kannada market with Sudeep as
anchor. That worked very well for us
and also signalled a change in the
market,” Kumar says.
Indeed, it was a big change for
viewers too, as ETV Kannada became
the first regional channel to host the
international format show ‘Bigg Boss
Kannada 1’. The show brought in a
younger, newer group of audience.
Just after it was over, the channel
launched a new homegrown reality
format show ‘Indian’, which featured
youngsters travelling across the
country and engaging in challenging
In quick successions, the channel got
more reality formats like ‘Dancing
Stars’, game show ‘Super
Minute’ (‘Minute to Win It’) and
‘Maja Talkies’ (with inspiration from
Colors’ ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’).
Incidentally, the cost of ‘Bigg Boss 1’
proved a deterrent for the channel. As
a result, it decided to let go of the
format, which was pocketed by rival
Suvarna TV for a second season.
However, Colors Kannada, now at the
leadership position, has once again
acquired the format and will soon
launch the third season of the reality
“We are launching the next season of
‘Bigg Boss’,” Kumar tells. “Over time,
the channel has become stronger, so
our ability to monetise has definitely
improved and we are looking forward
to creating franchisees of all these
He adds that unlike the Hindi version
of the reality show, the Kannada
‘Bigg Boss’ is completely different.
“Ours is a family entertainer which
everyone can watch at the primetime.
In the first season, we had a number
of celebrities to attract audiences,
which worked brilliantly. We will soon
announce what we plan to do in the
next season,” he adds.
The channel is already airing the
second season of ‘Dancing Stars’ and,
upon its culmination, will launch
‘Dancing Star Junior’, building on the
popularity of the format.
The channel currently airs two non-
fiction shows between 8 and 10 pm on
the weekends.
A staple diet of fiction
While non-fiction was doing wonders
for the channel, it alone could not be
a model for success and the channel
needed a staple diet of fiction to
sustain. Hence, it launched a slew of
fictions shows, shifting non-fiction
from weekdays to the weekends.
The channel went for adaptations of
Colors’ shows like ‘Balika
Vadhu’ (‘Puttagowri Maduve’) and
‘Madhubala’ (‘Ashwini Nakshatra’), as
well as locally produced strong stories
like ‘Lakshmi Baramma’, ‘Agnisakshi’,
‘Akka’ and ‘Kulavadhu’.
“We look for good stories around the
globe, which we believe can be
successfully adapted for the Kannada
market. We don’t blindly copy, nor do
we limit ourselves just because we are
a regional channel,” avers Kumar.
Talking about innovation in fiction, he
says that ‘Agnisakshi’ resulted from
an amalgamation of two hit serials,
where the boy, best friend of the
protagonist of ‘Lakshmi Baramma’ and
the girl, sister of the lead in ‘Ashwini
Nakshatra’, come together in a
“We were shooting for all three shows
simultaneously. So while it may sound
easy, it was extremely difficult to
pull off as we had to look into every
little detail,” Kumar explains.
Similarly, blurring the lines between
fiction and non-fiction, Priya Sudeep,
the real-life wife of superstar K
Sudeep, came onto ‘Ashwini
Nakshatra’ to patch up the lead couple
in reel life, offering them advice.
“Our team has been pushing the
envelope constantly, blurring the
lines between fiction and non-
fiction,” Kumar says.
Today, the channel boasts the
maximum number of fiction shows, 13,
in a week. It has a primetime from 6
to 11 pm, while in the afternoon it
has three original shows.
Serial ‘Sante’ or village fairs
While the channel has hosted various
events across the state over the last
two years, including Shiva puja as
part of its show ‘Charanadaasi’ as
well as Ganeshotsava, it has also
invested in the concept of ‘Serial
Sante’, where each serial team
travels to various parts of the state
to meet and greet their fans.
“We take our popular actors to cities
and towns across the state where
they play their respective characters
and connect with fans. Initially, when
we started ‘Serial Sante’, we used to
get 1,000–2,000 fans. The number
kept growing. Now the number is
about 10,000+ and crowd management
has become a task,” laughs Kumar.
“But this is just an indication of how
much viewers love us.”
The channel airs these monthly events
on the weekends.
Another property the channel has
created is ‘Anubandha Awards’, a
novel family celebration where every
artist in the house is honoured for
their performance.
The voting for ‘Anubandha Awards’
happens through an in-house system.
Artists within the Colors Kannada
family vote for their peers, within
their respective categories. Their
vote and reason for it are recorded
and aired on the channel.
“Our events are large and are shot
like movies. They are generally five
hours of duration. We make sure that
they become a fantastic on-ground
experience for live audiences, even
though they are shot for TV,” Kumar
A sporadic movie strategy
The channel has lined up an array of
fiction and reality programmes. It
hardly invests in movies, and its
library is old and extensively used.
“We hardly use movies anymore,”
accepts Kumar. “Our library was old
and used up. We didn’t see any value
in putting those titles in the
afternoon or weekends.”
Therefore, the question is if the
channel is against buying new movies.
Kumar says, “We tend to buy new
movies opportunistically. Our movie
airing is sporadic as we air them
strategically to drive viewership
before the launch of key properties.”
He feels that movies pull in very large
audience and are good audience
aggregators. At the same time,
however, the channel has to be
mindful of financials. “We tend to buy
four to eight titles in a year, which
are never the biggest titles in the
market,” he adds.
Considering the channel’s current
share in viewership is almost 39 per
cent, Kumar states that the success
has involved a lot of hard work,
innovation and focus on the ground
details. “Viewers have really loved
and appreciated what we have put out
on the channel in terms of content,”
he sums up.

Colors Kannada: The journey to the top

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