Indian soap operas draw new captive audience, men

Wed Apr 7, 2010 1:39pm EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters) - When 42-year-old business executive Sam Joy gets home from work, like millions of employees around the world, he turns to television for some relaxation, but it's not the TV you'd expect.

Instead of tuning into a news or sports channel, a reality TV show or some thriller, Joy watches "Uttaran," a popular prime-time soap opera about two women in love with the same man.

Joy is just one of many Indian men hooked to soap operas, breaking a stereotype that these shows attracted women-only and forcing entertainment channels to tweak programing for men.

"When reality TV became a part of the programing, we managed to pull in a lot of male viewers from news channels," says Ashvini Yardi, head of programing for the Colors channel, which airs "Uttaran."

"But they stayed back for the daily soaps because the content of the daily soaps has undergone a change.

"We find that men like strong women characters and there is a high recall value for them, so that is something else we keep in mind when we design our programing," says Yardi.

In recent years, Indian television has moved on from family dramas revolving around wicked mothers-in-law to social themes like female infanticide, child marriage and poverty.

These topics appeal as much to the male viewer as they do to women, with the average Indian spending around 150 minutes huddled around the television each day.   Continued...