When ratings dip, just exterminate the protagonist. It's a radical way of doing it, but effective nevertheless. The wise women and men behind the seven-year-old Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi saga on star Plus did just that. They got rid of Tulsi Virani, the soap's veritable matriarch. And presto, it's worked.
Rating points have shot up to 7.81 and 8.09 as per the TAM Peoplemeter System (6-7 June) this year, from 6 when Tulsi was still alive. "If you see through the year then the ratings of Kyunki... have come down as there's been fragmentation. Yet it happens to be a part of the top 5 programme list," says Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal.
Tulsi's demise may prove a short-term fix for star Plus, but over the longer term it needs to find a new formula, after Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and the saas-bahu recipe, which may not be tickling as many taste buds as before. As Manish Porwal, md, India - West & South, Starcom, points out, this is the beginning of the end for saas-bahu serials. "They (star) will have to quickly think of creating other properties and genres. Otherwise banking on soaps could be a risky strategy," he observes.
Indeed, star has been under pressure from Zee, and has never looked so vulnerable in the past seven years (see In the Name of the Father, page 82). Ajay Vidyasagar, President (Content & New Media), star India, believes star Plus got the momentum going with kbc-3. "Post kbc-3, the channel share for star Plus grew by 46 per cent, taking star Plus's shares 60 per cent over that of the nearest competitor in the 9-10 pm slot." After KBC-3, star Plus has seen the launch of three new shows: Amul Star Voice of India (ASVOI), Kasturi and Meri Aawaz Ko Mil Gai Roshini (makmgr). "ASVOI is the #1 music show in the country outperforming Indian Idol-3 (on Sony) and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007 (on Zee) in its 4th week," says Vidyasagar. Goodbye Tulsi?