Pakistani TV today: Can we go beyond ratings?

Published: December 18, 2011
From morning shows to serials, there is tough competition and less innovation in the drama industry. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

From morning shows to serials, there is tough competition and less innovation in the drama industry. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID


Apart from the exaggerated dialogue delivery and fascination with shaadis, Pakistani TV and Bollywood have another thing in common; the fact that both industries follow trends rather than making them.

Film-makers started chasing Salman Khan after he gave a couple of hits and became a box office wonder. Similarly, most of our drama producers of are seen chasing cliched, done to death themes just because they result in high ratings. Be it extramarital affairs or unrequited love, the recycling of themes in Pakistani industry is all too apparent. Commerce is a good argument for making whatever sells, but the bigger question is, why don’t producers research further into these issues which have suddenly become so popular? This mentality is promoting orthodoxy and above all leading to a lack of innovation on the television.

Prime time

The 6 pm to 9 pm or 7 pm to 10pm time period is known to be the prime time slot in Pakistan, which is essentially the time when the woman of the house took charge of the remote control. PTV took the initiative and provided us with the 8 pm drama slot that still gives
channels the highest ratings (exceptions would include Aamir Liaquat doing a religious show right after videos of his controversial backstage behavior leaked out ).This is the time slot when the major competition begins as every channel tries to grab the viewer’s attention by showing dramas that revolve around issues similar to the ones faced by the lady watching them.

Hum TV, ARY and other entertainment channels reign this slot as they are known for popular sitcoms, serials and soaps such “Humsafar”, “Kash Mai Teri Beti Na Hoti”, “Mehmoodabad ki Malkain”, “Khushboo Ka Ghar” and “Dareechay”. Sitcoms like “Bulbulay” gave Hina Dilpazeer the best role of her career and made her the most popular actor on TV today, this shows why producers strive so hard to please audiences.

Who are the players?

Behind every television drama is a team consisting of writers and directors trying hard to satisfy our thirst for entertainment. Humayun Saeed’s Sixth Sigma, Abdullah Kadwani and Humayun Saeed’s 7­th Sky, Babar Javed and Asif Raza Mir’s A&B Productions and Hum TV’s exclusive production house Momal productions are the market leaders.

Dearth of innovation

Despite the number of entertainment channels, by in large the TV industry hasn’t managed to set any new trends. A testimony of that is the lack of youth oriented programming and the absence of a consistent Pakistani series with multiple seasons. Programmes like “Teen Bata Teen”, “Shashlik” and later on “Ishrat Baaji” managed to do something for the youth and created their own following, but sadly no one followed their lead.

“Dreamers” — that aired earlier this year — on the other hand managed to bag 47,000 fans on Facebook after airing for only one season, which suggests that there is a demand to which the producers are not catering to.

The absence of a continuous Pakistani series is due in part to the shortage of a talented team of writers, who can carry on a series for seasons. No one knew that morning shows could get a major chunk of audience in the earlier half of the day until Nadia Khan chalked out a new trend. Today, every news channel from KTN to Hum TV has its own morning shows. The hosts of these shows keep changing but the
programme appearance and candid Q&A format stays the same. Some tried bringing underprivileged children and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) too, but that didn’t work out. From celebrating
mehndis to setting up summer camps on the sets, channels have tried it all haven’t been able to bring about a in format as yet

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Kinzah
    Dec 19, 2011 - 12:08PM

    good insight on the situation in media..however, this article appears very one-dimensional..I am currently working in the industry and what i can add to this is that while your spot-on about the rating being linked to the content…but do understand that content changes every quarter of the year hence its the audience loyalty that really counts to the channel…and what drives a channel to actually invest in this content are the industry drivers like the advertisers which you have obviously missed out on…what type of content that goes on-air is also reliant that more often than not…lets not forget that it simply appears to be good business sense..


  • AB
    Dec 19, 2011 - 3:36PM

    It is hard to relax watching the programmes on cable TV.Bad news is repeated ad nauseam.There is too much sensationalism.As for drama,there are so many ads that it is hard to get any sense of continuity.Scripts are very ordinary,actors act mechanically and quality is sacrificed for quantity.Recommend

  • Ashraf
    Dec 19, 2011 - 4:04PM

    Why drag in bollywood to tell a sorry story of your TV industry? Bollywood follows trends? may be some of the film makers.. but there are many ground breaking movies that are made, and the list is long for me to put it here.
    Besides, Indian TV channels have so many dramas, serials and reality shows that there plenty to choose from what to watch and what not.
    So Please do not compare your TV or movies with ours! If you really want to.. please do it in a just and honest way.


  • ayesha
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:48AM

    This article is about Pak TV serials primarily and I know little about them – so I have no comment to offer. It is unclear though why Bollywood was dragged in. Just look at the range of mvies that came out this year (some successful and some flops) and tell me that the movies are a copu of each other:
    No One killed Jessica, Patiala house, Tanu weds Manu, Ready, Singham, Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara, Bbudhha hoga tera baap, Sat Khoon Maaf, Aarakshan, Murder 2, Ra.One, Rockstar, Desi Boyz, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Dirty Picture, Ladies vs. Ricky Behl

    Not one of these movies is like the other.

    Secondly on Indian TV there are many different genres of programming available. Regular news, financial news, dance and music competitions, realty shows, dramas, faith based programs, movies being telecast, music videos – Bollywood and non-bollywood, talk shows, sports. SO there is a fair amount of choice available at any point of time to the Indian viewer – this is just fyi


  • Hamood
    Dec 20, 2011 - 7:45PM

    To all defending Bollywood….Bollywood is a copycat industry. Most of the ideas and scripts of Bollywood are conveniently “borrowed” from Hollywood or the West. In addition, I have a list of hundreds of Pakistani songs that Bollywood also conveniently “borrowed” without paying any royalties to our poor industry.


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