Historical serials have a history of success dating back to the good old days of just Doordarshan. How can one forget Sanjay Khan's 'The Sword of Tipu Sultan'? But in the cable and satellite era, there have been few historical serials, let alone successful ones.
Now, STAR Plus is all set to launch 'Prithviraj Chauhan - Dharti Ka Veer Yoddha' in the hope of pulling off a Tipu-like success. But has it accounted for the drastic change in viewers' preferences in the last 15 years?
The channel certainly has high hopes from this mega serial, which is believed to have been made with a budget of Rs 4.5 crore (extremely high for a television soap).
As Shailja Kejriwal, senior creative director, STAR Plus, says, "The serial has a judicious mix of emotions, drama, heroism, war and love. We are hopeful that 'Prithviraj Chauhan' will capture the Indian audience."
However, she is also quick to clarify that it would be tall talk to claim that the show will garner TVRs at par with 'Kaun Banega Crorepati 2' ('KBC2').
Close watchers of the industry such as Sandeep Tarkas, head of media with the ADAG Group, seem to be more confident than the channel executives. Tarkas is quite impressed with the past record of the broadcaster. "STAR has a history of creating success stories with off the line shows. It has already proved it by launching shows such as 'KBC' and the K-serials at a time when family dramas and mythological shows ruled the air waves."
However, Tarkas says that the fate of 'Prithviraj Chauhan' will "depend on the packaging and format of the serial".
STAR Plus has already outlined a marketing strategy to promote the show. Besides a 360-degree mass media campaign, the marketing and communication strategy will focus on increasing audience familiarity with the protagonist, Prithviraj Chauhan.
But there are other planners who aren't quite as optimistic about the success of the show. "It cannot be an ace for the channel, it's just a filler of a need gap," says Manish Porwal, executive director, west, Starcom India.
Porwal also feels that the show will do well among viewers in the age group of either below 15 years or above 35 years.
He adds, "By airing this show, STAR Plus will complete its programming mix with a historical serial as every channel needs to have its platter full."
The serial has been slotted at weekends, the days when male viewership is high. Basabdutta Chowdhuri, COO, Madison Media PLus, says, "Men generally prefer shows where they do not need to follow a storyline. This is also why game shows such as 'KBC' or comedy shows such as 'The Great Indian Laughter Challenge' tickle the male viewers' fancy."
Kejriwal of STAR argues, "The show has something for everybody." She agrees that there is a risk factor, but one that is worth taking.
Meanwhile, as usual, STAR is leaving no stone unturned to promote the show. The channel has already planned to release music cassettes of the serial, a comic book and a serialised story in magazine form. There are also several licensing and merchandising formats.
Puneet Johar, senior vice-president, STAR India Ltd, says, "We are hoping for the merchandise to be a rage like the 'Lord of the Rings' merchandise."
Johar adds, "We will also be trying to attract the youth with webisodes and mobile content. All these will help us spin off different things for different target groups."
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