Imagine, spearheaded by Sameer Nair, is taking Indian television back to one hour soap operas aired weekly. Some three years ago, STAR Plus, then under Nair's leadership, had used this format, and quite successfully, too. Remember Kehta Hai Dil , Sanjeevani , Saara Aakash and Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chaand? All four serials which were aired between 9-10 pm on weekdays did pretty well.
The group has gone back to the one hour format for its new channel and says the decision is based on numbers and research. Manoj Vidwans, executive vice-president, research marketing and communications, NDTV Imagine, says, "From the Des Mein... and other experiences, we realised how the one hour format can work and even outperform soaps with a shorter running time. I remember Des Mein... outperformed the leading half hour soaps (of the time) as far as TVRs were concerned." Vidwans was part of the STAR team before he joined NDTV Imagine along with Nair.
The channel accepts that its move is a gamble as only good quality programmes will hold the viewers' attention for a whole hour. Shailaja Kejriwal, executive vice-president, content, NDTV Imagine, says, "It's a question of whether one can retain the audience over the long period of time or not and only high quality content can do so. The fact that not many channels have tried long formats in soaps, shows that it's difficult to run such programmes."
NDTV Imagine will roll out in the last week of January and it is hopeful that the one hour programmes will be the ultimate differentiator between it and other newbie general entertainment channels. "There are some programmes which are better told in a longer format and that's the only reason why we are starting off with three one hour weekly soaps. It will make sure that we stand out in the crowded GEC market," say Kejriwal.
The channel has roped in producer and director Karan Johar as its creative consultant and brand ambassador. Under the leadership of Nair, the company has planned strategic forays into key businesses in the media and entertainment space.