Ramayan seeks further shores after making it big in the South

By Dhaleta Surender Kumar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | July 07, 2008
NDTV Imagine has ambitious plans for its popular serial, Ramayan. The serial is doing brisk business dubbed in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, and now the company is looking at taking it to Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Malaysia

NDTV & #BANNER1 & # Imagine ensured its place among the top three GECs (General Entertainment Channels) riding high on the popularity of the time tested mythology, Ramayan. The progamme was a runaway hit in Hindi speaking markets (HSMs). Less known is the popularity the epic enjoys in south India through a series of tie-ups with local channels.

While on NDTV, as per the TAM Peoplemeter, the serial enjoys an average TVR of 3 (HSM, C&S, 4+), on Sun TV, it has an average TVR of 9! Yes, the serial has been dubbed into Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam and is being shown across the Sun TV Network on Sun TV (Tamil), Gemini TV (Telugu) and Surya TV (Malayalam).

Gaurav Gandhi, executive vice-president, business operations and ancillary revenues, NDTV Imagine, says, "As an epic and a story, the Ramayana has pan-India appeal. So, we thought of finding the right partners to take the serial across India, and no one covers South India better than the Sun TV Network."

The Tamil version of the serial, called Raamaayanam, went on air on Sun TV in March. It beams Sundays, 10.30am to 11.30am. Seeing the instant success and response it received, in early May, it began to be aired also on Gemini TV and Surya TV, Monday to Friday, 7pm to 7.30pm.

As per TAM figures, on Gemini TV (Andhra Pradesh, C&S, 4+), Raamaayanam has an average TVR of 5, and on Surya TV (Kerala, C&S, 4+), it has an average TVR of 6.5. When Raamaayanam scored a record TVR of 10.1 on May 4 on Sun TV, the channel's market share reached 40.55. It had the highest channel share of 49.73 during the show on April 27. Both Gemini TV and Surya TV have been able to garner an average channel share of 30 and 24, respectively, during the show, in their respective markets.

Gaurav Gandhi
The serial is being licensed through UTV, which owns the rights to sell many of the ad spots across the Sun TV Network. So, how does the arrangement work? According to Gandhi, UTV pays a licence fee to NDTV Imagine for the content. "We also have a revenue sharing tie-up with UTV. The better the serial does, the more money making opportunities we get," he says.

While NDTV Imagine conducted a number of on-ground activities like distributing Ramayan branded incense sticks, camphor, Ramayan aarti and Hanuman Chalisa booklets, posters and calendars, and branding 'kirtans' in temples in the Hindi speaking belt to promote the Hindi version of the show, no such activities were conducted in South India.

"The show is being promoted through the Sun TV Network channels. When NDTV Imagine was launched, we had no other channel to promote the show, so we had to do a lot of off-air activities. But Sun TV has a strong hold in the Southern market, so we didn't need to do any such on-ground activities," Gandhi says.

The channel is now in talks with various partners to dub the serial in Marathi and Bengali.

Not restricting itself to the Indian market, NDTV Imagine has already tied up with Mauritius Broadcasting Corp. to launch the Hindi version of Ramayan, with English subtitles, in the island country. The company is in talks with some TV players to launch the serial in Sri Lanka and Malaysia as well. Gandhi says, "We are targeting the Tamil population in these two countries. In Sri Lanka, it will be dubbed in Sinhalese and Tamil."

Meanwhile, the international audience can watch Ramayan on While the low bandwidth version is free of cost and ad-supported and meant only for online viewing, the high definition version is available for download-to-rent to a hard disk (for 72 hours) at a cost of $1.49 per episode.

NDTV Imagine also has plans to come out with a multilingual DVD of Ramayan by the end of August.

Gandhi explains that NDTV Imagine doesn't look on itself as merely a TV channel. "We look at ourselves as a content creating company," he says. He says that besides Ramayan, shows such as Dhoom Macha De and Shaava Shaava are being licensed to South African broadcasters. The channel is in talks with a Pakistani channel to source out its musical show, Junoon Kuch Kar Dikhaane Ka, and Saroj Khan's dance lesson show, Nachle Ve with Saroj Khan. Meanwhile, Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, a Hindi show that teaches spoken English, is being repackaged in other Indian languages.