speculation and high expectations accompanied the debut of 9X's mega epic serial, Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabharat Ki (KHMK). The show debuted on July 7 and two weeks later, it would appear that the hype and curiosity that accompanied the Balaji Telefilms production have worked their magic with the viewers.
According to TAM, KHMK debuted with a TVR of 2.32 (C&S, HSM, 4+); subsequently, it registered its highest TVR of 2.43 for Week 28 (C&S, HSM, 4+). Nevertheless, the serial's high TVR did not succeed in increasing 9X's channel share among the general entertainment channels (GECs). STAR Plus, Zee TV and Sony Entertainment Television are the top three GECs with an average channel share of 30.66 per cent, 19.52 per cent and 8.42 per cent, respectively, for Weeks 26, 27 and 28. 9X's share among GECs was 7.19 per cent. When compared to another mythological serial - Ramayana on NDTV Imagine - the show had got a TVR of less than 2 in the initial week, but later increased viewership with subsequent episodes.
Mukerjea also makes light of the perception that Balaji Telefilms, known for churning out hit family soaps, has surprised all by crafting a credible epic drama. She points out that production houses work according to the channel's brief. "And we had no doubts about their ability or expertise to deliver good quality," she adds.
Media planners and industry observers acknowledge that KHMK's opening TVR proves that viewers did sample the show.
Nandini Dias, chief operating officer, Lodestar Universal, explains, "A TVR in the range of 2 or 2+ practically translates into an impressive and encouraging opening by a show. The Hindi speaking market constitutes a large and huge viewership group, so it means that the programme was sampled by viewers of all age groups. The initial curiosity and a well crafted advertising campaign added considerably to the serial's encouraging performance in the first two weeks."
A few industry veterans like Nikhil Rangnekar, executive director, West, Starcom India, attribute the success of the serial to the fact that it is based on a historical myth, which depicts the universal values of love, hate, intrigue and war, all of which appeal to audiences across ages.
Rangnekar says, "It's the concept alone that has helped pull in the first bunch of viewers. Today, no channel can claim to get ratings in double digit figures. So, if the serial has achieved a TVR of 1.2-2, it has hopes of building on that sound beginning. More than anything else, even if the serial has been accepted by a small audience, all that the channel needs to do now is to convert this 10-12 per cent audience into loyal viewers to sustain a consistent performance."
The one point raised across media circles is that understandably, factors such as the universal charm of a well known myth, the expectations from a Balaji production, and the pull of the big stars featuring in KHMK, have all gone in favour of 9X. Now the task is to build on the success and keep the viewers watching the serial.
According to Anita Nayyar, chief executive officer, MPG India, if KHMK manages to deliver TVRs in the range of 1.5-2 for another four weeks, it will be able to cultivate a sustained, loyal viewership. Because the serial is based on a well revered Hindu myth, it gets viewed by everyone in the family in all single TV households.
Nayyar adds, "The mixed reviews it has received from media analysts and viewers alike will certainly influence the serial's fortunes. By 9X's own admission, Ekta Kapoor's KHMK is a modern tale of one of our oldest epics. But that's exactly where opinion and loyalty get divided. The show has attracted extreme reactions. Some have liked it immensely, while the purists have despised it. All in all, this conflict should tilt the balance in 9X's favour because viewers will want to watch the serial and decide things for themselves."
9X's modern Mahabharat has experimented heavily with the story and characterisation. In an attempt to infuse novelty in the show, the serial opened on a climactic note, with the defeat of the Pandavas in the famous game of 'chausar'; the episode ends with Draupadi vowing revenge for her public humiliation and cursing all those responsible for her plight with ruin. Only then does it move to the sage, Vyas, who is charged by the gods with the responsibility of writing the story of the war and destruction that follow, so that people through the ages can learn the lessons the Mahabharat has to offer.
The designer perfection of the episode invited criticism from several quarters. But Mukerjea is unperturbed. She reasons that if the numbers are in their favour, then they need not worry about critics.