"We are No.2, but we try harder!" This was the famous Avis (US-based car rental company) line. This, in a way, also sums up the crux of Raj Television's all-round initiative over the past one year. This Tamil channel, which comes right after numero uno Sun Television in terms of popularity, is gearing up to launch its much-hyped - and perhaps one-of-its-kind - "Kollywood Awards". The awards ceremony, tentatively fixed for April 2002, is being supported by a curtain raiser on Raj TV, dubbed "Kollywood Live". The half-hour-daily slot was kicked off on Sunday, June 24 (between 8.00 pm - 8.30 pm). The channel has roped in Videocon as the sponsor of the awards, which would be branded as 'Videocon Kollywood Awards - A People's Channel Presentation'.
"The idea is to show free trailers of all the Tamil movies before they are released. We have prepared a unique module with the help of ORG-Marg that will conduct the whole exercise.
The 'pre-launch' of this programme, which hit the small-screen on Sunday, will be supported by a big marketing drive. We are trying to involve the public in the decision-making process and make the whole exercise as transparent as possible," says Rajeev Nambiar, vice-president & COO, Raj Television Network.
There will be two panels to judge a movie and its actors - a technical and a non-technical panel. For the technical panel, a group of 100 people has already been selected by ORG-Marg. "We chose the technical panel after contacting a very large number of people and screening them through a questionnaire to gauge their knowledge of evaluating film-making techniques as well as their interest in the subject. We wanted people who not only know the finer points of screen-play, cinematography etc, but who are also interested in being part of the panel and can devote time to the whole affair," says R Ashok, general manager, ORG-Marg.
Unlike the technical panel, the non-technical panel is not predetermined. For this, the channel would place a response advertisement in the Tamil newspaper `Daily Thanthi' inviting people to send in their ratings. The responses would be judged on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The system would take in responses on every movie from a minimum of 500 respondents and the performance of actors in various categories would be judged on the basis of their performance over a period of one year. A movie would be given extra points at every milestone, that is, when it completes 50 days and 100 days, and these points would be added to the performance of the actors as well. "For greater transparency Tamil Nadu will be divided into four socio-cultural regions (SCRs) and we would see that responses from each SCR finds equal representation," says Ashok.
So what's the big idea behind this so-called 'unique' exercise? "We realise that Raj TV has come to occupy a strong slot in the minds of people as a movie channel of relevance. We want to retain that niche, and, at the same time, experiment with the film-based recipe which has worked well," says Nambiar.
There is, of course, a bigger issue that has prompted Raj TV to undertake this mammoth exercise. Quite simply, Raj TV is getting increasingly concerned about the meteoric rise of the Vijay Television channel. "In our minds, Sun TV is a clear No1 channel, followed by Raj TV in the No 2 position. But in the last one year, Vijay TV, which was a distant No 3 till some time back, has risen fast with some very interesting programming. It cannot be ignored any longer," feels Girish Menon, media planning director, HTA.
Raj TV has always been a staple part of most advertisers' media budget.However, the channel received its wake-up call a few months back when its TRPs started dropping - even below some of Vijay TV's popular soaps. This prompted Raj TV to hire the services of Lowe Lintas, which, besides addressing the brand's perception-related issues, will also be there to beef up the channel's content.
"While Kollywood Awards is meant to retain our grip on the movie market, we are also investing in quality soaps," says Nambiar. A beginning has been made by roping in ace director-cum-producer K. Balachander, the chief architect of Sun's initial success with soaps. His production house, Min Bimbangal, has already produced two successful serials 'Chinna Thirai' (meaning small-screen) and 'Jannal' (window) for the channel. Both these have recorded average TRPs of 5 for the last few months and have provoked the channel into reconsidering its dependence on film and film-based programmes.
"Apart from our agreement with K. Balachander, we have also got Citadel Video and Yantra Media to create content for us," says Nambiar. He feels that Raj's earlier strategy of roping in sponsors at the very onset of a serial messed up its quality and prevented the channel from hawking time to other advertisers. Now, the channel is set to launch three soaps that will 'not be given a long rope'. "If their TRPs do not pick up after three weeks then we would bring them to their logical conclusion in the next few weeks. We are unwilling to let producers take us for a ride anymore," he says.
Raj TV's new-found aggression is reflected not just in the choice of its producer partners but also in the reorganisation of its core team. The channel has shifted base to a posh address at Poes Road in Chennai and has taken on a bright new team on board. S.K. Ramesh, an ex-Lintas hand, heads its creative team in Chennai. Its sales office in Mumbai is headed by B Shankar, ex-Indian Express, and in Delhi, Y.S. Shetty ex-Times of India, seems to be calling the shots.
Paradoxically, Nambiar ascribes the channel's drop in ratings to its preoccupation with internal restructuring and its focus on infrastructure. Indeed, the channel has been investing heavily on this front.It has put in Rs 15 crore through internal accruals in building up a production studio and has recently got a clearance from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to set up a teleport facility at its own premises. This means it can not just uplink for itself but can also lease this facility to other users and earn revenues on it.
The network also plans to reposition its second channel Raj Digital Plus, which was launched two years ago, along the lines of SET Max. Nambiar says, "We will organise events specially made for television and hope to push pop videos on the channel as we feel these videos are not being given their due on any other channel." With all this in place, Raj TV, which clocked billings of Rs 30 crore for year ended March 2001, hopes to close its books with a 10 per cent growth this year.
© 2001 agencyfaqs!First Published : June 26, 2001