A few days back, Broadcast Worldwide, the promoter of an over-one-year-old bouquet of Tara regional channels, launched its first audio cassette in collaboration with Milestone Entertainment. Titled Tara Rum Pum, it is a collection of Hindi and Punjabi songs, owing their lineage to Tara Punjabi. The broadcaster is working at such cassettes for all regions that its channels cater to. The music foray will be taken forward in a big way. Under the agreement, Milestone will get spots on Tara; Broadcast gets access to the Milestone repertoire; and the rest involves a royalty-based fee structure.
This is not a brand extension though. It is more an awareness and brand activity, according to Pradipto Sircar, director, business development, Broadcast Worldwide. "The idea is to simply inform viewers that we are alive."
For keen media watchers, that should come as no surprise. The company has long been the subject of media speculation, with reports of a sell-out pouring in frequently. The company confirmed talks with prospective investors for investments to the tune of 25-26 per cent of the equity. Unfortunately, an unfriendly market has severely delayed the company's June 1 deadline of closing an investment. Add to that the drying advertising coffers and the predicament before Sircar and his company becomes evident. The very fact that Tara channels are being distributed, more so viewed by a select audience, is reason enough for cheer. "At times, I can't figure out how we are still visible in some pockets," muses Sircar.
So, it has had to manage costs - by reducing overheads. Staff strength has been halved lately - from 400 to 200 - with most exits happening from the production side. Luckily, an FIPB clearance came through for the release of $800,000 worth of investment from Mauritius-based Crombie International. Now the company has begun reviving the flagging channels and increasing awareness. Programming on Punjabi and Gujarati had gone stale since long. The Marathi and Bangla channels have received some attention, but more is needed. After a long gap, the company is introducing fresh programming on both these channels. Soon, the Punjabi and Gujarati channels will come into focus.
Marking a rejuvenation of Tara Marathi is the Snowcem Tara Ganesh Utsav. Beginning August 22, a panel of judges will visit select homes and select community-worship stalls
across Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Aurangabad and Nashik. The best Ganesh home and 'sarvajanik' (community-level) puja 'pandals' will be chosen and awarded. The entire visit of the judges will be filmed and shown in half-hour slots on Tara Marathi beginning August 30. The entire activity will be backed by both on-air and offline advertising. Coinciding with it, the channel is launching a music cassette (again with Milestone) called Snowcem Tara Ganesh Utsav, with songs sung by Suresh Wadkar and other famous singers. It intents to distribute 7,000 copies free as part of the Ganesh Utsav celebrations.
On Tara Bangla, the company is kicking off four new programmes. Among them is Sukanya, a 30-minute Bengali women's magazine on air, produced in-house. "It is more like Women's Era, modern yet traditional," explains Sircar. An inter-college quiz with Barry O'Brien (brother of famous quiz master Derek), the first quiz on Tara, kicks off in the last week of September.
These programmes will mark the first half of the first phase. Around October, the company plans to begin similar work on Tara Punjabi and Gujarati. Around February, it will wait for customer feedback and reports to decide further course of action. In the meantime, it is gaining valuable consumers in the form of classified advertisers too. "Classifieds have really kicked off. I am amazed at the response," exults Sircar. "And this is without any promos or direct contact activity." As proof of his claim, the company is hiking classified ad rates on both Bangla (up from Rs 400 to Rs 500 for a 30-seconder still) and Marathi (from Rs 300 to Rs 400). The company had started classified advertising on the channels to leverage its unique localised strengths. Sircar thinks it has worked well due partly to the uniqueness and partly to its highly cost-effective nature.
But what his company continues to need, more than ever, is a certain buzz around the channel. It's hard to find Tara in either the ratings charts or any viewer's random recall lists. Distributors aren't too excited about it either. "Distribution, after the unfortunate Star experience, is in place," feels Sircar. He does admit though, that no fresh push has been given. With limited budgets, a tight market, and more immediate needs, it may be some time before Broadcast Worldwide can look at creating a hype around its brand. It is looking instead at more subtle ways, and a more gradual evolution.
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