This week Raj TV, the No. 2 channel in Tamil Nadu, unveiled its ambitious, month-long tribute to actor Sivaji Ganesan. While it seems logical for the channel to try and capitalise on the southern sentiment for the deceased star (Ganesan passed away in July this year), the fact remains, as a strategy, Raj TV is perhaps pushing its luck too far. The whole idea, and the accompanying razzmatazz, does not suggest it is about 'paying tribute', but clearly points at Raj TV's decision to feed on events as a staple programming diet.
Speaking to agencyfaqs!, R. Radhakrishnan, general manager, marketing, Raj Television Network, said, "We have pulled out all the stops for this events and pulled in all the big names. In fact, to be different from all the other initiatives taken so far for the deceased actor, we have involved the family in this as well."
The programme titled 'Imayathurkku India Anjali' (loosely meaning 'A tribute to great Indians') was kicked off on September 3. The first part, which is a collection of Sivaji classics, will be aired every week from Monday through Friday, till the end of the month. The second part of this bonanza deals with vignettes and interviews with the southern star. It will be aired on a ROS schedule (run-on-schedule) basis for 30 days and would be shown in between programmes. The third part, dubbed 'Simmakural', is a curtain raiser to the grand event scheduled for September 28 at the Indian Airlines Ground in Chennai. The last part - the telecast of the on-ground event - will happen on October 1, which also happens to be the birthday of the star. It will also be celebrated as Actors' Day in Kollywood (as the film circle in Tamil Nadu is known).
Now, what makes the whole thing interesting is that this nice little 'tribute' works out to a cool Rs 40 lakh in terms of advertising revenue, with none less than Hindustan Lever taking on the mantle of the main sponsor. While the main sponsor would find its way right from the backdrop to the backs of tickets and passes, the associate sponsors would be highlighted in the promo activities for the first, third and fifth events. According to Radhakrishnan, the event will be supported by print ads in Daily Thanthi, Dina Malar, The Hindu and at least six hoardings in Chennai and thousands of posters and banners put up at vantage locations across the city. A series of TV promos will be part of the entire do.
So is anyone impressed? While Rajeev Nambiar, vice-president and COO, Raj TV, feels that TRPs in general tend to shoot up to 8 when events are telecast on the channel, the industry begs to differ. "There is such a thing as viewer fatigue. Vijay TV, when it entered the market, used events successfully to tap the youth segment," says Girish Menon, media planning director, HTA, Chennai. "Today, there is at least one event every month on TV as all the players have hopped on to the events bandwagon." Adds a media watcher, "There was a lot of viewer interest in the much touted Hrithik Show (on Sony). But it lasted for the first hour only (it failed to record a rating of more than six). The interest sagged off as the show was badly put together." Opines N. Shankar, associate media director, Zenith Media, "The Sivaji movies would elicit response and could cut across age categories, but I am not so sure about the on-ground event."
In fact, this raises a bigger question for Raj TV, which is clearly threatened by Vijay TV, part of the STAR bouquet now: Will events pay off in the long run? This year alone the channel has taken on at least six major events to felicitate various individuals and causes. "We do not put together some silly musical, but espouse causes and themes," Nambiar defends his stance. "Even the current tribute is no run-of-the-mill affair. We have roped in stars like Amitabh Bachchan for the event. We have got commitments from top talents like lyricist Vairamuthu, music giant Ilayaraja, art director Thotta Tharani for concept creation. Actor Prabhu, Ganesan's son, is involved and the proceeds of the entire show would go to Sivaji Prabhu Charitable Trust.
"People turn up for the stars and not for the cause for which the event is being organised," says Menon of HTA. And Raj TV is only too ready to supply the dazzling list of stars who are part of the mega event. "All said, long-term prospects of Raj, or any other channel for that matter, will depend on the content. Raj needs to seriously consider its strategy of leaning on events. It cannot be sustained for long and certainly cannot be the reason for a loyal viewership, which, in any case, is being held captive by some powerful soaps on air," proffers a media planner unwilling to be named.
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