The moment we hear 'Ramayan on television', there are just two things that come to our mind; Ramanand Sagar and Sunday morning. Zee TV appears ready to exploit this implicit association through a fresh run of the epic on Indian television, that too in the newly awakened Sunday morning slot.
It was a long time since the Sunday morning slot was looked upon as a potential money churner, before Star Plus awakened the time band with its celebrity-led non-fiction property, Satyameva Jayate. Following suit, Zee has taken up the 11 am slot seriously, albeit with a costume drama, an epic. The 50-episode series will be launched on August 12.
The oldest and most impactful version of Ramayan, Ramanand Sagar's version, was also seen on the Sunday morning 9 am slot. It was awarded as the most viewed mythological series by Limca Book of Records. It was dubbed in various regional languages and is still being licensed to a few by its production house, Sagar Arts (Ramanand Sagar's production house).
It may be noted that Satyamev Jayate, another property on the same slot, garnered an average of 2.5 TVR and ended on July 29.
There have been attempts to recreate the epic by various Hindi general entertainment channels, too. Interestingly, Zee TV was the first channel to attempt it in 2002 with Ramayan produced by Ravi Chopra. Unfortunately, it couldn't garner very strong numbers. Later, NDTV launched its GEC, NDTV Imagine (later renamed Imagine on takeover and currently off-air) with yet another remake in 2008. Though the show received average response initially, it couldn't sustain the numbers. This time though, the series was remade by Sagar Arts.
For the upcoming show, Zee TV has taken on-board Sagar Pictures, the production house of Meenakshi Sagar, the granddaughter of Ramanand Sagar. The channel states that the move is a part of the original programming strategy that was initiated at the start of this year. It was realised that Zee TV is one of the GECs with minimum hours of original programming and the channel decided to build on it. Recapturing the Sunday morning slot is a part of that strategy.
It is learnt from market sources that the channel is offering the title sponsorship at a reasonable charge of about Rs 7.5 to 8 crore, for 120 seconds per episode. While the channel has decided to do away with the 'powered by' sponsor, there will about 4-6 associate sponsors at about Rs 3-3.5 crore with an offer of 60 seconds per episode, sources inform.
Given the history behind the slot and the televised versions of the epic, marketers still believe that the show should deliver decent numbers and register good appointment viewing. The experts also predict that the show will garner at least 1.5 to 2 TVR, while the sampling figures could be higher.
Divya Radhakrishnan, managing director, Helios Media says that with the big Sunday morning movement happening around the GECs, the format should work in sync with the time band. "Originally, this was the second prime time band for the television channels; however, nobody concentrated on it for a long time," she adds.
Amin Lakhani, principal partner, Mindshare seconds this and adds that the slot has missed on good programming. He says that the Indian audience always has an appetite for mythology.
Marketers unanimously suggest that these remake attempts don't really have the repeat factor for today's audiences as the original version ran on Doordarshan about 25 years ago, when most of today's young audience were infants. For them, this can be a fresh story telling if the treatment of the epic is proper and can resonate well with them.
R S Suriyanarayan, associate vice-president, Initiative states that Zee TV is very rooted beyond the metro cities, which will benefit the show. He also affirms that the treatment of these kinds of shows is the most important thing, since the story has already been told.
The SMJ effect
The mythological saga is being launched right after Satyameva Jayate ends and the industry analyses that the show will definitely experience the positive effect of SMJ.
Suriyanarayan supports it by mentioning that the success of SMJ may boost the viewership of Ramayan. Having said that, he adds that even if the former was not a huge success with large numbers, it was definitely one of the most popular shows on television. It has been a talk-of-the-town property.
Marketers believe that it was SMJ that pushed the slot viewership from less than 1 TVR to about 3 TVRs. However, P M Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media opines that the show may do as well as or even better than SMJ, if it maintains the same feelings as that of the epic.
Experts state that even if Ramayan does increase the number of options for the slot, it should experience a lot of appointment viewing and also bring unique audiences to the slot.
Advertisers' point of view
Experts unanimously suggest that it should be no gamble for the marketers since the show is at least bound to maintain the slot ratings, if not increase it. Also, comparing it with the lone slot property, Satyamev Jayate, which cost the advertiser about Rs 10 lakh per 10-seconder, Ramayan will be a cheaper option with the ad slots costing about 1.5 lakh per 10-seconds.
Balakrishna of Allied Media says, "This seems to be a viable option for the advertisers. Also, it is not a marketing challenge but more of a programming challenge. Selling Ramayan on a Sunday morning slot is easier than re-making it with the same treatment, same feeling and with the same peg."
However, Radhakrishnan of Helios mentions that the advertisers are well-aware of the fact that there aren't many options for family viewing. "This would expand the family-viewing space and at the same time, reserve for itself the major categories of the advertisers," she adds.