Zee TV: Historical turn

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | June 17, 2013
The channel is charging 50 per cent premium on the current 8 pm slot ad rate for its historical show, produced by Balaji Telefilms.

Two years after Zee TV's popular historical show Jhansi Ki Raani went off-air, the channel is now ready to woo its viewers with yet another historical drama, on the 'epic' love story of Mughal emperor Akbar and Rajput princess, Jodha. The show is titled 'Jodha Akbar'.

Jodha Akbar

Ashish Sehgal

Ajay Bhalwankar

Ekta Kapoor

The new offering from Zee TV's stable will be launched on June 18 and will be aired Monday to Friday at 8 pm. It will compete with Colors' Balika Vadhu, Star Plus' Meri Bhabhi, Sony's Anamika and Life OK's Mahadev.

Apparently, Jodha Akbar rides on huge production costs. Ashish Sehgal, chief sales officer, ZEEL explains that the spot rates for the 8 pm slot have been increased by about 50 per cent to meet the increased costs. ZeeTV hopes to repeat the success story of Jhansi Ki Raani with Balaji Telefilms' Jodha Akbar.

Though Sehgal refused to comment on the exact rates being charged per 10-second spot, industry estimates put the figure at a premium of Rs.1-1.25 lakh for 10-seconds.

"The show is attracting brands that target males, such as the automobiles sector, BFSI sector, in addition to the FMCG brands," Sehgal says. When asked if the channel has roped in any sponsor for the show, Sehgal says that fiction is more about pricing than sponsorship. "Since there are lesser inventories now, we are sure they will be picked up by the spot buyers easily."

Ajay Bhalwankar, head of content, Zee TV, says, "Our experience with 'Jhansi Ki Rani' gives us the conviction that viewers in India are curious to know more about prominent historical figures. It was a story that was received extremely well because it was told interestingly. 'Jodha Akbar' promises to present audiences with Akbar's journey from being 'Akbar the Warrior' to 'Akbar the Great'. The key objective is to highlight to our audiences the power of love and its significant role in making someone a better human being."

It may be recalled that the lives of Jodha and Akbar have been earlier explored by director Ashutosh Gowariker in the 2008 movie with the same title. Bhalwankar says that the narration of the movie was different. "The movie was all about the romance between the characters but here we are trying to look at a bigger picture. The show will focus on their life over a period of time. When Balaji approached us for this, we agreed as the show is about a woman who brings changes in her husband's life," he adds.

Balaji Telefilms says that it has conducted an in-depth research to verify all facts and figures, the chronology of events and the depiction of all its characters. Balaji Telefilms' Ekta Kapoor says, "The story of Jodha and Akbar is an intriguing chapter from India's history. It speaks of love in the time of hate. It is relevant and relatable to present times as well. In India, historicals are more incident-based. But we are looking at the human stories, characterisations that focus on inter-personal relationships."

Royal push

In the digital space, Zee TV plans to create a virtual historical monument on Facebook, giving online users a chance to inscribe their names on it. The idea is to support the preservation of monuments by encouraging lovers to write their names on virtual monuments rather than real ones.

The channel will also create boards on Pinterest, familiarising viewers with the architecture, monuments, artefacts, clothes and jewellery from the Mughal era. Zee TV will organise edutainment excursions for school children, where they will watch the shoot of the show and be taken on a guided tour of the 'Jodha Akbar' sets that resemble Jodha and Akbar's palaces, showcasing replicas of the costumes, jewellery, and weapons used in the Mughal era that are currently being used in the show.

In Delhi, the channel will make the toll booth on the DND flyover toll-free on the day of the launch in remembrance of the fact that emperor Akbar had waived off a pilgrimage tax for all countrymen in his time. The channel will also have stalls serving 'sherbet' outside prominent dargahs in Uttar Pradesh as a goodwill gesture on the launch day.

P M Balakrishna

Gerald Roche

Manas Mishra

Expert speak

P M Balakrishna, COO of Allied Media believes that the show has history, romance, elements of drama and is interesting as an overall subject. "This kind of genre has equal appeal to youth and females, and will get traction in terms of viewership. The channel has got a good opportunity to show the characters and the historical phase in great depth. It is a short term strategy to get a different kind of audience on to the show," he adds.

Echoes Gerald Roche, VP, Starcom Worldwide South, "The show is something different. The movie made a good impression and hence the viewers will at least sample the show. Zee TV earlier had Jhansi Ki Rani, which did very well too at the 8 pm slot, despite strong competing shows on rival channels. The look and feel of the show is similar to the movie and time will tell how it will perform."

Giving a slightly different view, Manas Mishra, EVP and national strategy director, Vizeum India, says, "There have been historical shows on different characters in the past and they have worked successfully. But I feel such shows tend to work more in the regions where these historical characters are from, for example Veer Shivaji. It's because there is a connection since we grow up reading and hearing about them and hence can relate to them. Same way, for Jodha Akbar too, its success depends on the production value, the plot and how the show is treated."

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