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Star Plus plans big launch for Mahabharata

The 128-episode series will be available only for premium viewing on television starting September 16. For the first 15 days, every episode will be of 22 minutes, while from October 1, it will have 24 minutes of content.

Star Plus is all geared up to launch Mahabharata on September 15 at the 8.30-9 pm slot during Mondays to Fridays. STAR Network's team has been working on the show for the past three years and according to Nikhil Madhok, SVP, marketing, the channel has spent a sizeable amount on the production and marketing of the show. The show is being produced by Swastik Productions.

The Krishna TVC for Mahabharata
The OOH campaign
The OOH campaign
Nikhil Madhok

In this version of the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna will narrate the entire epic starting from the stories of King Shantanu and Satyavati.

Although Mahabharata will not be simulcast on other network channels, a repeat telecast will begin on STAR Jalsha and STAR Pravaha from September 30.

Fortune Oil has been roped in as the title sponsor, while Ghadi Detergent is the powered by sponsor; there are 8-10 other sponsors for Mahabharata. For the first 15 days, every episode will of 22 minutes duration and from October 1, when the ad cap comes into force, each will be of 24 minutes.

About 50 per cent of Mahabharata has been shot on outdoor locations, thereby spurting the production cost. The channel claims that it has thus revised the ad rates for the show, the details to which it refused to divulge.

Star Plus claims that extensive research has gone into the production of the show, and industry stalwarts were contacted to ensure precision in costumes, weapons, sets, language, dialogues and others. However, there was no research on the market potential of another epic on Indian television.

Madhok says that the channel believes that the story needs to be told, especially to the consumer below the age of 25 years who has not seen BR Chopra's Mahabharata. He adds that the reason for the failure of the epic genre in the Indian context has been because of its inability to attract the youth. This time, the characters will become the characters for the youth, similar to what BR Chopra's Mahabharata achieved on Doordarshan.

The channel will spend around 20 per cent of the production cost to market the show.

The teaser campaign for the show was launched around May to capture people's imagination. The activities for the launch phase have already begun and several tent pole activities will be launched every month to attract people and give them a different reason to be associated with the show.

Five- six promos are running across STAR Network channels and 25 channels outside the network. Content capsules of the making of the show have also been created and are running on prime time across these channels.

To cover maximum ground, Star Plus is reaching out in more than 100 cities including metros and non metros. It has created museums in Delhi and Mumbai, for four days across two weekends in malls, urging people to see the designs of costumes, weapons and other materials used for the show. Glasstrons, which are special 3D glasses, also take the visitors on a virtual tour of Hastinapur, Mathura, Vrindavan and other cities of importance in the epic.

Similar activities are also planned for smaller towns. To target youth, it is reaching out to them in colleges, where it has created virtual wardrobes where students can dress up as different characters and share their pictures on social media. A temple activation is also being planned. The channel will also put up several innovative billboards across different cities using the characters of Arjun, Shakuni, Duryodhan and others.

A nationwide print innovation on the launch date is also in the pipeline. On the digital front, it will launch an app that will tell people about the show, allow them to dress their friends and themselves like the characters and read slokas from the epic. On Facebook, it will create separate pages for the characters, which will regularly engage with the consumers. Several capsules on the making of the show have been put up on YouTube.

Madhok further adds that the use of technology in promotions has actually being done to attract young audiences.

The channel has no plans to launch the show on the YouTube platform. Madhok says that the content is premium and is an expensive proposition for the channel, so it would like that people to come on the television to watch it.

STAR India broadcasts more than 40 channels in seven languages reaching more than 600 million people every week across India and 100 other countries. Some of its popular channels are Life Ok, Star Gold, Channel [V] and others.

Follow Devesh Gupta

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