"Just because it's going to be on the web this time around we're not treating it any differently, neither is Star," assures JD Majethia, founder, Hatsoff Productions, the production house that's working on Sarabhai VS Sarabhai, an erstwhile television show, a cult comedy that became very popular in the 2000s. A couple of days back, news that the show is making a comeback - in a new avatar - was broken. Since then, fans of the show and media professionals alike,have been able to discuss little else. Loyalists have been busy revelling in nostalgia and recalling hit dialogues from the show, online and offline. The modern day viewer, for whom comedy is either stand-up or roast, is busy wondering 'What's in it for me?'
Sarabhi VS sarabhi is equal to craziness.... there r no limits & fun never ends !!!! pic.twitter.com/9QiB14GDAr— JDMajethia (@JDMajethia) June 30, 2016
The Star Plus sitcom will now be available on Hotstar, Star India's video-on-demand platform. The show will retain its original star cast but will have a few new characters on board. On Hotstar, a digital platform, audience preferences are expected to be very different from those of the TV viewer. "We are making Sarabhai VS Sarabhai and it will be what it was. There won't be a whole lot of changes. So the show won't turn into something totally different. The show will take a seven year leap, though. But the essence will be the same..." Majethia says.
Recently, in an interview with afaqs! Reporter, Ajit Mohan, chief executive officer, Hotstar mentioned that Hotstar Originals will be nothing short of a TV Drama, and after Tanhayiaan, Sarabhai VS Sarabhai shows how he stands by what he said.
Asit Modi, founder of Neela Tele Films which produces Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah tells afaqs!, "The brand was a successful one on TV when it used to air, the actors are good, the creators are good and it would be interesting to see how it works on digital."
Another senior producer who prefers not to be named says, "Digital in India is in a confused state now. While it is considered as the future and is definitely the future, no one is sure about what the present state is - who watches it, what works there, so it would be a challenge for Sarabhai VS Sarabhai on digital."
The producer also believes that the taste of India has changed a lot since the show went off air. "Now we have The Kapil Sharma Show, Bhaabi Ji Ghar Pe Hai, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah for TV audiences and if you combine TV with digital, you have to consider the likes of AIBs (All India Backchod), so the sitcom will be exposed to a new set of modern day competition," he adds.
As per a source close to the development, Hotstar won't put the sitcom behind its paywall. This also means the platform will intend to rake in advertising revenue. In the interview mentioned earlier, Mohan shed light on the global scenario where brands never had the opportunity to associate with premium content on digital as Netflix being a subscription based platform never allowed such associations. "In India with Hotstar we provide brands the opportunity to associate with premium content, and brands are rapidly observing it," is what he said.
Brands and their media custodians:
Foster's in the past has associated with various web series, TVF's Humourously Yours being the last one. While Sarabhai VS Sarabhai may not be a concept that Foster's immediately wants to associate with, Arjun Kalra, head - Contemporary Brands (Foster's and Miller) & Craft Beer portfolio at AB InBev India feels the ad break model is a very good one and way less risky compared to a web series integration model where the brand is a part of the story.
"In a brand integration it all boils down to the content creator, how the writer makes the brand a part of the story. If it is an ad break between a show it's much safer. If someone wants immediate results, brand integration is a worthy risk. Otherwise ad slots are much safer to bank on," asserts Kalra.
In conversation with afaqs! about how the move is Hotstar's way of reaching a wider, more mass audience and consequently getting more advertisers on board, Vanita Keswani, CEO, Madison Media Sigma, says, "Like On Air with AIB and Tanhaiyaan, Sarabhai is also being launched as a 'Hotstar Original'. Tinder came in as a title sponsor of Tanhaiyaan, while On Air With AIB has garnered close to 1.5 million unique users, in 10 days, with Vivo and Carlsberg as sponsors. Sarabhai VS Sarabhai is also one such initiative where they are trying to reach out to the masses, through fresh content under a popular title."
She adds, "Digital as a medium (Hotstar in question), like other mediums of TV, Print and Radio, is offering vanilla advertising, sponsorship associations as well as brand integrations through various properties. Each property need not cater to all forms of advertising and association."