Prachi Srivastava

Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...

Ekta Kapoor's production company is leveraging its expertise in television to promote its movies by creating entire shows meant for this purpose. These special programmes are a win-win situation for the production house and the channels involved, afaqs! notes.

In the 2000s, Ekta Kapoor created a benchmark in the television entertainment industry when she depicted different shades of women through the famous "K-series". It earned her the epithet, Queen of the Soap Opera. Kapoor understood the psychography of the TV audiences so well that her shows not only became a hit, but a habit with viewers.

Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
She has turned that keen marketing brain to movies now with a new clutter-breaking formula. Balaji, which has been producing movies under the 'Balaji Motion Pictures' and 'Alt Entertainment' banners, has come up with a clever way of marketing these movies.

Television became an important movie-marketing platform when actors first started appearing on reality shows to promote their movies. Then came the integrations, even in fiction shows. Remember Vidya Balan's small role in 'Bade Achche Lagte Hain' (in 2011) to promote 'Dirty Picture'? Or Aamir Khan as Inspector Shekhawat (his reel role in Talaash) in C.I.D two years ago? That was just for starters.

Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Balaji: It is a trailer! No, it is a TV show! No, it's a...
Promo phenomenon

Taking the whole "movie marketing" exercise up a notch or two, Balaji used its television expertise in creating special content for TV to promote its upcoming movies. In March 2013, Kapoor's production venture 'Ek Thi Daayan' was promoted on Life OK through a special series based on folklore. Titled 'Ek Thi Naayka', the mini-horror series ran for 16 episodes while the movie was released a week before the show ended.

The series, a pre-seller to the movie, gave out ideas and hints about the movie's subject and 'thought'. In March 2014, Balaji, in association with MTV, launched 'Haunted Weekends with Sunny Leone', to promote another horror movie, Ragini MMS2. The show, that brought together sensuality and fear, was one of the top-rated slots on MTV.

MTV also revived its old property, MTV Bakra, recently when it launched 'MTV Jhand Hogi Sabki' in association with Balaji's 'Kuku Mathur Ki Toh Jhand Ho Gayi'. In an earlier interview with afaqs! MTV's programming head Vikas Gupta had said, "The channel's association with the right names and right brands seems to be working for us. When we did 'Haunted Weekends', the slot saw a 50 per cent jump in viewership for the channel."

The fourth show that joined the list was for Balaji's latest release, 'Ek Villain', starring Siddharth Malhotra and Shraddha Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh. Zoom launched 'Ek Villain Ek Daastan' to remember Bollywood's most iconic villains, their epic dialogues, their style and their effect on the viewers.

Why innovate?

Almost all Bollywood movies, even today, are promoted on reality/non-fiction shows. Even those from Balaji are promoted on these platforms but the banner is trying something more innovative too. Why?

Ruchikaa Kapoor, marketing head, Balaji Motion Pictures, explains that a reality show already has a broader agenda and motive. "When you are heading towards that platform, the only thing you end up doing is reiterating the name of the movie and release. It gives you visibility but doesn't do anything for you, conceptually. However, when you are creating individual content for TV, it is unadulterated concept promotion."

In India, people are price-conscious and it is an expensive affair going to the theatre and watching a movie. These shows, therefore, ensure that they act as a prelude to what the film has to offer. Having said that, not all movies lend themselves to a TV show format. The creative team takes a call if a special series can be made around the core subject of the movie.

After that, the production house chooses a channel, based on the kind of programming it does, its positioning, target group it caters too and the loyalty it enjoys. Giving a third-party view on this, Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, says that is it happening because the production houses now need to see more marketing avenues and newer techniques than the usual marketing efforts. "The emerging trend is to create similar sounding shows and put them on air. In this case, the production house gets a little bit of an edge on recall of their brand (movie)," adds Jani.

Sneak preview

There can only be one reason why no other production house has attempted to do what Balaji is doing. And it probably has to do with Balaji's understanding about the television business and the contribution from its sister concern, Balaji Telefilms.

Besides, there are two aspects that decide if a television show can be created around a movie or not. The first aspect is the "concept" and second, the "budget". The decision depends on the production house's capacity and how big the avenue is. And how creative and innovative it can be. But such innovations are increasingly being seen as a growing trend.

It is no secret that a movie's life at the theatre has reduced considerably compared to the good old days. It is left to such innovative marketing efforts to pull people into the theatres. Ameya Sule, business director, Group M ESP, agrees that this is a growing trend and that Balaji has taken movie marketing up a level.

Sule says that such special content is an extension of the trailer. "It is an extra something for audiences who may not be watching trailers and also for the viewer who decides to watch a movie in a theatre after getting to see the trailer"

Who is better off?

These special series are produced like regular shows where the channel bears the production cost, which it monetises through advertising. The marketing of the show is the channel's responsibility as the show's IP rests with it.

So who emerges with a better deal - the channel or the production house? As of now, experts believe it is both. Amol Mohandas, business head, Allied Media echoes, "Its a win-win situation for both. Creating special content for TV is aimed at increasing sales. Also, it is effective utilisation of content and cross-functional usage of time and data available. What with the ad caps and TRAI regulations that are compelling TV channels to invest in richer content, this will help as Balaji has good insight about these viewers."

"It works for us in two ways. Once the audience samples it, which is free on TV, it either leads to box office conversion or conversation," says Ruchikaa Kapoor of Balaji Motion Pictures. Sundeep Nagpal, founder-director of Stratagem, feels that the movie, in such a case, is being looked upon as a brand. "The good part about TV is that the viewer is looking for entertainment. Even if a viewer feels it's an obvious plug, he might not think he is being taken for a ride. But having said that, this can well become prolific. As far as it works for both the production house and the channel, it is good."

How does it work?

Once the concept is finalised, Balaji makes sure that the cast it opts for works well for the show. For instance, Ekta Kapoor got top actors of television like Smriti Irani, Sakshi Tanwar, Shweta Tiwari, Aamna Shariff and Ankita Lokhande to act in the 'Ek Thi Naayka' series.

Such serials also feature movie stars. For instance, 'Haunted Weekends' was hosted by Leone and 'Villain - Ek Dastaan' is being hosted by Malhotra. 'MTV Jhand Hogi Sabki', the show was hosted by Kuku Mathur, Siddharth Gupta and Ashish Juneja, the young actors in the movie, while the pranks were played on Shraddha Kapoor, Balan, and Nargis Fakhri.

For the hosts, it is a strategic tie-up with these actors, who see the merit in this since the concept is around the movie they star in. It also gives them the "extra mileage", which is a great help.

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