Roads, trains, metros, theatres, malls, and airports, if you are in Mumbai or Bangalore you cannot "breathe" without seeing gigantic posters around you of Amazon's new show - 'Breathe'. Seattle headquartered e-comm behemoth, Amazon, has released the second series under their Prime India Originals banner and the posters give people a glimpse of the latest thriller.
Four episodes of the R Madhavan and Amit Sadh suspense thriller are out and streaming on the subscription-based video on demand platform. Produced by Abundantia Entertainment (producers of movies Baby, Airlift) and directed by Mayank Sharma, the show sees Madhavan, a devout Catholic who knows 'Gita' verses by heart, evolving into a murderer in order to save his son 'Josh', who is battling cystic fibrosis and is in dire need of an immediate lung transplant. On the other hand, Sadh battles haunting memories of his daughter's (Shreya) death. Each episode is a 40-minute target that the two actors chase and the conflicts keep viewers intrigued.
The imagery on screen and the marketing initiatives around us make it clear that Amazon Studios is taking India very seriously. The outdoor campaigns were run in Mumbai and Bangalore; radio was also used in these two markets along with Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. "We added Hyderabad and Chennai because of Madhavan's popularity in those markets," informs Vijay Subramaniam, director, Content, Amazon Prime. He adds, "The marketing plans were fine-tuned for both efficiency and impact."
Amazon has also used in-theatre activations to promote the Prime Original, "We took advantage of the Padmaavat screening. We did this especially for places like Delhi where outdoor is a challenge and a movie like Padmaavat, which will have huge audience turnouts, would be a good medium to create an impact," opines Subramaniam.
While top metros were given special attention, Subramaniam and his team had a mass marketing plan too, "TV, along with digital, is used to give us the air cover for an all-India reach," he says. On TV, 'Breathe' trailers and promos were seen on general entertainment channels, news channels and English entertainment channels.
In order to generate buzz around the thriller and keep it alive for a longer period of time, Prime, instead of putting all episodes up in one go for viewers to binge watch, decided to make one available every week. So, the first four episodes were up for streaming on 26 January 2018, and for the fifth one, the viewer needs to wait till next Friday. "The genre lends itself beautifully for a one episode a week format. Given that it's a thriller, and that there are so many cliff-hangers with high-level conflicts, we felt that leaving customers at a certain point and giving them an opportunity to engage and converse about what they saw and then dropping an episode every week, would have enough hooks for them to keep coming back and finish the entire season. That was the rationale behind going for an episode a week," Subramaniam informs.
The digital video ecosystem is growing very fast in India and 'Breathe', along with ALTBalaji's 'Bose: Dead/Alive' or 'Test Case', are great examples of this. From a production point of view, a web series (Inside Edge, Breathe, Bose) episode costs around 10 to 12 times that of a regular television fiction show (Kumkum Bhagya, Udaan), but in terms of marketing spends, where does it stand in comparison with a film or TV show?
"They are not an apple to apple comparison as all platforms have different objectives," says Subramaniam. A media planner seconds Subramaniam saying, "A TV show targets the masses while web series like Breathe only target a particular group of audience. So the selection of the medium is different, demographics are different."
Another media planner adds, "Amazon wants us to have this discussion and that is why they mount their Originals at this scale. Objectives are different, yes, but the spends are very much comparable at this stage."
A high-budget feature film starring a Salman Khan or Ranveer Singh spends around Rs 12 crore on marketing. When it comes to TV, Bigg Boss spends the most on marketing. "Around Rs 25 crore is spent on marketing and this excludes network spots. Print gets the lion's share of the total spent," estimates a senior media planner. Sony spent around Rs 20 crore to promote Kaun Banega Crorepati 2017. "If we talk about regular fiction show launches, the channel spends around Rs 5 to 7 crore to promote the show," the planner adds.
"Because films spend less on marketing, it does not mean they get less visibility. Films do a lot of cross-platform integrations, so you have stars going on top-rated shows on TV, speaking to digital influencers etc. Also, the music turns out to be a great marketing tool for films; a studio spends the most on TV, then digital and then in-theatre, in terms of media mix. Print is also used for impact, but with diminishing returns," says marketing head of a leading motion pictures studio in India.
Where does digital stand? ALTBalaji spent around Rs 5 crore to promote 'Bose: Dead/Alive' and about Rs 3 crore went into marketing 'Test Case'. Amazon's marketing budget to promote 'Breathe' is around Rs 20 crore and is certainly the most, so far. It will be interesting to see where the number goes when Netflix plans its first India-Original launch.
To sum it up, TV, as a whole, dishes out way more than digital to market its shows and they are not remotely comparable. But, as an individual case, a 'Breathe' is at par with a 'Bigg Boss' or 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'. Also, TV shows are marketed throughout the entire Hindi-speaking market, whereas Amazon is spending the whole amount only on top metros.
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