Not very long ago, Star Plus launched its magnum opus, Mahabharat, a contemporary retelling of the ancient Indian epic, on a scale never-seen-before and amidst huge fanfare.
Soon after, a dubbed-in-Tamil version of the show named Mahabharatham was aired on 7 October on Star Vijay, Star TV’s Tamil GEC.
Not only did Mahabharatham take over the 7:00 pm slot, earlier reserved for a kids’ show titled 7 C, which was anyway about to end, two weeks prior to the show’s launch, a high decibel marketing campaign comprising TV, radio, digital, on-ground, and to a large extent, outdoor, was undertaken to publicise its arrival.
As part of this endeavour, life-size posters of the show characters were put up across Tamil Nadu; TV celebrities were brought in at the end of every show on Star Vijay to promote the series; monologues were staged on streets to grab attention; and hoardings were put up across 500 locations including Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirrapalli, Erode and Tirunelveli. A staggering Rs 1 crore - Rs 1.5 crore was spent on the campaign, with separate plans for merchandising during Diwali.
Promotions apart, Star Vijay ensured Seventh Channel Communications did a neat job of the dubbing. “Seventh Channel Communications has dubbed on a 50 episode contract, with each episode costing up to Rs 1 lakh. We have ensured the dubbing is so tight that the lip movements match with the Tamil words the characters are speaking. People were thoroughly impressed with the grandeur on watching the promos. The feedback on production value was positive,” elaborates Star Vijay general manager K Sriram.
Now, with the show well past its launch, Star Vijay faces the big question whether all the investment and effort has been worth the channel’s while.
While there are no clear answers, it is true that the first two weeks of Mahabharatham have garnered 422 and 440 TVTs (average), respectively, and its opening show has got 415 TVTs unlike 7C, which was just about managing 169 TVTs weekly (average). What’s more, close competitor Raj TV’s Sindhu Bhairavi (Uttaran dubbed in Tamil), which airs at the same time (7:00 pm), has garnered only 251 TVTs (average).
As a media planner from Chennai-based Group M puts it: “For Star Vijay, these are good numbers and now - Mahabharatham - for which they did huge promotions, is their best show as well.”
However, the picture is not entirely rosy. Sun TV, another rival, has its own version of Mahabharatham which airs every Sunday morning and garners more TVTs than Star Vijay’s show. To this, the planner only says that it is wrong to compare any other channel with a player like Sun TV which enjoys strong loyalty.
The planner reasons that Tamilians are attached to such shows because they are conservative and dedicated to religious beliefs and that is why epic shows work well down south. At the same time, he is quick to point out it would be best to wait for another week to see if Star Vijay’s Mahabharatham sustains its ratings before taking any call on the show.
In fact, readers may recall that the original Mahabharat (Hindi version on Star Plus) too dropped from 8,445 TVTs to 5,518 TVTs in its second week... So, Star Vijay will have to wait to see the returns of its investment...