Television

Zee TV banks on religious serials to revive flagging viewership

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When Zee TV announced its relaunch in August group broadcast CEO Sandeep Goyal had stated that what the Indian viewer wanted in the shows that she/he would like to watch were exotic overseas locations, other marital relationships, music-based shows, tangled love stories and interactive show formats.

All the 24 shows that were launched at the time incorporated one or more of the above factors.

That formula fell flat and now Zee is hoping that two heavy-duty mythological shows that it is launching today will be showered with blessings from viewers who have hitherto been ignoring its programming initiatives.

Jai Santoshi Maa is a half-hour programme airing at 8 pm, while Mahabharat produced by film actor Sanjay Khan's Numero Uno productions is a one-hour show going on air at 10 pm. The strategy: capitalise on Jai Santoshi Maa worshippers on Fridays and create a tune-in viewership for the expensive programme Mahabharat.

Industry sources confirmed that the per episode cost of Mahabharat is Rs 1.4 million, which indicates that Zee is sparing no expense to offer a new age series. Additionally, it is using religion - which is close to most Indian's hearts - as a tool of programming differentiation. And it is being innovative about the time that it is dishing out the religious fare: Friday evenings and prime time.

Its chief rivals - market leader Star and No 2 Sony - are at loggerheads on Fridays with similar programming genres. Both the channels have game shows in the 8 PM slot culminating in a thriller at the 10:30 - 11 PM slot. 

Zee TV on its part has also taken to off-air promotions in the form of road shows with vehicles carrying the cast of characters from the series beating the streets. Hoardings, ads in the print media and an internet promotion with indiatimes.com, are some of the devices it is using to tease viewers to sample its mythological programmes. 

Now it's up to viewers to fall in line. Are you listening, King Viewer?

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