Sahara TV readies new look for 2003

NEW DELHI: The Sahara India Parivaar is set to unleash a countrywide media blitzkrieg on the group's launch of new media products, including TV news channels, weeklies and more editions of the Urdu and Hindi dailies, apart from looking at foraying into foreign markets like the US, Canada and the UK.

Simultaneously, armed with a new programming strategy, the Subroto Roy-promoted company will also unveil a new look for its existing Hindi language general entertainment satellite channel Sahara TV.

"A media campaign involving the new offerings from the group will be launched by the middle of next month, a time by when we should be also ready with a new contemporary look for Sahara TV," Sumit Roy, deputy director in Sahara India and the head of the group's media & entertainment business, revealed to in a rare media interview.

According to him, the company is also finalising a new programming strategy which will zero down on a programme or few programmes which will act as "driver programmes to pull in more viewers" which in turn will create a demand for the entertainment channel so that cable operators are forced to include the channel in the prime band all over the country.

"We understand that there are some distribution problems with Sahara TV and we have also realised that we need an engine programme like Kaun Banega Crorepati to pull in more viewers," Roy said, adding that the engine programme need not necessarily be a game show on the lines of KBC.

Since its inception, Sahara TV has never been the cable operators' darling and barring few cities does not feature on the prime band, courtesy cable operators who prefer to put the likes of Star Plus, Sony, Zee TV, HBO and even MTV ahead of Sahara TV in the line up. This has resulted in Sahara TV, (despite some good programming in recent times like the serial Viraasat), failing to penetrate adequately in cable and satellite homes whose universe now has expanded to almost 40 million homes.

Roy said that the company has lined up some good shows, including filmstar Karisma Kapoor's TV debut show and offerings from other film stars like Sridevi, and hopes that one of them or a combination of such programming will bring in the viewers in hordes to Sahara TV.

It seems that Sahara has zeroed in on Bollywood in a big way. Apart from the Bollywood stars featuring in their programmes, the group has also roped in former Miss World and current Bollywood heartthrob Aishwariya Rai as its ambassador, besides having Amitabh Bachchan and Raveena Tandon as part of the Sahara India Parivaar.

"You just wait and see, early next year we'll come back with a bang," Roy gushed, though refraining from detailing the exact programming line-up now. He also refused to comment on the size of the media campaign which will be unveiled in January saying, "It should suffice to say that the campaign will be a big one where we will target the TV channels, print medium and also the outdoors."

In the initial phase Novocom and Crest Communications worked on the look that Sahara TV will sport from next year. Later, according to Roy, in-house inputs were also given.

"From the middle of January even the small component of news and current affairs programming will be phased out of Sahara TV in preparation of the launch of the news channels (slated for February)," Roy added.

The group is also working the finer details of the brand name to be used for the proposed new weeklies in Hindi and English, the launch of which may coincide with those of the news channels.

Come next year Sahara may just become the talk of the broadcasting and media industry for high profile programmes and media products, a la the parties which the company's managing director Subroto Roy, with bosom buddy and politician Amar Singh, is known to host from time to time.

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