Tara Marathi goes Hindi at primetime

Eternal Dreams, that took on the unenviable task of turning around Broadcast Worldwide's Tara Marathi in March this year, seems to have found its forte.

Buoyed by the success of its distance education programme in cooking and baking that the company launched to target SEC B audiences two months ago, Eternal Dreams is now going Hindi in prime time. From 6.30 pm to 9 pm weekdays, the new look Tara Marathi will air distance learning shows in Hindi, imparting instruction in English speaking, customer relations, housekeeping as well as international cuisine. The move, says the channel management company, has been necessitated by an overwhelming response from viewers, particularly non Maharashtrians. The company is now negotiating with Doordarshan to air the series on DD Metro. If the deal is pulled off, says chief operating officer Bonnie Jain, the programme, that has taken up nearly 40 per cent of the channel's programming budget, will be aired in Hindi on DD Metro and in Marathi on Tara Marathi.

Admitting that "it is a big risk" taking on mainstream entertainment channels at prime time with a distance learning show, Jain says the series is a "do or die" venture, a calculated risk aimed at weaning away viewers from the ubiquitous soap and slapstick comedy on rival channels. Eternal Dreams is also negotiating with a "major channel" in South India for broadcasting the series in Tamil, as well as with other channels in north and western India for dubbing in regional languages. 

Tara Marathi, languishing at number four among Marathi channels, has seen a spurt in ratings since relaunching in March, with the distance learning programme contributing most to its revival, says managing director Sapna Chaturvedi. The channel has managed to rope in 40 clients with over 100 brands advertising on air, she says. The six week course in cooking and baking, which will shortly be repeated on air, is affiliated with the Indian Institute of Hotel Management and gives participants a certificate after a practical examination at the end of the course. The low cost vocational training has helped rope in the lower SEC B segment to the channel, says Jain.

Tara Marathi is also toying with the idea of teaming up with ministry of higher education and ITI (Indian Technical Institute) in offering distance learning courses in collaboration with the State. While ratings are yet to catch up with the leaders in the Marathi channel market, the channel is already firming up plans of its second round of fresh programming in August. While the channel is currently making do with re-runs of older serials and dubbed versions of mythos, 40 per cent of programming is fresh, says Jain. Comedian Laxmikant Berde will make his debut on the small screen with Lakshat Theva a slapstick show, while another show, Abhimaan Maharashtracha, will profile prominent young achievers from the state, including the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli. Vichitra, a "believe it or not" show will also take off on the channel by August. 

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