Balaji takes aim at regional programming

MUMBAI: The next fiscal will belong to more regional programming and a foray into overseas markets for current leader of the production house pack, Balaji Telefilms.

While the rest of the current year is being reserved for consolidations, the production house is eyeing the regional channels for shows that could well go on air in the first quarter of 2003-04. According to COO Rajesh Pavithran, the hit soap factory plans to have at least two more shows on air on south Indian channels before March 2003 itself. It is also negotiating for a slot on Sun TV, while an increased presence on Gemini, where Balaji's Pavitrabandam has already created quite a splash, cannot be ruled out.

While the Kerala market is what Balaji is targeting for its next foray into the South, currently it is Udaya that has two Balaji shows on air and will have two more shortly. Kannadi, a daily in the 6.30 pm slot that was almost sinking into oblivion five weeks ago, has had a miraculous resurrection with the latest ratings pegging it at a TRP of 11.97 (27 September) making it Udaya's top rated show. The turnaround, says Pavithran, can be attributed to a drastic change in the storyline.

"We keep re-inventing ourselves every three to four weeks," says Pavithran, of Balaji's strategy of keeping pace with viewer demands. Which is why, twists in the tales have been occurring at a faster pace on all Balaji shows of late. While the queen of soaps Kyunkii 's 20-year jump helped the plateauing ratings take a proportionate jump, the same has not worked for Kutumb on Sony, where one story has given way to another with the lead characters retained. The ratings are just not what they used to be and Pavithran admits that while they are not what the production house would be happy with, he is confident that the Love Story track that Kutumb is currently following will push up ratings as the plot moves along its tear jerking line.

Among the production house's new shows lined up are Kaalki for Star (although the official contract has not been drawn up yet, according to Pavithran) and a new show for Sahara, both of which will be up and running in November.The production house is also planning programmes for Punjabi and Bangla regional channels in the next fiscal, says Pavithran.

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