Zee Cinema too has Big B up its sleeve

MUMBAI: The Big B has turned out to be the golden goose of Indian television and how? No, we are not talking about his comeback with KBC2. The industry buzz is that, the market for Amitabh movies has improved tremendously in the last six months and one channel which has capitalised really well on the trend is the lead Hindi movie channel Zee Cinema.

The Shanivar Ki Raat - Amitabh Ke Saath series, which the channel launched last December, has proved a real winner. The Saturday 8:30 pm slot - which features blockbuster Amitabh movies - has been delivering consistently for Zee Cinema.

Buoyed by the response, Zee Cinema has now spruced up the property with more Amitabh movie acquisitions. So from tomorrow (6 August), we will have the Shanivar Ki Raat - Amitabh Ke Saath series being re-launched with a punchline: His Golden Years. The opening movie is going to be his 1985 hit Mard.

"By this we plan to cover the entire span of the legend's body of work which in effect can be termed golden in the annals of the Hindi film industry. This golden years series would be a good mixture of recently acquired movies and movies that have been telecast and appreciated," says Zee Cinema programming head Mohan Gopinath.

With the Big B now at the pinnacle of success, it has had its impact in television's film acquisition market as well. "There has been an impact in the market. All the broadcasters have been retaining their Amitabh library. That way, there is a scarcity of Amitabh movies in the market which has affected the prices to an extent," says an industry source.

Strategy-wise, the movie channel is fielding a much younger Amitabh Bachchan to counter KBC 2 anchored by the worldly wise and mellowed down icon that he is today. But Zee Cinema business head Bharat Ranga refuses to acknowledge the move as a calculated strategy, saying Shanivar Ki Raat? is part of an overall spruce up plan on the channel.

"See, you can't really say we have launched a new property to counter KBC 2. Because, Shaniwar ki Raat... has already been there. What we are doing now is culminating this successful series with a fresh new set of movies. However it is a great pleasure to see a young and vibrant Amitabh taking on his gentler version and that is going to be a real feast for Indian television viewers," he says.

"In a way, KBC 2 is plotting itself on that slot. As regards countering, we respect their programming strategy and are happy doing our job to the best of our ability. It is only incidental that an Amitabh hosted show is pitted against Amitabh's movies," points out Gopinath.

According to Gopinath, more than a ratings generation exercise with intentions of checking the competition and retaining the viewership, His Golden Years has conceptualised as an innovation to delight the channel's loyal viewers. "Ratings can be garnered out of simple, intelligent back to back scheduling of films. However we believe that now is the time to pay back our viewers both active and passive," he says.

For Friday and Sunday, Zee Cinema has its bi-weekly series Bollywood Blockbuster and the one-break movie band Rok Sako Toh Rok Lo respectively to counter KBC. But unlike Shaniwaar ki Raat.., the channel has no plans to enhance these two properties in the wake of competition. "These two properties are well-settled. So they can stand on their own," says Ranga of the strategy.

Zee Cinema has attempted to create hype around His Golden Years by launching promotional initiatives: Superfan (a reality concept to gauge the extent of a fan's passion and fanaticism towards his idol) and Bol Bacchan (a nugget of Big B's best known dialogue and scenes). Other than these initiatives, an extensive outdoor campaign is currently on.

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