"Tara is doing much better in the interiors"

Broadcast Worldwide Business Development director Pradipto Sircar refuses to be cowed down by rival regional satellite channels that are stealing viewers, while the four Tara channels are yet to set the TRPs on fire.

The coming months, he says, belong to news programming that will be beefed up on all four - Tara Marathi, Tara Bangla, Tara Gujarati and Tara Marathi. There's more in the pipeline, but plans will be unveiled only after they are firmed up. Excerpts from a conversation with Aparna Joshi -

In this intensely competitive regional channel market, how are the Tara channels doing? What is Tara's future?

While the Tara channels are not doing well in the metros, we are doing unexpectedly better in the interiors. In the satellite channel scenario, Tara ranks third. But the channel reaches 80 per cent of the population, say in Maharashtra. We now plan to focus on news programming, which has helped ETV score over rival channels in this state. We had novel programming like telecast of Marathi plays, but returns on investments have not been enough.

For Tara Bangla as well as for Tara Marathi, we are planning to introduce several news programmes, which will focus on local news, from the gram panchayat level up. Tara Bangla is also the first regional channel to start Hindi news shows in the late night slot. The channel currently has 13 hours of fresh programming from the beginning of the new year. Tara Marathi should see a similar initiative soon.

Tara reaches nearly 80 per cent of the population in Maharashtra


Where is the money coming from?

Crombie International has made good its commitment of $ 800,000 already. That money has already been channelised to various uses, Tara Bangla being one of them. Currently, the investment is coming from our regular institutional investors like IDBI and others. We are now looking for strategic tie-ups with software producers for making news programmes which will be the mainstay of the Tara channels.

Is your strategy to employ classified advertising on the channel paying off?

Classified advertising has been an unexpected success. We kicked off the campaign without any dedicated sales force or depots. But it did very well in the rest of Maharashtra, where small firms and outfits are always on the lookout for niche media. The low rates, the visual appeal of the ads and the direct appeal to target viewers has been a great success. We are now planning to open classified depots and appoint agents in various towns in Maharashtra to expand this operation.

We are looking at strategic tie ups with software producers for making news programmes


What has been the strategy behind revamping Tara Bangla?

Tara Bangla too targets the rest of Bengal more than just the viewer in Kolkata. We have tied up with an independent software producer, Rainbow, which provides news programmes as well as movies and other entertainment programmes. The local Hindi news bulletin in the late night slot too has touched a chord with non Bangla speaking population.

What will be strategy behind the revamp of Tara Marathi?

There will be extensive news programmes on the channel to get viewers in the rest of Maharashtra, where we reach 80 per cent of the state. There will also be a stress on programmes that revive the rural and folk traditions of the state, with shows on lavani (folk dances), natyasangeet (music theatre) and such other forms that often do not have any other platform to air. Currently, 80 per cent of programming on Tara Marathi is re-runs, but all that will change in the next couple of months.

What about Tara Gujarati and Tara Punjabi?

Tara Gujarati does very well in the interiors of Gujarat but since all the people meters are installed in Ahmedabad, the ratings do not reflect actual viewership. We will be beefing up news programmes on Tara Gujarati as well, to counter competition from rival channels. Tara Punjabi is the last on our revamp list, but it will eventually be a news, music and Gurbani channel.

What about other initiatives on Tara?

A Ganesh Utsav programme last year drew an excellent response from the rest of Maharashtra, with several organizations vying for the best pandal prize. We also brought out Punjabi and Marathi audio cassettes of songs, and another in Bangla recently, titled Club Bengal, which has already had three re-prints.

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