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"We are on the way to weaning viewers from Sun" : Suresh Iyer Vijay TV

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It was after an eight year stint in UTV Mumbai that Suresh Iyer shifted down south to start the company‘s operations in Chennai. It was during this phase that the production house teamed up with Star India to revamp the sickly Vijay TV and Iyer took charge as the programming head.
Vijay‘s launch in its new avatar in October 2001 helped shake reigning Sun out of its complacence, obliging it to launch an exclusively film channel KTV to combat Star power from emerging in the south. A year down the line, Vijay claims to have made a dent into Sun‘s stronghold, inched past KTV and left rivals Raj and Jaya at least a mile behind in the channel share stakes.
Iyer likens a typical television channel in the south as a department store, where every section has to be well-stocked in order to appeal to the customer. In a chat with indiantelevision.com, Iyer outlined his plans for making Vijay the best stocked channel of the south?

Where does Vijay stand in the numbers game today?



In Tamil Nadu, Vijay is the only channel that is showing steady growth. During Kavyanjali, there is a over 25 per cent jump in channel shares, while it is nearly the same when Kadhai Alla Nijam is being aired. Our effort is now to make Vijay well stocked on all fronts. In the past, it suffered from a lack of consistent identity. There was a time when it targeted youth, then a time when it tried to become a family oriented channel. Right now, I would describe any successful channel in the south as a well stocked department store, with each section well supplied to cater to different kinds of customers.

Currently, we have all time slots - morning, afternoon and night - stockpiled with a choice of good shows. The effort is also on to appeal to each target audience, although we are focused on targeting the SEC A, B,C 15 + female audience.

"Right now, I would describe any successful channel in the south as a well stocked department store, with each section well supplied to cater to different kinds of customers"

Which are the new shows on Vijay TV and who do they target?



Apart from Kadhai Alla Nijam (KAN, the reality show hosted by Lakshmi that focuses on re-uniting missing persons with their families), we have launched Shriraman Shridevi, a fresh interpretation of the Ramayan in a modern context. Slotted in the 9 - 10 pm band, the serial, which started on 19 August, has been shot to scale and moves from a rural to urban set up. We have also launched another serial directed by Revathy from 15 July and a women oriented serial written by well known Tamil author Indumathi in the 8.30 pm band. KAN is telecast between 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm, with a repeat at 10 pm. The idea is to take on major shows on Sun TV in the 7.30 pm to 11 pm slot and the 12 to 2 pm slot.

"Although Sun remains the clear leader, we have beaten KTV in the afternoon band as well as during the belly of prime time"

How was KAN conceptualized and how does it work?



We wanted to create a reality show that would have an element of drama as well as human emotion in it, without becoming a dragging bore. To that end, we decided to split the one hour show into five segments. The first of it recreates the story of the protagonist with the help of clippings, the second opens the story for discussion as it were while the third portrays a mirror story. The fourth and fifth segments are live phone in sections, in which we feature experts as well as affected parties. The drama is built up with surprise elements at the end of each section.

The sets at our studio at Kodambakam have been designed by Sabu Cyril and the lighting comprises completely of tubelights to give an even feel to the sets. We have tied with Bharati as well as VSNL for the phone ins. We usually get a barrage of phone calls from the second segment itself, and several people have even volunteered to help the people featured in the show.

"We have drastically changed the way channels are packaged in the south. The concept of classy on air promos has also taken off in a big way due to Vijay‘s promos"

So, have you beaten rivals Jaya and Raj in the fight for the third spot in Tamil Nadu?



It‘s no longer a fight for the third spot. TAM figures for August 2002 have given us a clear edge over Raj and Jaya in the 12 to 2 pm band. Although Sun remains the clear leader, we have beaten KTV in the afternoon band as well as during the belly of prime time - 9.30 pm to 11 pm. We are now trying to eat into Sun‘s share so that even if it retains say 50 per cent channel share, we can try to reach 15 to 20 per cent on our own.

How has audience perception of Vijay TV changed since its relaunch in late 2001?



Viewers now perceive us as a neutral channel they can trust. While Sun and Jaya often give the biased version of news, we have reaped the benefit of being a neutral player in the stakes. We have daily news bulletins, courtesy NDTV, at 7 and 11 pm which draw a reasonable audience. We now reach nearly 70 per cent of Tamil Nadu. We have drastically changed the way channels are packaged in the south. The concept of classy on air promos has also taken off in a big way due to Vijay‘s promos.

So, is Vijay focusing on fiction to bring in the viewers or you planning to introduce new genres?



Fiction will remain the cornerstone of our programming. Novel concepts like KAN also work, but the game show genre is still shaky territory. A Koteeshwari is fine, but it has to generate Koteeshwaris (crorepatis) regularly to sustain viewer interest, something that is not possible with regional channels. Vijay‘s focus will now be to introduce fiction based shows to wean away Sun‘s following, and the strategy will be to move the stories faster and better.

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