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All comedy on digital need not be crass; Hotstar to prove this with Sarabhai vs Sarabhai Take 2

05-May-2017
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All comedy on digital need not be crass; Hotstar to prove this with Sarabhai vs Sarabhai Take 2

Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, a TV show that gained cult status, is returning to regale its fans, but this time on the digital platform, Hotstar. The show christened Sarabhai vs Sarabhai Take 2 will air on Hotstar every Tuesday for 10 weeks starting May 16. Returning with the show is its main cast: Satish Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Sumeet Raghavan, Rupali Ganguli, Rajesh Kumar, and Deven Bhojani. Season one will see the entry of some new characters including Sahil and Monisha’s son, and Rosesh’s wife.

Exchange4media caught up with Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar, on the sidelines of an event held to formally announce the launch date of the show. Excerpts from the interview:

E4m: What made you bring back Sarabhai vs Sarabhai?

Ajit Mohan: Whenever we used to talk to viewers in the country, this was one show that kept coming back. People spoke about how they kept coming to Hotstar to watch the earlier episodes and really associated with the show. We knew that it had a massive fan following, so when the opportunity came to revive the show, we grabbed it. We were quite conscious that this was a special show. Part of the excitement for the show is that Hotstar is a platform that has the scale to bring back a certain kind of comedy on digital. The other aspect is that we get to show that all comedy on digital does not have to be abusive and crass.

E4m: Do you hope to reach out to a whole new audience with the slice-of-life kind of comedy that is Sarabhai vs Sarabhai?

Ajit Mohan: We do not think of how one show or aspect will have an impact on our viewership. We think of it as a whole. We look to provide a distinctive and compelling experience. In the case of sports, we are not taking the television content and putting it on digital; we are reinventing the experience. We don’t solve for an event or a show. For me, this is all part of a puzzle that fits together.

E4m: What has been the response to other Hotstar Originals like On Air with AIB and Tanhaiyan?

Ajit Mohan: Tanhaiyan, On Air with AIB, and Cineplay have all had massive traction on Hotstar. We are quite delighted with On Air with AIB and came back with a second season; we have seen a three-fold growth over the last season. Engagement from users is constantly going up and that is the affirming factor for us.

E4m: Which advertisers do you have on board?

Ajit Mohan: For now, Vivo and Vodafone are our marquee sponsors. We are still in conversation over the next two weeks in terms of other advertisers who may come on board.

E4m: Please tell us about your advertising inventory for Sarabhai vs Sarabhai.

Ajit Mohan: We have content integration opportunities and mid-roll ads that we play. And there is presence on the platform. We have been able to introduce ad formats that are true to an engaged platform. We believe that people stay with us, and spend time with us. Advertisers who come to us want to associate with marquee properties, but more than anything, they like the fact that the audiences are deeply engaged.

 E4m: Why not release all 10 episodes and allow viewers to binge?

Ajit Mohan (smiles): If they have waited for 10 years, I’m assuming they will find it exciting to wait for it every week. Often, we tend to embrace global wisdom without understanding the context in which binge-watching happened in the US; we are solving for India at the moment. I believe it is too early and we should experiment with all formats. We released all episodes of Tanhaiyan in a single stack; with Sarabhai vs Sarabhai we are doing something different. I think it is too early for the medium and too early for the country to embrace this global gyaan. We think that for a show like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, people will find it exciting to wait for it to show up every week.

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