NDTV Imagine, the Hindi GEC from NDTV Imagine Ltd, went live at 7 pm on January 21, 2008, and the first day of programming reiterated the channel’s efforts to differentiate its content, utilise scheduling to make a mark, and try to narrate familiar stories from unexplored angles.
The channel has begun with four hours of original programming from 7.00 pm to 11.00 pm, and NDTV Imagine officials have worked on different genres to be housed in this time band. The scheduling of the programming is also interesting when compared to what other Hindi GECs house in these slots.
NDTV Imagine has decided to play repeats of its originals on other day parts that as yet are not housing original content. This is the intended strategy for the next couple of months. Shailja Kejriwal, EVP-Content, NDTV Imagine, explained, “In the beginning, we want the viewers to sample as much of NDTV Imagine as possible irrespective of which time of the day they tune in, which is why it makes more sense to play our own content.”
The present line-up has begun with dailies. Of these, the 8.30-9.30 pm slot, which houses ‘Say Shava Shava’ would soon see one-hour weeklies on the channel. ‘Say Shava Shava’ has been designed as an 11-day celebrity singing format show. The culmination of the programme would lead to the launch of ‘Radha ki Betiyaan kuch kar Dikhayengi’ on Monday; ‘Ek Packet Umeed ki’ on Tuesday; ‘Raj Kumar Aaryan’ on Wednesday; and another format show, ‘Dhoom Macha De’, on Thursdays and Fridays.
For the weekends, the channel has planned to either house events, omnibuses of their shows which would see the airing of back-to-back episodes of a serial, or even something like uncut versions of shows like ‘Say Shava Shava’. Kejriwal said, “We don’t want to just fill up the slots. I think for at least 11 weeks we would be running with this amount programming as this would also give us a good gauge on what is clicking with the audience, what might need a revisit and such points.”
One show that has every one talking is ‘Ramayana’, which is being seen as a bold move from the channel. Kejriwal explained, “The idea was fermenting in our heads since March 2007. We waited for the right timing to announce the show. In today’s media scenario, when there are quite a few new channels launching, just announcing a channel wouldn’t make as much difference to the heartland viewer as announcing the kind of programming you have. At present, the reaction is ‘Ramayana wala channel’, and in a sense, we have an identity already.”
Kejriwal used the ‘Ramayana’ example to explain how NDTV Imagine would look at ‘familiar’ stories with a different angle. She said, “I had seen an image once, where Sita was sitting on the same throne as Ram – Sita was perhaps the only queen who occupied her place at the same throne as the King. We have heard the story from Ram’s point, but what Sita’s place in this picture represented is a story in itself.”
“In fact, a lot of our story is taken from ‘Sitayan,’ which speaks of Sita’s education by female rishis – it speaks of a female equality, which is perhaps not seen in many places even today. So, we have a different story to tell here,” added Kejriwal.
Harsh Rohatgi, the channel’s EVP, Revenue Management and New Ventures, divulged that at present, the channel had five minutes of commercial time and one minute of promo to every hour of programming. Both ‘Say Shava Shava’ and ‘Dhoom Macha De’ have title sponsors in Clinic All Clear and Idea, respectively. Some of the other advertisers on the channel include Colgate, HUL, Cadbury, Tata Indicom, Max New York Life, Haywards, Compaq, Eyetex, Monep, Paras and Hero Honda.
The scheduling of the programming would see ‘Ramayana’ competing with the likes of Zee’s ‘Saath Phere’, Star Plus’ ‘Kasturi’ and ‘Jiya Jale’ on 9X. Period drama ‘Dharam Veer’ would be competing with ‘Banoo Main Teri Dulhan’ on Zee TV and the one-day old show on Star Plus, ‘Rajaa Ki Aayegi Baraat’. Speaking broadly on the scheduling strategy, Kejriwal said, “It was the obvious thing to do. We created shows based on the ideas we liked, and what we thought would click with the viewers. Once that was done, we saw what should be placed where to give the viewer something different.”
According to Kejriwal, the content philosophy of the channel was stay with good values, zero negativity and togetherness rather than separating people. “There are so many emotions yet to explore on television,” she remarked.
NDTV Imagine threw a launch party on January 21, 2008 in Mumbai that was attended by the likes of Future Media’s Sandip Tarkas, MindShare Fulcrum’s Himanshu Shekhar, HUL’s Jaish Chaproo, Lodestar Universal’s Shashi Sinha, TME’s Anupriya Acharya and Divya Radhakrishnan, GroupM’s Prasanth Kumar and TAM Media Research’s L V Krishnan, along with Big FM’s Tarun Katial and Viacom-18’s Rajesh Kamat (both former STAR employees) amongst many others. Most of the people present were optimistic about NDTV Imagine’s content.