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When MTV meets Balaji

22-March-2004
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When MTV meets Balaji

Indian programming is evolving and marketing along with product packaging is increasingly finding its importance on the scene. One example to substantiate this would be MTV airing a soap and Balaji getting involved in some Reality TV. The fact that they are doing it together, only adds to the fun. To spike things a little more, this just might be a new trend development on Indian television.

The plan of action between both the music channel and the content provider is divided in two stages. The first – a nationwide talent hunt. Says Alex Kuruvilla, Managing Director, MTV Networks India, “This is more on the lines of the star hunt we did three years back for Ishq Vishq.. That worked very well for us. Of course, now that many others used the idea we said, let’s do something different.”

And germinated the idea to air a serial on MTV. The talent hunt is to find the right characters for this soap. Conventional programming norms might question the logic behind the move. Will a serial, even if musical in nature, dilute a musical channel’s equity? Kuruvilla explains, “MTV stands for music, so yes, music will be an integral part of the show. But it also stands for youth and in that section, we are talking a sizeable number. I believe there is new space here in the form of youth general entertainment and this is the area we can capitalise and built on. This redefines our competitive space.”

As for the content provider, Rajesh Pavithran, COO, Balaji Telefilms expresses, “This initiative will broad base our territory and bring in a whole different set of people to Balaji programming. This move takes us to different markets and different kinds of channels.”

One thing that the talent hunt will do is create enough noise around the programme to get it the requisite sampling that a music channel otherwise, might not have managed. Speaking more on the hunt, Pavithran says, “That is an event by itself. The show should be on air around by June 2004 and the activity around the hunt will create enough buzz by then.”

If the plans for the hunt are anything to go by, a buzz will indeed be created. Balaji Telefilms’ Creative Director Ekta Kapoor will be the face of the hunt. Backed with typical MTV promos, the affair holds some promise. Explaining more on this 20 week deal, Kuruvilla says that the promos will be on for seven weeks. The show will be a 13 week, 39 episode production. Auditions will take place across five cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Pune and Chandigarh and the judging will be aired on MTV.

While six is the number of actors that the hunt should at least zero down on, that’s not a cap. Pavithran expresses, “I would say as many as possible.” He explains that the chosen ones will be used for other Balaji serials as well and the content provider will hold an exclusive contract with them. That should solve some of the talent problem that content providers today face.

So is the show a musical? While Pavithran says it’s too early to call it that, Kuruvilla informs, “We will not be boxed in any particular format. We innovate and reinvent ourselves and this is a fun experiment. We have been successful with vignette shows like MTV Bakraa and other forms of programming like MTV Roadies. I am sure we and the audience will enjoy this as well.”

In essence Balaji and MTV begin with a seven week hunt and will go to the second stage of the plan when the show will be aired. If the experiment works, it necessarily opens a whole new avenue for Indian programming, taking the merging of genres to the next level. The channel and the content provider promise excitement on this space that one must watch out for. We for one, are definitely watching.

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