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Last week, Colors launched its latest show Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush amidst much fanfare against the backdrop of a picturesque Guptar Ghat at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The launch venue was a fitting one for the show, which tells the story of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita through the eyes of their sons, Luv and Kush. Nina Jaipuria, Head, Hindi Mass Entertainment & Kids TV Network, Viacom18, is confident about a good response to the show from audiences and advertisers alike. The show premieres on August 5, providing a different take on the classic tale of the Ramayana, one that Jaipuria says has never been done before.

Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush takes viewers back to an era when Lord Ram and Sita return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile while Sita is still an expectant mother. Nina Jaipuria says that the show is a unifier, one that will resonate with all viewers. While most televised versions of the Ramayana end when Ram comes back victorious to Ayodhya, the Colors rendition actually starts at that point. “Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush is a story that cuts across generations, age groups and cities. Whenever Colors has attempted to do a mythology show, we have always tried to keep it very different and unique. That’s why we are telling the story of Ramayana through the eyes of Ram and Sita’s sons, Luv and Kush. Since it cuts across geographies and is universal, this show will strengthen our primetime offering in a big way. It is bang in the middle of a very competitive, fertile slot and we hope the viewers will embrace it wholeheartedly,” she says. The show also marks another association between Swastik Productions and Colors, something Jaipuria is thrilled about. “Swastik always brings genuine magic to the table with every show they create for us. So, given the kind of detailing with which this show has been created, our weekday primetime becomes rock solid,” Jaipuria adds, refusing to comment on the budgets allocated to the show.

Could this be the driver show that will take the channel back to its erstwhile leadership position among the paid Hindi GECs? “From a primetime weekday perspective, Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush will be the driver show. Also, from the perspective of putting our investments and the risk that we will take with what we do, yes it is going to be a driver show for Colors,” Jaipuria adds, explaining that the genre of mythology has done very well in the past for the channel with shows such as Shani and Mahakali being well received by audiences.

Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush is the latest in a slew of releases from Colors such as Choti Sarrdaarni and Bahu Begum. On the advertiser front, Jaipuria tells us that the show will be powered by India Gate Basmati rice and she expects more sponsors will come on board once the show starts to air. On marketing the show, Jaipuria says, “Other than the usual mass media that we will leverage for this show’s promotion, the big innovation we are doing this time is the ‘Bhakti Ki Yatra’. This is a mobile darshan, a procession that will go around 5-6 cities in Uttar Pradesh. It allows viewers to actually witness the story of Ramayan through holograms.” She is confident that the activations will see some resonance among viewers in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh, which is mythologically considered to be the land of Ram. The initiative will be amplified on local radio stations, cable and digital platforms. “Moreover, we will continue to innovate on Digital and we have an exciting first of sorts, an interesting association with Google. For this show, Google Assist will help viewers to interact with the actors and the cast of the show,” Jaipuria says.

From a channel viewpoint, Jaipuria is very clear that the priority is to offer the viewer a variety of content. “Variety is the USP for Colors,” she says. “Our strength has always been in offering variety, and we will continue to stay true to that. So, whether it is fantasy drama with Naagin, or action-adventure with Khatron Ke Khiladi, reality shows like Bigg Boss, or a suspense thriller like Bepanah Pyaar, we are all about giving variety. Our weekday primetime will be strengthened by these shows, while Dance Dewaane keeps our weekend primetime strong,” explains Jaipuria. At the same time, she adds that the channel will stay true to its viewers, giving them the content that they have enjoyed in the past. “So you will see that once Dance Deewane is over, we will bring back our old faithful, Bigg Boss. Our priority is to strengthen the primetime, giving to both viewers and advertisers what they look for. So in strengthening our content line-up, we also ensure that we satiate the appetite of the advertisers, and our own toplines,” she points out.

It’s close to a year now since Jaipuria’s role has expanded to Head, Hindi Mass Entertainment and Kids TV Network at Viacom18. Looking back, she says this has been an exciting year so far for her, albeit with a few challenges most of which came from the introduction of TRAI’s new tariff order (NTO), she says. “The NTO has completely changed the perspective from what we used to be as a media company. We have now become a B2C company, where the consumer has to choose you and rightly so, and it’s worked for everybody. For all the stakeholders in the long run, the new tariff order has worked, because the viewers end up paying for what they choose to watch. I think there is a fair value that has come back into the system, and transparency which brings us value as a broadcaster,” insists Jaipuria, adding that it is a win-win for all stakeholders. The dust has settled on the order, which was initially surrounded with a lot of uncertainty. “All is well now and while it was a challenging time for me to step into the new role at the time of the NTO announcement, we now see that we have great connectivity. Moreover, I believe that since the brand is so powerful, we have continued to remain among the Top 3 even after NTO,” she maintains. She adds that one of the big highlights this year was when Colors saw the highest ratings ever for Khatron Ke Khiladi, in January. “For me, that was the highest point of the year,” states Jaipuria. “The last season was the highest rated ever in the BARC era. Some of our big high points this year happened right after that. Then there was also Dance Deewane, another IP that I was excited to launch. That was also clearly differentiated and it displays our commitment to stay true to the Colors brand and to our audiences. To sum up the past year, it has been really exciting, fulfilling and challenging.”

Given that the industry is experiencing a slowdown currently, what are media companies and specifically Viacom18 doing to sustain advertiser interest? Jaipuria is confident that much like other situations such as implementation of the NTO, the industry will see this phase through. “There has never been a dull moment in the media industry,” Jaipuria says, confident that the slowdown will eventually be nothing to worry about. “We will weather that storm. We did it during demonetization, during GST and NTO, and this too will pass. At the end of the day, we are marketers too and in such a scenario, we have released a magnum opus like Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush, which means that we will promote and market it too. Despite the economic slowdown, I will still market my show,” she says, adding that the upcoming festive season should bring respite for advertisers and broadcasters alike. “Marketers will need to take their products to the consumer during the festive season more than ever. We will see things change very quickly in the next quarter,” she signs off on a positive note.

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