Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate: Truth and Dare

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Mar 25 2014, 23:07pm hrs
Aamir KhanSatyamev Jayate is a talk show focusing on social issues with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan as the host. Reuters
Coming at a time when the country is in poll mode, the second season of Satyamev Jayate raises the bar for itself and Star India. Will it be able to keep the flag flying high

In 2012 Star Plus, India's top Hindi general entertainment channel, staged a coup of sorts when it launched Satyamev Jayate, a talk show focusing on social issues with Bollywood actor Aamir Khan as the host. That show soon became the talk of the town, with the first episode watched by nearly 6 crore Indians, that is, two out of every three Indians who watch television had seen the show. Aired at 11 am every Sunday, Satyamev Jayate was also simulcast on Doordarshan and other channels and regional channels of the Star network. The show garnered 4 TVR (television viewership ratings) in the Hindi speaking markets (HSM) for cable and satellite (C&S) audiences in the four years-plus age group, and a 4.9 TVR for all Hindi speaking markets including C&S and terrestrial homes for the first episode aired on May 6 which looked at female foeticide. These are aggregated ratings of all simulcast channels in HSM markets. The equivalent ratings at an all-India level was 3.4 (CS4+ all India) and 4.1 (all 4+, all India).

In addition to being the most watched show on television, it also caught the attention of social media users with SatyamevJayate the top trending topic in India on Twitter on the launch day. Eight out of the top ten trending topics in India on May 6, 2012 were about Satyamev Jayate/female foeticide. Altogether, there were 968,86,902 Twitter impressions for female foeticide.

In a bid to recreate that magic, Star network this month brought back the talk show. And it's no coincidence that the show comes back at a time when the country is gearing up for the general election to be held in April-May. With passions riding high and everyone out to prove their political credentials and their concern for the country, the new season with the aptly named theme Jinhe desh ki fikr hai (those who are concerned about India) aims to evoke a sense of national pride and garner commitment from every Indian.

Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India, agrees that the network had been keen to do something before the election. We didnt want to distract the discourse during polls. We hope that this show will continue to play a role in enabling people to make an informed choice, he said.

For Star India, Satyamev Jayate has been purportedlybeyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) as it provides a chance to the broadcaster to air a show which is true to its positioning of Rishta wahi, soch nayi, (Same relationship, new way of thinking). I have long believed that the gap between news and entertainment was a redundant one. No matter what part of media you are involved in, if you are not using it to create a better society, you are missing an opportunity. People often ask me what CSR activity we are engaged in. My answer is that our content is our biggest socially responsible activity. Philanthropy at Star doesnt mean mere donations or doing something for the interim. Its at the heart of Stars business and values, said Shankar. Remember, in 2006, as the editor and CEO of MCCS, Shankar had launched a news features show, again called Satyameva Jayate, on news channel Star News (now ABP News). That show focused on the big stories of the day in politics besides civic issues, crime investigations and sports and attempted to break through the code of obfuscation in a direct and uncompromising style.

Socially-relevant programming is an integral part of our daily offering. Our fiction content Pratigya, Saathiya, Diya Aur Baati Hum or Saubhagyavati Bhav among a slew of other shows has always had rich examples of this. The shows have the potential to entertain and show viewers that there exists possibility for new thinking! When Pratigya stood up for what she believed in, she inspired a generation of women; when Gopi in Saathiya went to school for the first time in her 20s, she made adult education acceptable; and when Jahnavi in Saubhagyavati Bhav stood up against domestic violence, she served as a strong role model for many who suffer the same plight, added Shankar.

That exactly is what Satyamev Jayate is trying to do in a different formatstir the conscience of the people of India and come up with solutions to problems that plague India. In its second season, Satyamev Jayate has looked at the issues of rape, the plight of the Indian police and the importance of waste management in the first three episodes respectively, all extremely relevant issues as the country goes to the polls.

As per data released by television audience measurement agency TAM Media Research, Satyamev Jayates launch episode this year was watched by 7.9 crore Indians. The show recorded 7429 TVT (television viewership in thousands) across India and 6770 TVT in the Hindi speaking market. Further, its initiative, Votes for Change has received 8.7 million votes from viewers. When compared to a popular fiction show on Star Plus which usually garners 6-plus rating, Satyamev Jayate may appear to be an average performer, but it would be wrong to compare the programme with a daily soap as the content is different.

One of the reasons behind the success of the show is that it focuses on issues which people of this country really want to hear about as well as talk about. The issues that people discuss among themselves are now being discussed on national television and people wanted to be part of that conversation, said Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia India, a media planning and buying company. However, he said that while the broadcaster is correct to telecast the episodes in the long format on television, it should have also created a shorter and crisper version of its episodes for online viewers.

The long format of the show suits television viewers as people like to be part of such conversations. But Star should have also created a shorter version. In fact, Star could have shown the shorter formats as re-runs during the weekdays, said Sen.

Although Star insists that Satyamev Jayate has not been produced with an eye on revenue generation, the programme has managed to catch the fancy of marketers. While two key sponsors Airtel and Axis Bank have returned this year, automotive maker Maruti Suzuki, educational services company Aakash Educational Services Ltd, undergarments manufacturer Rupa Frontline and pharmaceuticals company Midas Care Clean and Dry are the other associate sponsors. Compared to season one, which managed to get eight sponsors on board, this year the show has six sponsors on board.

In addition to the return of core sponsors, we have new sponsors on board. Even as brands are keen to associate with the programmes, not too many brands match the fit, said Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer, Star India.

According to industry estimates, sponsorship deals have gone up by 15-20% this year. The deal with title sponsor Bharti Airtel is estimated at R15-17 crore. Axis Banks sponsorship tie-up is pegged at R10-13 crore. The remaining sponsorships are pegged at R4.5-6 crore each. For the sponsors, the deal not only allows the brand to create a picture of being responsible towards the society, it is a way to provide a richer brand experience to consumers.

This year Airtels role extends beyond that of a sponsor and ensures that its telecommunications capabilities are utilised for a richer experience. As a brand for everyone, Airtel has always taken the lead in associating with events, shows and initiatives that resonates well with the preferences of todays India," said Mohit Beotra, chief brand officer, Bharti Airtel (India). The telecommunication brand has done several integrations for the show such as in-show calls on Airtel 3G and use of Airtel Money for donations. For its existing customers Airtel has provided access to exclusive content from the show such as behind-the-scene videos and mobisodes on the Airtel R1 Entertainment Store, apart from Satyamev Jayate tracks exclusively for 48 hours after each episode.

For educational services brand Aakash, this is the second time that the brand has associated with a television programme. Its first association was with Kaun Banega Crorepati aired on Sony. Being an education brand we only look to associate with those programmes which enlighten the society. Satyamev Jayate highlights many issues our society faces and it is also relevant for our students, said Aakash Chaudhry, director, Aakash Educational Services Ltd.

Star India which had refrained from selling 10-second spots to advertisers during the first season, has this year kept part of its inventory for last-minute deals. According to industry sources, advertisers are paying R5-7 lakh for a 10-second spot on two channels Star Plus SD and HD. Gupta goes on to say that though the inventory available remains fixed, there are brands which would like to associate with the programme at the last minute, and therefore that kind of flexibility is being allowed.

Interestingly, this year the broadcaster has changed the format of the show. Unlike last season, Star India has split up the 13 episodes into various blocks. Called the 'tranche approach', with the new move the broadcaster hopes to decrease the gap between one season and another. The content of the programme is serious and requires a lot of time to build it. The time required for research is about one year. In order to keep the brand active in the minds of consumers, the content needs to be shown to viewers in close succession. Therefore we decided to break 13 episodes into blocks of five to seven episodes with each being a new season, said Gupta. At the same time, it has retained the talk show format with the duration of the show 90 minutes and in some cases as long as 120 minutes. For example, the first episode of season 2, which highlighted the pitiful condition of rape victims in India was a two-hour-long programme. Gupta goes on to say that the nature of the content is such that it requires that kind of time. We did not want to talk about an issue and then leave it in mid-way, he said.

Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment, KPMG in India, calls it a smart move by the broadcaster. Satyamev Jayate is not a regular drama series. It is an issue based programme and such issues can only be raised or talked about once a year. This way the programme will be able to hold the audiences interest. Moreover, the move allows the programme to go off air, even before the audiences interest begins to fall, only to return with a fresh instalment of episodes, said Thakkar.

In fact, media planners feel that the 'tranche' approach adopted by Star India allows it to ink various kinds of sponsorship and advertising deals. For instance, the broadcaster can ink a sponsorship deal for a month with an associate sponsor and for the next season can rope in a new sponsor. The network can get an associate sponsor on board for a month for R3-5 crore. The new approach will come handy as it will allow the broadcaster to sign better sponsorship deals as with an average rating of 2.45 TVR over 13 episodes in the first season, this year Star has been forced to rationalise its advertising rates for 10- second spots, said a senior media planner who did not want to be named.

Gupta, however, insists that Satyamev Jayate is not a profit-making venture of the group. We do not make money from this show. The marketing cost has doubled up this year. Earlier we promoted the 13 episodes as part of one season. This year as we have broken the 13 episodes into blocks, with each block being a season, we have to promote each season separately. Therefore, in a year we will be promoting about two-three seasons of the show, explained Gupta.

Star India claims to be spending R40-50 crore each season on marketing and advertising of Satyamev Jayate. Apart from promoting the show through traditional media including television, print, outdoor and radio, Star India has launched a series of on-ground activations with ambient touch-points called 'Fikr touch points' across the country to take forward the campaign message. Apart from using almost 70-80% of advertising space across all channels of the network, we also used other mediums, said Gupta.

With three episodes already having been aired and two more to go, preparations have already begun for the next season, scheduled to be telecast in July after the Indian Premier League ends. Sen of ZenithOptmedia India calls it a wise move. During April and May, most of the other content on television takes a hit in terms of viewership, said Sen.

Digital once again plays a vital role in the overall game plan just as it did the first season. One of the reasons behind the success of the show despite generating average television ratings is the amount of buzz it created on social media. This year too the results were positive. The promotional videos of the show which were released on YouTube were viewed by 4.4 million people. Further, the network claims that #SatyamevJayate trended as the number 1 topic across both Twitter and Facebook. Also, Facebook and Twitter together resulted in 54.2 million impressions on a single day, that is, the launch day. Star India also claims that the online fan community has doubled from 1.6 million last season to 3.6 million this season.

According to Gupta, the broadcast industry's perception on success or failure of a show is changing. The success of a show no longer competently depends on viewership ratings and Satyamev Jayate is a clear example of this, which may not have generated a rating of 6 but has managed to engage the audiences. The idea is to create content which not only entertains, but engages viewers deeply, said Gupta.

Agrees Farokh T. Balsara, partner and industry leader - Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA), media and entertainment, EY. He said digital will play a significant part in deciding the fate of a show apart from being a platform which can be effectively monetised through the introduction of

shorter content format, mobile applications, etc.