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Sony TV's eureka moment

Varada Bhat  |  Mumbai 

KBC has done to the channel what it did to Star TV a decade ago. Sony is trying to make sure that the magic doesn’t fade away.

It’s been a dream run for Multi-Screen Media (MSM) whose flagship channel Sony Entertainment Television has held on to the number two position among Hindi entertainment channels for six weeks in a row. Besides, four of its shows have been among the top 10 most-watched programmes.

That’s heady enough. But the MSM brass is clearly aiming higher. The network launched its music channel Sony Mix last month and is planning to launch a premier sports channel by next year. Amidst all this, the network is believed to be in negotiations to buy out Ramoji Rao’s ETV Network, which has a bouquet of 11 channels.

So what’s working for MSM, which runs Sony, Set Max, Sony Pix, Bengali movie-channel Sony Aat and Sony Mix?

The answer is pretty obvious: Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) hosted by Amitabh Bachhan. Sony is using KBC as a tent pole property – one that holds up the rest of its programming by attracting viewers and getting them to stay on for other shows. N P Singh, MSM’s Chief Operating Officer, says, “the weekends were always good for us. But Monday to Thursday needed a strategy change. KBC gave us the needed push.”

The two other serials that acted as catalysts were Bade Achhe Lagte Hain and X-Factor.

All these are the results of two years of hard work and continuous market research to try and adopt a new strategy for MSM’s flagship channel. “We wanted to improve our fiction programming. We decided to focus on women during weekdays and also make content that was appealing to the entire family,” says Sneha Rajani, Sony Entertainment Television's EVP and Business Head.

Though Sony has been known for its innovative programming such as Boogie Woogie, Indian Idol, Big Boss, Fear Factor and fiction shows like CID, Aahat, Heena, etc, somewhere things didn’t click as the network failed to cash in on its success and consolidate the brand across various genres – something that rivals Star India, Zee and Viacom 18, did with great effect.

A desperate MSM had earlier revamped its entire programming and launched several new shows and tied up with Yash Raj Films for television content. But most of these fiction shows had to be pulled out due to poor response.

Then in 2010, KBC happened. The Big B did the same magic for Sony what he did to Star Plus a decade back. Riding on its success, the channel launched other fiction shows.

Rajani says research had found certain amount of viewer-fatigue. “The audience wanted something fresh. That is when the idea of Bade Achhe Lagte Hain came about. The audience needed something more mature,” she adds.

The combination has seen Sony steadily climbing the GEC ladder. It is now a close second with 270 Gross Rating Points (GRPs), while Star plus leads the pack with 289 GRPs, according to data provide by TAM Media Research for Week 39 ending September 28.

Having tasted blood, Sony will launch three to five new shows – both fiction as well as non-fiction – in October-November. Also, the broadcaster has brought all its properties under one umbrella identity — with all of them sporting the brand Sony on their logo.

Existing Channels like SAB TV will also see some programming change and a slew of new shows. Getting into high-definition TV and the regional space are the other key things on the agenda of the “If the deal with ETV goes through, it will give MSM a very strong foot-hold in the regional space ,” says an industry insider.

Media planners say the channel has also started doing packaged deals across the network – so far, only rival Star India has done this. What it needs to improve now is the ad rates. The average rate on Sony for a 10-second spot is Rs 15-20,000, while for Star, Colors and Zee the rate varies between Rs 20-35,000.

However, a senior executive from a rival channel is not impressed.“The real challenge for Sony will be post-KBC. One has to see whether it will be able to sustain its rating in the long run. Non-fiction gives a lot of spikes, but then the viewers also go away,” he adds.

He may have a point, but MSM is unlikely to give up so easily this time.

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First Published: Wed, October 05 2011. 00:32 IST