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‘Consumers are increasingly looking for something new’
2017 has been a remarkable year for Hindi GEC Sony Entertainment Television (SET). After being on the margins of the Hindi GEC business, the channel has finally bounced back and has seen a growth in its viewership share. A large part of the growth is due to the non-fiction shows like ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’, ‘Super Dancer’ and ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’.
While the fiction strategy is still a work in progress, it has seen some early success with ‘Yeh Un Dino Ki Baat’ and ‘Beyhadh’. The channel looks to carry forward this momentum by launching big format fiction shows like ‘Porus’ and ‘Prithvi Vallabh’.
TelevisionPost.com’s Swagata Panjari caught up with SET business head Danish Khan to talk about the progress made by the channel under his leadership and the strategy ahead.
We are the fag end of 2017, how did the year go by for SET?
This year has been really good for us. Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) has been a block buster success. Some shows like ‘Yeh Un Dino Ki Baat’ and ‘Super Dancer’ have done extremely well. We believe that in ‘Porus’ we have a winner. We have couple of shows lined-up towards the end of 2017. There is SET Original ‘Prithvi Vallabh’ which is a big format finite series. Then we will be coming back with non-fiction show ‘Dus Ka Dum’. So we have our calendar pack and we have a lot of work to do.
SET has seen an improvement in its viewership what do you think is working in the channel’s favour?
I think consumers have rewarded novelty. ‘Yeh Un Dino Ki Baat’ is one big example. Nobody thought that the show set in 90s about school romance will become such a huge hit and people will talk so much about it. The goodwill is so high. With KBC we went back to the basic format. We didn’t have film integrations and we increased the difficulty level when it came to questions. We brought the concept of Play Along. We opened our platform for social heroes. We did so many firsts and it was successful. To sum it up, I would say that “if it’s safe then it is risky”. It is important to take calculated risks and that is what consumer rewards.
It seems non-fiction shows (The Kapil Sharma Show, Super Dancer, and KBC) are working more for SET than fiction shows?
I disagree with this view. I think both fiction and non-fiction has its place and both are consumed and are successful on television.
‘I would say that “if it’s safe then it is risky”. It is important to take calculated risks and that is what consumer rewards’
What is the strategy behind doing finite series?
Every show has its own strength. The thing is that at SET we always talk about story so there is a definite, start, middle and end. Some shows will have 26 episodes while others will have 260 episodes. The duration of the show comes through the story and we create a business model around that. Our viewers have appetite for variety they want to see finite stories. There are shows that lasted long because in the core of that show there is longevity like ‘Tarak Mehta or Yeh Rishta’. Their story for the characters has lived long while there are some shows which haven’t worked. I think the philosophy of ‘to each its own’ applies here. I think it also depends on the story and character. There can’t be a set rule. It all depends on the story.
SET took a bold decision with Porus by giving the IP rights to Swastik Productions? What’s the reason behind this move?
I think in Sony’s DNA there is a appetite for risk. To others, it might look like we are taking all the risk but right now it is the need of the hour. The investments for this show are huge and we have shared a large part of the investment in the show with Swastik Productions and we believe it is the future.
Considering SET has also invested in the show, how is the IP split between the two parties?
Swastik Productions will have multiple geography rights. It will also dub and look into subtitles which they will exploit commercially. As far as we are concerned, we will have multiple television rights for multiple years. We have underwritten the large part of their cost and we will premiere it.
‘I think in Sony’s DNA there is a appetite for risk. To others, it might look like we are taking all the risk but right now it is the need of the hour’
With rural market opening up in a big way, isn’t it time for SET to expand its viewer base?
Sony has a bouquet of channels for original content. We have SET for a particular demography and geography. We have SAB which is exceptionally successful in its own geography. Then, we have Sony Pal which is doing extremely well in FTA market. So between SET, SAB and Pal, we have solid market leaders across all categories.
What are the content trends that you are witnessing these days?
The trend that I am seeing is for variety. Consumers are increasingly looking for something new. The second trend is high production, everybody from international, South Indian dubbed and Bollywood are looking for that. People are excited to see high production content so going forward high production is going to be a very important factor. According to me variety, originality and high productions are three key drivers of the trend.
As a TV channel, are you worried about the growing popularity of video on demand (VoD) platforms?
I think there is a two-way movement. One is that TV homes are continuously expanding and lots of people are also juggling between digital and TV. The way I see is that how you see yourself. We don’t see ourselves as only as a television broadcaster. We believe that Sony is a content company. We create content, which will be watched by some people on TV while others will watch it on digital platforms. So, primarily we are a content company. Technology may change but the content will remain the soul of it.
How important is marketing for a GEC considering the fragmentation?
Marketing has changed over the years. Today, it is not just about creating awareness or influencing people to watch. We believe that marketing’s key role today is to create a conversation and that conversation takes place not through information but through a story. When we are saying is that we have created a global content with huge investments. We are able to prove it through footage, the seriousness of the story, look and feel those become conversation point, those become stories. We believe that today marketing is not about creating promo spot or putting up few hoarding, we have to do that for basic awareness but marketing is about creating interactions.