Sun TV to enter new regional market, launch flanking Tamil GEC in FY19

MUMBAI: Sun TV Network is planning to enter one new regional market this year besides launching a flanking channel in the Tamil market to attract new viewers, the company’s top management has said.

As reported earlier, Sun TV is looking at Bengali and Marathi markets as part of its expansion outside South India. With the competitive intensity in Tamil market increasing due to the entry of Colors Tamil, the company will also launch a second GEC.

“There is no definitive date. It’s all work in progress. It will happen within this financial year. Maybe not all new markets this year but one new market this year,” Sun TV Network president R Mahesh Kumar told analysts recently during a conference call.

Kumar also asserted that the company is only interested in regional markets.

Sun TV is also expecting its Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise to turnaround in FY19 thanks to the mega deals inked by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“We reasonably confident that we will have profit on IPL this year,” said Sun Group CFO SL Narayanan. The IPL franchises will get 45% of the share from the central revenue pool.

Commenting on the competition in the Tamil market, Kumar brushed it aside stating that Sun TV, the flagship channel of the network, continues to hold around 50% share of the market including GEC and non-GEC. “No major pressure on ad revenue due to competitive pressure,” Kumar averred.

The network is also strengthening the content line-up of its entertainment across the four markets. It is waiting for the IPL to get over before launching new hows. “We have lined-up new fiction launches in Q2 across network,” Kumar noted.

He also stated that Sun TV will continue to stay focussed on fiction, unlike its competitors who are pouring big money into high-value non-fiction shows.

“We are focussed on fiction and improve our overall viewership for all the slots. We can’t keep shifting loyalty between fiction and non-fiction. We are monitoring our share in every half an hour slot. We want our share to be 60%,” he said.

“We are launching serials with a very high level of production values in the next couple of months. We want to do something that is long lasting rather look at it from a quarter of quarter basis.”

On the impact of Bigg Boss Tamil, Kumar said that Star Vijay’s viewership fell by 80% after the non-fiction show was over. He further stated that the channel has not been able of recover from that.

He also said that Sun TV has a loyal audience for its fiction shows, therefore, there is no need to tinker with the DNA of the channel. “There is a loyalty to Sun TV. We don’t want to upset the applecart now. It is number 1 channel across India despite IPL.”

He also said that the company will come out with a plan to attract new TG.

While the company has moved to the commissioned model in non-Tamil markets, it will follow suit in the Tamil market as well over a period of time. “In Q4, one prime-time and two non-prime slots got added to the commissioned model. In Q2, there will be one such slot which will be moved to commissioned,” Kumar added.

The ultimate goal is to have a 50:50 mix of commissioned and private producer model in the prime-time. This will also allow the broadcast to exploit more inventory.

Sun TV is also eyeing big gains in subscription revenue from Tamil Nadu due to the on-going digitisation exercise. “We have concluded certain arrangements with Arasu and there is a fairly robust uptick in terms of digitisation happening across the state. By the end of the calendar year this state will be substantially digitised,” informed Narayanan.

In Q4, Sun TV’s ad revenue was Rs 339 crore vs Rs 270 crore in the same quarter of the previous fiscal while domestic subscription was Rs 309 crore with Rs 104 crore coming from cable and Rs 205 crore from DTH.

The company’s management said that the Tamil market is equally split between cable and DTH. Cable is estimated to have 4-5 million customers while DTH is believed to have 5 million customers. There are 10 million analogue homes yet to be digitised.

Sun TV will spend Rs 400-425 crore on acquiring movies. It is buying a mix of large and small movies. The company will spend Rs 250-300 crore on two movies including one with Rajnikanth. While one movie is 80% complete and is slated for Diwali release the one with Rajnikanth is still in the initial stage.

Queried about the drop in Sun TV’s recently, Kumar noted that the drop is temporary and has more to do with IPL particularly since Star has regional feeds.

He gave the example of Colors Kannada whose GRPs fell from 750 GRPs to 600 GRPs due to IPL. Star Sports 1 Tamil’s share jumped from 30 GRPs to 180 GRPs.

“IPL as a property has created dent across India because of which there is a loss of viewership. We will come back to pre-IPL position,” he said.

About the company’s video on demand (VoD) platform, the company said it has signed deals with telcos and is partnering other platforms to increase reach. It also asserted that the platform will remain subscription driven.

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