Sony Entertainment Television is making substantial noise nationally and internationally with the flagship channel from the Network, Sony TV, completing 10 years. The occasion saw the presence of Sony Corporation’s Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer in India, where Stringer and Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, SET India spoke on the achievements of India operations and the road ahead for SET India.
For SET India, the excitement had no bounds. At a party hosted by Dasgupta to celebrate Sony’s decade in India, the channel officials went down memory lane, reliving the group’s accomplishments so far. Dasgupta said, “Today SET celebrates a decade of marvellous achievements, surprises and accomplishments. We have evolved to be India’s leading entertainment powerhouse, with channels catering to a wide spectrum of audience. With a reach of over 40 million households in India, SET is a strong platform for over 700 brands today.”
SET’s journey began with one channel, Sony Entertainment Television, in October 1995. Three years later, the channel was launched in the UK and US markets. A big step for SET came in 1999, when the Network added one more channel – MAX, which went on to be a movies and events channels benefiting from properties like cricket. In 2002, the Network acquired the ICC World Cup cricket rights up to 2007.
The year also saw the creation of SET’s joint venture with Discovery Networks to create a The One Alliance Network. In 2004, MAX International was launched and the Network added the kids channel, Animax, to the bouquet. Earlier this year, with the acquisition of SAB TV, SET got yet something more to play with.
For Stringer, the 10-year completion was no small milestone. At the FICCI luncheon meet, where he addressed members of the industry, Stringer remarked, “When we bought SET in India, no one knew why we were doing it. Only a handful of executives saw an opportunity to build a foundation for content in this country and we have done that successfully. The next thing we needed to do was to set up software developments units, as we are setting up in Bangalore.”
He also spoke about the competitive landscape, “We are very strong in India in content. Sony TV has been ahead of STAR and Michael (Grindon) and I aren’t too happy that we are the No. 2 channel now. Murdoch is a tough competitor, but I don’t think ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ transforms Indian culture.”
Stringer pointed out the importance of SET’s assets like movies and cricket to the Indian viewer indicating the channel’s upper hand on some key television properties, “We are very proud with the way SET has grown. We have very good content here already and we are not elitist in nature. We are here to stay.”
Regarding what the road ahead would be like, he said, “We are looking at various ways in which we can break the barriers between hardware and software or content to help grow Sony businesses cross categories.” Bringing another point here to accentuate the importance of creating content, he said, “We have just entered into a co-production with an Indian director and that is again a milestone for us.”
Taking this as an example, Stringer spoke about how initiatives like these weren’t acts of takeovers or ‘Hollywood corruption’, but the step towards forging strong partnerships in the country. “As a global company, we realise the importance of local skills and we are here to build partnerships that are mutually beneficial,” he added.
A key factor that comes across in Stringer’s vision for Sony is the importance of a horizontal structure, where hardware can be used to push content, “In the US, we have managed the working of categories like music, video, play stations and games successfully. Here, where we are powerful in content we are looking at doing something similar.”
In September, Stringer had ‘redefined’ the ways of working together for Sony Corporation and one permanent item on the task list has been cost cutting. Commenting on that factor, Stringer said, “Necessarily, we are identifying opportunities which will bring in growth. Every organisation needs a shake up once in a while. A great brand will buy you time, but it doesn’t give you the right to live forever.” With quite a lot on the plate already, Stringer also spoke on the importance of the digital space.
Sony’s units have already been seeing some amount of working together in instances like Sony Pictures’ ‘Spider Man’ being promoted on the channel and so on. Such examples are set to be more frequent and stronger in days to come in the ‘redefined’ structure.
The network has a string set of future plans with SAB TV geared to see some changes, MAX and Sony going more aggressive on the content front already. In addition to that, Dasgupta voiced the intention of adding more channels to the bouquet like regional channels to fill in the missing links.
He said, “In the next decade, we plan to continue to enthral and entertain our audiences by introducing exciting programmes, thus putting entertainment in India on the world map.”
With Jassi and Sony making it to Hollywood Reporter’s cover, we are there already.