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Imagination sinks, the lack of another ‘Sab’

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Imagination sinks, the lack of another ‘Sab’

US-based Turner Broadcasting System’s decision to shut down its Hindi general entertainment channel, Imagine, is the latest among the spate of media companies failing to maintain consistent ratings needed to sustain its business and support continued investment.

Imagine was Time Warner Company’s second attempt in the general entertainment category after Real, its 50:50 JV with Alva Brothers of Miditech, failed to create a stir.

In 2010, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) acquired the loss-making 9X, a general entertainment channel from the INX Media stable with a view to establish a stronghold in the fiercely competitive Hindi general entertainment sphere. However, the channel continues to struggle to develop quality content and create a loyal viewership.

In 2009, Sony Pictures Television International forayed into regional television with the buy of Channel 8, a Bengali movie channel for an undisclosed amount. But the move has met with limited success.

These are some of the instances of channel acquisitions failing to spur advertising and subscription revenues for the media companies. A case in exception, however, is that of Sab. Sony’s acquisition of this channel from Sri Adhikari Brothers did not spell doomsday but instead built on the channel’s existing brand equity and good content to turn it into a profitable venture.

In 2005, Sony bought Sri Adhikari Brothers (Sab) to have a second-line general entertainment channel in order to compete with the hugely popular Star One. As a mix of comedy and family-based entertainment, Sab has been a huge success. The channel underwent repositioning several times before it managed to strike the right chord by returning to the original Sab formula. It was first promoted as a general entertainment channel, later went on to target the younger generation and turned into a youth channel. It was after thorough research that it positioned itself as a light hearted comedy-centric channel for the entire family.

Sab has seen sustained and impressive growth over the years following its takeover by Sony. Each of its soaps is drizzled with light humour and entertaining banter and has an underlying message for the audience. It is no surprise then that the channel has managed to carve its own niche space among established players such as Star Plus, Colors and Zee in the general entertainment sphere.

Shows such as Taarak Mehta ka ooltah chashmah, and Shekhar Suman’s newly launched show, Movers and Shakers, have helped the channel in moving up the GRP ladder.

While good quality and differentiated programming has helped in creating sustained viewership for the channel, an aggressive marketing and distribution strategy followed by Sony has also helped drive up ratings and revenues.

Sri Adhikari Brothers, who are pioneers in creating quality content on television over the years, also successfully launched music channel, Mastiii in 2010. The company subsequently launched regional entertainment channels, Dabangg and Dhamaal, which are doing well in their genres and are amongst the leading channels. Both the entertainment channels are catering to different Hindi speaking regions. While Dabangg targets Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal; Dhamaal attracts audiences from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

What remains to be seen is whether these new offerings can replicate Sab’s success on a consistent basis and give the Indian broadcasting business more success stories to talk of.

The author is an observer of the Indian broadcasting industry

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