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Is Kapil Sharma's magic rubbing off on Sony Entertainment?

Is Kapil Sharma's magic rubbing off on Sony Entertainment?

Author | Madhuwanti Saha | Wednesday, Oct 12,2016 8:17 AM

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Is Kapil Sharma's magic rubbing off on Sony Entertainment?

Last week Sony Entertainment Television’s ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ made headlines by topping the BARC chart of top five shows in the urban market with 7.2 million impressions for week 39 (September 24-30). Interestingly, this development didn’t alter Sony’s position in this particular market which remained static at number 4 fetching in 298 million impressions. The high ratings can be attributed to the episode featuring cricketer Yuvraj Singh and his fiancé Hazel Keech together for the first time.  

Ashish Golwalkar, Senior Creative Director, Sony Entertainment Television points out that the show has been the top non-fiction show for a long time. “In the non-fiction category, it has been number one for last 12 to 13 weeks according to BARC data. Only this week it has topped across fiction, non-fiction, weekday and weekend for the first time.”

The brand Kapil Sharma and the content needs to be given due credit. Golwalkar reasons, “The writing of the show brings freshness every time. The team senses the viewers’ fatigue before the latter. That’s the reason why every now and then we bring in smaller innovation. For instance, we introduced a new character called Rajesh Rao which is doing very well. While film promotion has always been the norm, we ensured that we get non-Bollywood celebrities as well in the interest of brand-building. So we have got cricketers like Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh, ghazal singers like Anup Jatola and Pankaj Udhas and composer like A R Rahman. The highest-rated episode of the show had the cast and crew of Marathi blockbuster ‘Sairat.’ Then the one that helped us top the charts for week 39 featured Singh. We are hoping for a big number for week 40’s episode as well which had Anna Hazare. These two things are working for the show.”

Media experts too have a similar opinion. Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group India and South Asia reiterates, “The show is certainly doing well for the channel. For the past five weeks, its content seems to be getting interesting. The one featuring Anna Hazare was quite a refresh from their usual film promotion format. They even had musician Arijit Singh. This brings in a bit of novelty and variation into the show.”

Dinesh Vyas, Associate Vice President (Planning) at OMD, comments, “If you see the programme, there’s healthy mix of comedy and film promotion that’s working in its favour. Kapil Sharma is very clear about that. The first half will be all comedy and then celebrity promotion. Then he again comes back to the comedy.”

PM Balakrishna CEO, Allied Media Network makes his stand clear by comparing with its contemporaries, “The comedy shows on other channels are not doing well. Sharma has certain equity and he can draw in audiences. The big difference between his show and others is probably the fact that he has toned down on the vulgarity. The content and the way his programming connect to audience seem to be working for the channel. Family audiences would prefer to watch ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ than other shows in my opinion. This is the reason for the spike.”

Weekend programming in Sony’s court

The show which was launched on April 23 upped the channel’s 9pm slot by five times and made an entry into the list of the top five watched shows across Hindi GECs. But its ratings started falling from the following week onwards recording impressions between 5 and 6 million impressions from week 18 (30 April- 6 May, 2016) to week 23 ( 4-10 June, 2016) till the appearance of Sairat’s star cast on the show on the week 24 (11-17 June, 2016). The episode hit an all time high, recording an average of 9 million impressions, higher than the opening episode. Since then it has always been made an appearance in BARC’s top 10 shows in the urban market.

Golwalkar has no qualms admitting that the show has indeed changed the fortunes of the channel Sony Entertainment Television (SET). He confesses, “It’s obvious. When we started out there was nothing that was working on the weekends. We are the only ones with a packed weekend programming till 12.30 am. This factor led to the recent surge in viewership. So the disruption happened because of Kapil Sharma who is a big brand in himself. Through ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ we have built ‘Super Dancer’ that comes between 8pm and 9pm which is the number two show in the non-fiction category.  The latter has also brought in audience to the comedy show. That is followed by ‘CID’ and ‘Crime Patrol’ which has consistent viewership. All these put together has helped the numbers to jack up and be the number one on weekends. Of course, Kapil Sharma’s show has the maximum contribution.”

It’s no doubt that the channel has come a long way. After staying at the rock bottom for a long period of time, in week 37 (September 10-16)  the channel moved up to fourth spot garnering 301 million impressions, compared to 265 million impressions the previous week. This can be attributed to its two shows ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ and ‘Super Dancer’ (latter’s first episode) making it to BARC’s top ten Hindi GEC programmes (urban) standing at fourth and ninth spot respectively. Even for week 39, the dance reality show claimed the eighth rank in BARC chart of top 10 shows in urban market.

 Media experts believe that it’s not possible to climb the ladder on the back of one show. Nayyar puts the point across, “On the back of one show, we cannot say Sony is doing well. In bits and pieces, it’s trying to revive the programming and getting it right. Even its ‘Super Dancer’ is doing very well.”

Vyas makes another relevant point, “SET, over the years, had only reality shows, cricket or ‘CID’. For them the show was a big challenge, a reason why it decided to pull out all plugs to make it a success. It made sure it got the best time slot for people to enjoy the show from their homes.”

But few media experts don’t consider SET’s new improved ranking a big feat.  According to them, ‘Sony was always number 4 as far as overall share of FPC is concerned. Whenever a new show is on air one can expect a slight shift or more. But otherwise there isn’t any earth shattering changes in the whole sequence of channel hierarchy. Star, Colors and Zee have consistently led top three positions followed by Sony on fourth and others.’

Considering the show has pulled in family audience has that boosted advertising revenue?  Few media experts feel that’s unlikely given the limited inventory and advertisers. But most of them agree that the popularity will definitely result in slight hike in the rates on the show. “Initially even the advertisers were skeptical. For such programmes, the initial investment is very high. So the channels cannot benchmark its pricing way below that it cannot make money. Now when the advertisers see it delivering they will be willing to pay Sony. So the initial pricing started at an index of 100, no doubt the channel will be charging another 25 per cent more,” explains a media planner who chose to be anonymous.

Is Kapil Sharma here to stay?

Going by his brand equity, increasing popularity and the recent BARC ratings, no one is going to write off the show. 

Vyas speaks out, “If you look at its past ratings SET never lost its confidence. Yes, it has taken longer than they expected but it’s working in their favour. The channel was clear that they here for the long haul. Nobody would have signed Kapil Sharma for just three months or four weeks. They are probably looking at a two- year contract.”

Balakrishna explains factors behind the show’s long life, “The show has done well, brought in new audience on a macro level and has proved that it has got the capability to sustain. Also there’s no hardcore weekend programming in other channels. It looks like gambit has sort of paid off. But one has to wait and watch because other channels haven’t made their moves yet. Colors’ ‘Big Boss’ is coming which will boost its viewership. Let’s see how the comedy show pans out once other shows launches. More importantly, one has to wait and see how soon the fatigue sets in. According to me, in order to stay on the top, lot more shows have to be integrated.”

SET looks ahead

Golwalkar is taking all steps to ‘defend their leadership on weekends.’ He shares, “We are at it for a while. Things have started to arrive and we are bearing fruit. Our fiction shows are doing better than before. Going forward ‘Indian Idol’ is coming up on weekend. We are looking to build our fiction portfolio. For instance, ‘Behad,’ a fiction, is launching tomorrow on weekdays. With a good star cast, it will fill in the 9pm slot which has been problematic. Once that settles we have tools to replace other non-performers.”

Nayyar is also optimistic about the channel’s future, “Both ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’ and ‘Super Dancer’ seem to be doing pretty well and now they have a season of ‘Indian Idol’ coming up. So the channel is going to continue the momentum.”

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