The much-awaited Sony BBC Earth is finally scheduled to go live on March 6 at 8 pm, following all approvals. The channel is a premium factual entertainment channel by MSM Worldwide Factual Media, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) and BBC Worldwide. The JV partnership combines SPN’s extensive experience and expertise in operating and distributing televised entertainment both to audiences in India and across the globe, with BBC Worldwide’s extensive catalogue of programming and reputation for excellence in premium factual content.
As it’s known, the new channel targeted at ‘the young upwardly mobile’ has brought in Kareena Kapoor Khan as its brand ambassador. Saurabh Yagnik, EVP and Business Head, English Cluster, SPN, says, “We are targeting affluent households for our marketing and communication. But we will broad base the content to appeal to everyone.”
Working of the channel
Paul Dempsey, President, Global Markets, BBC Worldwide, says, “Our relationship with Sony has been a long one, built in the first instance on our production business, and one that has since grown across all key areas of BBC Worldwide’s operations. We partner with them to bring top programmes like ‘Sherlock’, ‘Orphan Black’ and ‘Top Gear’ on AXN to India and now, this joint venture which is a pioneering model for us. By working with a respected local partner of the caliber of Sony Pictures Networks, we look forward to bringing BBC Earth’s world class content to a new audience who we know has a huge appetite for premium factual programming.”
He also mentioned looking at local content in the future for India, which is the 40th country to be introduced to this channel. “I do expect us over time to introduce more local content that’s relevant to the lives of our audience here. That’s something we have already started talking about.”
When it comes to the working of the channel, Dempsey says, “SPN clearly operates the channel. They are the experts on the ground here and we trust them. We give inputs when and where it’s required around editorial to make sure our brand here looks and feel similar (with distinctive flavour nonetheless).”
NP Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Sony Pictures Networks India, says, “Nurtured as a JV partnership, Sony BBC Earth, combines the strengths of both partners, including fascinating content, estimable brand equity and superior sales and distribution prowess. This gives Sony BBC Earth a distinct positioning. I am confident that this channel will be a major player in its category.”
Singh is confident of the channel making it to the top three in a year’s time. “Given the content, strategy, and positioning of this channel it will be in the top three in a year’s time,” he adds.
The channel hasn’t got any advertiser on board yet but the feedback has been positive.
The glamour touch
With BBC Earth being a brand in itself it was surprising for the channel Sony BBC Earth to rope in a Bollywood celebrity as its ambassador. Yagnik explains the idea behind this as he says, “One of the distinct gaps we saw in the category was the absence of sharp and defined positioning. We took the emotional root of ‘feeling alive’. We just can’t put some animals and say let’s feel alive. It has to be relatable to the audience. Kareena Kapoor Khan has a personality that resonated with the kind of emotion we would like our audience to experience. Moreover, she herself loves this genre.”
The channel has created a brand film featuring the actress with the tagline, Feel Alive. The campaign will be launched on a massive scale across multiple mass media and social media platforms and will continue for four to six weeks.
Figuring the content game
The channel has planned defined programming slots from 8 pm to 11 pm like ‘Why, How & What on Earth’ at 8 pm for fun and insightful science, ‘Wild Wild Earth’ at 9pm for nature and wildlife, and ‘Earth Explorers’ at 10 pm for adventure and human-interest stories. Weekends will showcase special series under the slot, Earth Specials. Key launch shows include ‘The Hunt’, ‘Where The Wild Men Are with Ben Fogle’, ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor’, ‘Snow Chick’ and the iconic series, ‘Planet Earth II,’ amongst others
Yagnik gives us more insight on the content strategy as he says, “There will be 19 hours of original content every week. We are launching shows like ‘Trust me I am a Doctor’ and ‘The Hunt’, which are not seen in India. Then there’s a constant process of commissioning that happens as we speak. There’s a spectacular upcoming show called ‘Blue Planet’. We will start with five shows. We have Earth Specials for the weekend.”
He also shares insights on how the line-up was decided, adding, “The 8pm slot has light-hearted science shows that are watched by people who are relatively young and families. As per the viewership data we looked at what kind of skews of viewership are there at various time-bands. That’s how we planned it out.”
Size of the market
When asked about the size of the factual entertainment market, Yagnik says, “It is Rs 1500 crore (inclusive of ad and subscription revenue). In terms of viewership it’s anything between 1.5-2 per cent of the total.”
Sony BBC Earth will be available on major DTH platforms and major MSOs.