Of late, media has been busy with reports about who the number two player in the Hindi general entertainment segment is – Sony Entertainment Television or Zee TV? While it is clear that Zee TV has had a good run for the last few weeks, Sony is ensuring that the fight continues to be a tough one. The channel has embarked on a new programming strategy, which rolls out beginning March 10, 2006 and would be supported with a driver-show marketing strategy.
“Sony Entertainment Television has donned a new programming strategy and the first step you will see in this direction is in our Friday blocks,” said N P Singh, COO, SET India. “The thought process is based on building on our strengths, introducing new properties and repositioning some of our existing shows. In the process, we are wrapping up some of our shows as well,” he added.
At present, all changes are on Fridays under the umbrella branding ‘Shukra Hai Shukrvaar Hai’. The content begins 8.00 pm onwards, which will house ‘Deal Ya No Deal’ in the new line-up. The change has been made only for Fridays, while Wednesdays and Thursdays will continue to see the show in its recently changed 9.00 pm slot. Endemol’s ‘Fear Factor’ India adaptation will be launched in the 9 pm slot. ‘CID’ will be seen in a one-hour format now at 10.00 pm, while another new offering from the Balaji Telefilms stable, ‘Kandy Floss’, makes it way at 11.00 pm.
While ‘Fear Factor’ will be a one-hour show, ‘Kandy Floss’ would be in a half-hour format, attempting to catch the late night viewer. “Kandy…’ is a television based show – there would be TV gossip, behind-the-scenes and so on. ‘CID’, on the other hand, would be a complete case in one episode,” said Singh.
The new line-up also means the end of ‘Crime Patrol’, which in terms of ratings, has been a delivering proposition for Sony for a while and ‘Kudkudiya House No 43’, which never really took off.
The second leg of changes would be seen in weekday primetime. This again would be a mix of new launches and repositioning. Singh divulged that changes on this front would not be seen until April 2006, and a period of almost three months can be consumed by the time the new programming is in place. The focus would be two-fold in this period, when new attempts in the matinee block are also planned. The shows expected would be across genre – love stories, game shows, thrillers, and comedies among others.
This would be the first time in years that the channel is actually speaking about its afternoon block. As to why there has been no action in the space already, Singh replied, “For strategic reasons.” It must be noted that one reason why Zee TV has managed to beat Sony week-on-week on the all-day parameter is due to Zee’s original programming in the afternoon block.
Giving Sony’s point of view on the ratings scenario, Singh said, “If you look at the primetime ratings in the last few weeks, we have been growing week-on-week. Also, you have to face the consequences of seasonal programming. Typically in such formats, the ratings increase towards a finale and then drop.”
In that case then, doesn’t banking on seasonal programming become an unadvisable decision? “Not really,” replied Singh, adding, “To give you an example, in the case of cricket as well, when the game is on air, ratings of the channel increase and decrease when it is over. However, when they decrease, they do not come down to the base they were originally but on a slightly higher base. This is the same for seasonal programming as well. That said, we are creating a mix of linear and seasonal programming to have stable numbers coming in as well.”
Is the channel happy with the ratings of the recently launched shows on the weekdays ‘Deal Ya No Deal’ and ‘Ek Ladki Anjaani Si’, both of which are in the 1 plus to the 2 plus mark? “When you launch a set of shows, some are up to expectations and some aren’t. However, I am satisfied with the overall delivery of the programming line-up we introduced in November 2005, and by that I mean that they are as per plan and all set to increase in weeks to come,” Singh said.
Coming to the marketing of the new shows coming up in March 2006, Singh informed, “We would be marketing the umbrella, that is ‘Shukra Hai’, and this is set to roll out next week. Marketing around the driver show, ‘Fear Factor’, has already begun – both on-air and off-air.”
He elaborated that even as efforts around ‘Kandy Floss’ and the announcement of ‘CID’ would be seen, the thrust of the marketing would be on the umbrella. “That makes more sense,” said Singh, adding, “It would not create any clutter and at the same time, would further drive the viewership to the new Friday block.”
Singh is quick to mention the team working towards enabling the new strategy. “Anupama (Mandoi, Senior, VP-On-air programming) is responsible for the channel as you see it, Gursheel (Walia, Content Development) ensures that the second rung of programming is in place and Nina (Jaipuria, VP, Marketing) provides the right share of voice. Together they ensure that Sony can provide its viewers with the kind of innovative and fresh programming that it is known for.”
Given the current competitive dynamics and the fact that prior to this Sony was the clear number two Hindi general entertainment player, accentuates the need for Sony to revisit its programming. And whether the new strategy will help it recover lost ground, one would know soon enough.