SAB Group poised for a major leap; to grow from 4 channels to a 10 channel network

The group is also venturing into digital space with a 300-400 channel MCN and coming up with 2 huge state of the art studio's in Mumbai in a year's time

e4m by Priyanka Mehra
Updated: Jan 27, 2015 9:16 AM
SAB Group poised for a major leap; to grow from 4 channels to a 10 channel network

Manav Dhanda joined Shri Adhikari Brothers Group as Executive Vice President and as the senior most person after the Board, reporting into the M.D. Markand Adhikari his mandate is to take the company to the next level. In an exclusive interaction with exchange4media, Dhanda shares insights on the company’s growth over the past year, plans to overcome market challenges, growing from the 4 channel network to a 10 channel network in a year’s time  including the launch of a flagship channel, building studio assets and more


How has the group, as a whole, performed in 2014? What are the key learnings of the past year?

As a group we looked at the year gone by at two levels. One was consolidating our position, and the other is charting our growth strategy. While Mastiii and Dabangg held leadership positions we converted Dhamaal into a Hindi movie channel and launched  Maiboli, a Marathi channel. In a year where most launches have failed, MaiBoli has been a great launch; perhaps the most successful one. Our most prominent channel Mastiii has remained at the top. In the digital market, as per TAM, Mastiii has held the top position over last 8 weeks (average).

The fact that Mastiii has grown by almost 50 per cent in last 10 weeks is quite phenomenal. The channel has grown by almost 60 per cent in the core ABC 15-35 Male Female TA, which is a great since it is extremely relevant to the advertiser for this niche. We spent a lot of time understanding in great detail exactly how the music genre is consumed and what we must offer to them. We commissioned a very detailed research across markets and it is this consumer understanding that has become a key edge right now over anybody else at this point in time.

What is strategy for Dabangg?

Dabangg, again, has got some highly relevant localized content. In fact, our team is always travelling to UP & Bihar. We are trying to own the region versus just making shows or just putting a property on the region. Right now we are doing a series called ‘Hum Hai Dabangg’ wherein our team travelled to UP and Bihar to recognize and celebrate achievements of people and places of the region.  These are facets and territories that are often missed, and not showcased it is about recognizing the certain sects, certain diasporas of a certain community which is working very well.

What is working for Maiboli?

Two things, one is that we have some original content on that channel, which is trying to build the pride of Maharashtrians. It is shot on the streets amongst the people, and then put back on air. That’s a great feature which works very well.  It is set to become a platform where people voice themselves on-air, having said that Marathi theatre is really very big, which is also an integral part of our content mix. It (the channel) is well marketed, and is well positioned. Our marketing campaign got really well noticed, we achieved our target reach and within the first 3 months we were in top 5 of all Marathi channels.  Further, Maiboli has grown by over 50 per cent in the past 8 weeks compared to the previous.

What are the insights that you got from the research conducted for Mastiii? How have these insights been leveraged and optimized?

Our viewers TSV is about 35 minutes and the next guy (our competitor) on the block is in the range of mid twenties. This difference itself is a testament to the fact that we have understood our consumer far better than anybody else at an HSM market.

It seems that a lot of channels lack the belief in music, and hence tend to clutter the channel with a lot of other non-music offerings, that is the first insight. Music channels thus tend to lose their identity and confuse the proposition.

There are about 9 music players in the market. So to attain leadership, the key is being true to the consumer expectations.

This year we also changed our packaging for Mastiii, on the back of these insights, we have come up with vibrant colours and not bright stark in-your-face colours as was the trend about half a decade back. Our colours are far more contemporary, which, too, has given us an evolved personification of us on-air.

What are the further growth plans?

At present we have 4 channels, within next 12 months we will have 6 more channels. 5 will be regional and the 6th will be our flagship channel by the first quarter of 2016.

The fact remains that very few groups understand how to launch new channels. In the last 15 years only 2 totally new GEC’s have succeeded, SAB TV and Colors. Rest all have either shut shop or have continuously defined and redefined their offering and struggled to find their space in the highly competitive segment. We know the right mix of a successful channel. We are proud to be the founders of SAB TV.

You mentioned your plans for this year include building of studio assets and driving digital growth?

We understand very clearly that going forward digital will be a key driver. The fact that today India has got about 220-240 million internet subscribers and about 500+ in the next 3 years time, it is going to be a fair guess where a fair share of consumption is going to come from. Not to forget Shri Adhikari Brothers (Television Network) was always a content production house which remains our key strength. Digital is one space which we are really excited about where we tend to create and aggregate and have a 300 to 400 channel MCN. These channels will be across genres, across languages, and the fact is, as digital penetration doubles its numbers in the next three years, a large volume of first time consumer base will come onto digital. The opportunity is lying untapped. 

We are also in the process of starting two studios in Mumbai itself – one in Charkop and the other we have just taken in Marol—where we will be building studios for in-house and external usage. We intend to make these state-of-the-art technology based studios. It is not just about floor area, it is about getting the technology in. We are in talks with some global players who are in the studio business to and working on strategic associations with them. It could be partnership and technology providers. We can all provide floor, but the fact is when a film gets made or in the coming years where TV needs a higher quality production we are often compelled to step out of the country or get resources over here. And that is a space we intend to make heavy investments in.

For now we have started the construction of a studio in Charkop and we have acquired a large piece of land in Marol for this very purpose. The technology also needs trained man power to operate and our key focus area will be to develop skills with-in our country.

What gets the integration going across networks? Will there also be an integration of content going forward?

It is important that each property first holds for itself and then the package also holds as a strong offering.  Sometimes strategies are made on the back of packaging but then it makes it very risky when one pillar falls then the entire package struggles. So while integration of content and facilities does optimize the opportunity, for us, each vertical will need to stand for itself. 

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