Sony's strong male-lead redux
The channel is reverting to casting the leading men in Indian TV, and adding more crime thrillers, to play to its strengths
Urvi Malvania | Mumbai
March 9, 2015 Last Updated at 21:30 IST
Slipping down the charts over the last couple of years, Multi Screen Media's (MSM) flagship general entertainment channel, Sony Entertainment Television (Sony) is returning to its roots. It is not even a year since it tried a new tack - women-dominated shows, fiction mounted on a grand scale and themes from love stories to kitchen politics. But the course-change did little to improve its ratings.
Home to CID, Crime Patrol and Kaun Banega Crorepati, Sony is avowedly betting again on crime and thriller shows and popular male TV stars, to return some of its lost sheen.
Sony has been aiming to expand its audience base beyond the urban male-skew that it has had. But it still hovers between the fifth and sixth spots among the eight Hindi GECs. The second spot that it enjoyed till 2011 seems to be a distant memory.
Ajay Bhalwankar, chief creative director, Sony, says, "When we studied our performance, we realised that there are some things we have done that no one has been able to replicate with the same level of success. At the same time, when we have strayed from our DNA, we have received setbacks in terms of ratings. Going forward, we will strengthen the crime and thriller offerings on Sony, and instead of depending on non-fiction to give a spike from time to time, we are banking on the big TV stars portraying compelling roles."
Sony scores between 110 and 118 GRPs a week, almost 180 GRPs behind the leader, Star Plus (between 290 and 300 GRPs). Its attempt to programme along the lines of other GECs to woo the female viewer did not work.
Besides planning more on the genres that have done well on it, Sony will revisit the role big names play for it. While the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Yudh failed to hook the audience, well-known male TV stars would bring in a different appeal, the channel hopes. Its casting now includes Rajeev Khandelwal, Ram Kapoor and Ronit Roy.
While Roy plays the lead in Sony's Adaalat and the recently-launched Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar, Khandelwal plays lead in Reporter that follows the life of the protagonist who is a reporter at a TV channel. Kapoor plays lead in Dil Ki Baate Dil Hi Jaane, based on a man who is about to lose his wife to a fatal illness, directed by Mahesh Bhatt. Kapoor used to appear in Balaji's Bade Acche Lagte Hain earlier on the channel. Joining these strong male actors will be Sakshi Tanwar (earlier on Sony in Bade Acche... and Crime Patrol), starring in a period drama.
Sony is hoping these big names will work the magic that its large-scale production Yudh could not. "In the past, when we did content like Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, Parvarish or Saans Bina Sasural, we have been successful. Our intuition is that the audience expects certain kind of content from Sony. Having the big names will help. Also, having these men on Sony will be added attraction for the female viewers," says Bhalwankar.
With Sony's line-up of crime and thriller shows like CID, Crime Patrol, Adaalat, Bhanwar and recently, the relaunched Aahat, advertisers have regarded Sony as male-skewed. Bhalwankar says that the new content, featuring the leading men on the small screen, would be the hook for women, as well. Sony could look at higher ad rates. Top-rated fiction shows usually charge Rs 1.2-1.4 lakh for 10 seconds.
Last year, Sony's biggest launch Yudh failed to deliver the desired results, despite having names like Amitabh Bachchan, Anurag Kashyap, Sarika and KK Menon associated with it. "The problem with Yudh was that it was made for the silver screen. You cannot build the atmosphere on television that the show demanded. Also, it was a huge gamble making such a costly show, on a channel that was already facing problems with viewership numbers. Having the top TV stars will escalate costs, but not to the extent that Yudh did," says a media planner on the condition of anonymity. Yudh was one of the costliest TV fiction shows with an estimated Rs 2.5-3 crore for an episode.
The channel is also taking a page out of successful ploys of other GECs. It will focus on shorter shows, with 100-150 episodes, unlike the norm of 500-700 episodes on most GECs. This is a strategy that Star India's Life OK, too, has employed and succeeded in.
Sony will also have a mythological show, Hanuman and one with a take on Karna, one of the most debated characters in Ved Vyasa's Mahabharat. Indian Idol Junior will be its flagship reality format this year, while sources say that KBC might take a break this year.