Sony Pictures Networks India’s (SPNI) light-hearted family entertainment channel SAB TV is looking to expand its distribution reach in the rural markets, a senior executive has said.
While ramping up distribution has been a key focus area for SAB TV, the rural data rollout by BARC India has meant that the process has to be accelerated. Currently, SAB TV’s distribution reach is 30–40% less than the mainline Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs), which makes wider reach even more crucial.
“With the introduction of BARC’s rural ratings, we are trying to expand our distribution footprint in those markets,” SPNI senior EVP and business head SAB and Sony Pal Anooj Kapoor told TelevisionPost.com.
The channel will focus on markets like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which have high weightage in the BARC ratings system, besides strengthening presence in its traditional strongholds like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“We will focus on markets that have most weightage in BARC. We will also protect our traditional strongholds like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. These are our three core markets. However, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have become very important. Hence, we will focus a lot of our energies there. We want to ensure that we retain our loyal audience and get new viewers,” he expounded.
The performance of SAB TV’s content on free-to-air (FTA) GEC Sony Pal has also prompted Kapoor to tap the rural market. Pal has seen tremendous growth in viewership ever since it launched on Doordarshan’s free-to-air (FTA) DTH platform Freedish.
Kapoor claimed that Sony Pal, whose content is skewed towards SAB, had topped the FTA charts for rural markets recently. “The good thing is that SAB’s content is resonating in those markets. Sony Pal, which is skewed towards SAB content, had become No. 1 in rural two weeks ago beating Star Utsav, Zee Anmol and Rishtey. This shows the potential of SAB once we have our footprint in the rural areas,” he added.
Kapoor is also confident that the rollout of Phases III and IV of digital addressable system (DAS) will automatically bring parity for all channels. “Digitisation rollout in rural areas will help us by creating parity,” he noted.
Kapoor said that Sony Pal, which began as a pay channel, has become FTA. It will have a mix of re-run content from Sony Entertainment Television (SET), Sony Max, SAB TV and Sony Mix.
“Sony Pal is always going to be a combination of SET, SAB, Sony Max and maybe Sony Mix. We will increase the contribution of these channels going forward,” he noted.
Asked about the launch of SAB HD, Kapoor said that the launch date of the channel has not been finalised. Sony recently received the licence to launch SAB TV HD. “We are in the process of developing that model, but we have not finalised the launch date,” Kapoor said.
Recently, the channel’s tent-pole show ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’ (TMKOC) completed its 1900th episode. TMKOC has been the viewership driver for the channel.
Talking about the success of the show, Kapoor pointed out three things that worked in favour of the show.
Firstly, even before its launch, the show had a readymade audience since the Tarak Mehta column in Chitralekha had a cult following across generations. Secondly, the show displays cultural diversity of India and has positivity attached to it. The show also communicates a social message. Thirdly, all the characters in the show are popular, thanks to the perfect casting, writing and direction of the show.
“All these factors have combined to make it a tent-pole show for a long time. TMKOC came on the channel as part of our strategy to position SAB as a light-hearted family channel,” he stated.
Kapoor believes that the success of TMKOC has been due to the innovation in story and plot. The characters and set-up have not been tinkered with since these two factors have been the strength of the show.
Isn’t SAB TV over-dependent on one show for ratings? Kapoor explained that at least 50% of those audiences are loyal soap audience who come to watch only TMKOC and then go back to watch their regular soaps on other channels. “This is the reason why other shows have not been able to match the ratings of ‘Taarak’,” he contended.
He noted that some other shows have also been on the channel for a long time. “Every channel has a tent-pole show. We have had many other shows like ‘FIR’, ‘Laapataganj’, and ‘Chidiya Ghar’. We are not dependent on ‘Taarak Mehta’. It is definitely our strongest brand, but there are other brands as well. If these shows didn’t do well, we wouldn’t keep them on the channel for so long,” he averred.
Kapoor also said that the channel will have new shows after the Indian Premier League (IPL).