In this era of television soaps that come on air five days a week with re-runs in the afternoons, Sony Entertainment Television is bringing back once-a-week serials as it readies to launch up to 10 new shows in the next seven months.
The media house, which has Sony, SAB, Set Max and PIX channels, is also putting in more money to acquire film rights, re-branding SAB, trying to woo women and devoting weekend slots to reality shows in a bid to regain the number two position it has ceded to Zee.
"We will invest about Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) in acquiring telecast rights of over 30 films in a year," said Kunal Dasgupta, the head of SET in India. The company has just acquired the worldwide satellite rights to this year's hit Chak De India, flops Tara Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Laaga Chunari Main Daag, and Madhuri Dixit's comeback vehicle Aaja Nachle.
SAB, which Sony acquired from Sri Adhikari Brothers and which is now primarily a comedy channel, will be re-positioned as a youth channel. Dasgupta said SAB would reintroduce weekly programmes since young viewers do not have the patience to watch a daily soap.
For years, Sony was a credible challenger to STAR Plus in the general entertainment segment, but has been upstaged by Subhash Chandra's Zee, which is riding high on reality shows and breathing down STAR's neck.
At present, Sony's share is about 12 per cent of the Rs 2,500 crore (Rs 25 billion) advertising spend on Hindi general entertainment channels, according to industry estimates. Sony and Max contribute almost 80 per cent of the SET's advertisement revenue while SAB and PIX bring in the rest.
"This year we have witnessed substantial growth in revenue, around 30 per cent. In the next six months, we hope to capture 15-20 per cent of the revenue share," said Dasgupta.
"Sony has been known for variety and innovation. It stopped innovating after Jassi and Indian Idol. There was a time when the viewer did not know what the channel stood for: reality shows, general entertainment or movies," said a media analyst.
It is in talks with B R Chopra for another fiction show. By the middle of January, Sony intends to launch the reality show, Extreme Makeover, hugely popular overseas, in India. By April, the second season of Big Boss will begin. There will also be a new game show, Power of 10, which is another international show owned by CBS.