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Sony gets its mojo back

September 14, 2012 09:54 IST

SonyMulti Screen Media is on a high with the success of KBC, IPL and fiction shows.

But experts say it still has to crack the code in the regional space.

N P Singh has been working with Multi Screen Media, popularly known as Sony Entertainment, for 12 years now.

"That's a long time, but I still feel good every morning about going to office," Sony's chief operating officer says, with a smile.

Singh must be feeling even better these days, with the sixth edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati opening with a 6.1 TVR (television viewership ratings) -- the highest such rating for any show across all general entertainment channels.

In key demographic segments like SEC A and B homes, it has delivered 7.7 and 8.3 TVR, respectively.

KBC's success is also a big relief as it vindicates Singh and his team's decision to shift the game show to weekends. KBC has helped consolidate the flagship channel, Sony Entertainment Television's position among the top four.

According to figures released on Wednesday, SET is now a strong number three — just seven gross rating points lower than market leader Zee TV.

What has helped SET is that it shifted its focus from the earlier one show and only a few non-fiction properties to a more staple diet of fiction.

The hard work has paid off.

And it's not only SET.

All other channels on the Sony network -- MAX (Hindi movie channel), SAB (family entertainment), PIX (English movie), MIX (Hindi music), Aath (Bengali movie) and the recently launched SIX (sports) have a clear roadmap.

Singh says the parent company's recent decision to buy out Indian promoters has also shown the confidence it has on the Indian management.

But not everyone is so convinced about Sony's road ahead. For example, it has to expand in the regional space if it wants to grow as rival networks Star, Zee and TV 18 (with the help of ETV channels) have a strong presence in that space.

"The gap which Sony has is that it does not have niche, news and regional presence, which are all growing," says media agency MEC's National Trading Director Hariharan Vishwanath.

Another top executive of a media buying firm says the reach of the network is a big issue.

While Star and Zee have strong presence all-India, barring the Indian Premier League property, Sony is nowhere outside the Hindi-speaking markets.

And even for the flagship brand SET, the real challenge is to get to the number one slot and stay there for a while.

"Star has been the only consistent leader, while everyone else has come and gone. Sony has to crack that code," he says

Singh, however, doesn't buy this logic.

"We have decentralised the system by empowering the heads of different brands to implement the overall strategy. In any case, profitability is now our strong focus," he adds.

According to Singh, as a brand, Sony cuts across all the markets.

"We have different properties in the network which appeal to different kinds of viewership across the nation.

"The positioning of each channel is clear -- SIX will carry all sports, MAX and PIX will be only Hindi and English movies channels, respectively".

For SET, the ambition is even bigger. "KBC, coupled with our successful fiction shows and weekend properties, gives me confidence that there is a strong possibility of ours being the number one channel in the near future," he says.

Singh says the company wants to turn MAX into a full movie channel as it has acquired a lot of top quality movies and refreshed its library.

That may well be true, but hasn't SIX, its six-month-old sports channel, failed to take off? SIX has not been able to procure any significant sporting events rights.

Singh, however, quips: "mere paas maa hai (I have the mother of all) -- IPL."

On the rationale for launching a sports channel, Singh says the network realised that it was the right time to launch a sports channel.

"It takes time to build a brand and we want this period to build the brand and then bring IPL on it from the next season. During this period, we have acquired a few innovative sporting properties. Starting September, the activity on SIX is about to begin.

We are already in 30 million homes and are currently negotiating with other cable operators," he adds.

On the English movie channel PIX, which was started as a library service in 2006, Singh says after Slumdog Millionaire, the positioning of the channel was changed to "Hollywood is here".

PIX has acquired a lot of new titles, bolstered by Sony Pictures properties.

The distribution is being pushed strongly as well.

SAB is another channel Singh is most pleased about, and a lot of initiatives are in place already.

SAB is bringing in full three hours of original programming on Saturdays from only half an hour earlier.

The weekday shows are also being refreshed.

"We will continue to invest behind the brand to make it stronger,"  he adds.

Gaurav Laghate in Mumbai
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