Sony SAB, the Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) from Sony Pictures Networks India, on Thursday announced a change in its brand and content strategy — from being a comedy channel to one that tells stories of everyday lives of people, thereby catering to the entire family. With the new positioning, the channel aims to strengthen its “emotional connect with viewers by focusing on the relationships”.
Speaking about the insight behind the change in content strategy, Neeraj Vyas, business head for Sony SAB, PAL and Sony MAX Movie Cluster, said that barring the channel’s longest-running ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashmah’, most of its comedy shows were not performing well. “We wanted to revive TV content meant for the whole family. Most TV channels today are making shows for female audiences between 22 and 40 years of age, which are often predictable soap operas. If you look at the content line-up we have currently, it is very diverse,” he explained, noting that the objective was to create a space for the channel that no other occupies and reinforce its positioning as a ‘living room’ brand that brings the family together.
The channel’s line-up of shows includes shows like ‘Pushpa Impossible’, Wagle Ki Duniya and ‘Alibaba Dastaan-e-Kabul’, and it will continue to air the popular Tarak Mehta series.
The move also comes at a time when Hindi GEC viewership has seen a decline. Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital, points out that the viewership has fallen from around the 30% mark three years ago to around 25% of the total TV viewership currently. “Competition in the Hindi GEC segment has increased. While comedy is a popular genre, it is also widely available on OTT (over the top) platforms. TV watching audiences are currently hooked on to large-scale family shows and reality shows, and so the TV comedy genre is under strain,” Taurani observes. He adds that most shows on Hindi GECs are formulaic, which is why a change in content strategy is the need of the hour.
According to a FICCI-EY report released earlier this year, the TV industry recorded a 6.2% decline in TV subscription revenues. This is the second year in a row that TV has recorded a decline in subscription revenues, and the fall is attributed to a reduction of 6 million pay TV homes. Smart connected TVs are expected to surpass 40 million by 2025, bringing to an end the monopoly of broadcasters on the TV screen.
Vaishali Sharma, marketing and communications head for Sony SAB, PAL and Sony MAX Movie Cluster, argues however that TV viewing is still very much alive in India, and that OTT platforms will not overtake TV at least for the next 5-7 years. “Yes, consumption patterns have changed, but OTT viewership remains largely relegated to affluent households and big cities. Moreover, OTT content has its limitations since it is often not created for family viewing,” she states.
According to a Statista report, India’s television industry in CY21 was worth approximately `72,000 crore, growing at a CAGR of 5% to reach `82,600 crore by 2024. Sony SAB’s market share in the Hindi speaking markets is at 20% this year, says Vyas, up from 9% five years ago. With the new positioning, Vyas is not looking to increase the channel’s market share as much as its reach. The channel will launch a massive TV and digital campaign to showcase its new positioning through three brand films.