Sony draws up mega plans for 2004

NEW DELHI: It would be too optimistic to think that Star Plus and the whole Star Network would be dislodged from the top spot in 2004, but the success of Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin on Sony has proved that a change can cause a dent.

So, geared up by the success of Plain Jane Jassi, the Sony Entertainment TV India (SET) team has drawn up some ambitious plans for 2004. That includes launching a new animation channel and making a bid for the telecast rights of cricket matches that are held under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Animation channel Animax, next big launch on Sony platform

A senior executive of SET India gave a sneak preview of the big plans that the company has in store - all aimed at increasing viewership, and subsequently, the revenue.

"We are looking at launching a new animation channel in India to add more variety to the bouquet," the SET executive told, adding that the proposed channel would be called Animax.

Animax, unlike Turner's Pogo, is part of the Sony stable and does exist in some other parts of the world. While the Pogo kids' channel - also slated to debut in 2004 - was especially designed for the Indian market, Animax is being brought to India as a dedicated animation channel, mainly aimed at teenagers.

Cricket action to continue on Sony

However, the launch date has not been finalised, but SET's endeavor would be to definitely put it on the Indian airwaves in 2004. Sony has still not given up on the rights to distribute Disney channels, which may see the light of the day next year.

"If some company says that it has already got Disney in its bag, then go and ask them to show you the papers," the SET executive brazened out, adding that even for the Sri Lanka cricket telecast rights, Sony is still in the fray, contrary claims made to this effect notwithstanding.

With the lessons learnt from the cricket World Cup, held in 2002-'03, SET now wants to make a grab for the telecast rights of the BCCI-held cricket. The five-year contract that BCCI has with India's pubcaster Doordarshan, according to the SET exec, comes to an end sometime in 2004.

"We'll definitely like this Indian cricket property to remain with us. It'll go on to add to what we already have for 2004, including the Champions Trophy (as part of the long term deal signed before the last WC with the ICC)," the Sony executive explained.

Considering that the last deal that BCCI, one of the richest sporting bodies in the world, had signed with DD was to the tune of Rs 2,250 million, Sony is mentally preparing itself for a bid amount that would be on the higher side - Rs 5,000 million. "BCCI is certain to raise the stakes," the SET person said.

But won't cricket rights of BCCI create political problems, if they don't go to pubcaster DD? SET India has a solution for that too: sharing of the telecast.

Pointing out that Sony would have "no problems" if DD too telecast the cricket matches simultaneously, as done selectively during the last World Cup, the SET executive explained, "We don't foresee any problems in sharing the cricket matches with DD. After all, DD would broadcast the matches on a terrestrial mode, while we'd do so through satellite."

And, if all these are not enough, SET is all set to launch more new shows like Jassi, which would help it get a firmer foot hold on the Top 50 list.

"At present, we are working on a host of ideas and, in 2004, some four to five big shows would be launched in the Jassi mould so that more of our programmes get into the Top 50 list," the Sony exec explained.

So, the Sony sonata continues to play on in 2004. Whether it would catch the viewers and advertisers eyes and ears is something that has to be evaluated when the Santa Claus comes round next year.

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