Entertainment Television (Set) is fighting back. Reeling
from the loss of audiences to the huge runaway success of
Star Plus' Kaun Banega Crorepati, it has rolled out seven
new shows, has juggled around with its FPC, and has plans
to have more film star based events on its channels.
ain't seen nothing yet," says CEO Kunal Dasgupta. "This
is just a start, there's lots more coming viewers' way.
Read my lips: we are going to recapture our market."
Dasgupta and his men are drawing up a corporate blueprint
for Sony Entertainment Television. Says Dasgupta: "I am
looking for business growth in three major revenue streams:
free to air television advertising sales, pay television
subscription and theatrical distribution and production
Its first major foray outside its core television business
and into Hindi movies is commencing with the launch of Mission
Kashmir - a film it is distributing internationally. The
movie is slated to premier in October 2000 in both New York
and London. Two other movies are in the process of being
"We would like to produce 10 films a year," says COO Rajesh
Pant whose been given the responsibility of steering Sony
Entertainment into new businesses, the foremost of which
is theatrical distribution.
Dasgupta says that the Hindi movie business could end up
being as big as Sony's television business is today. "It
would be in the region of Rs 3-4 billion a year. We have
to ramp up to this level."
The company does not have a presence in cable TV, as compared
to the market leader Zee TV which owns Siticable. But Dasgupta
does not believe that it is a disadvantage. He has cobbled
together a bouquet of channels, which are being distributed
by Sony Entertainment in order to create a pay TV package
and make India's errant cable operators pay.
Currently, it is chalking up revenues of $10 million per
annum from its pay TV business. In the bag are channels
such as CNBC India, AXN, Set Max. It is handling both the
distribution and ad sales for the three channels, a kind
of model which it maintains it will follow.
Set Max, an events, sports and movies channel is the most
recent of its additions as it was encrypted in July 2000.
Some 1,700 decoders have been placed in the marketplace
giving it a penetration of 2.3 million homes. "We want to
take this up to 4,000 boxes within the next couple of months,"
AXN on the other hand has a claimed 2.5 million paying subscribers
- that is cable operators are claiming that figure as their
subscriber base when they are making payments to the Sony
distribution team. CNBC has a penetration of 1 million with
cable operators paying between Rs 3 and Rs 5 depending on
the subscriber base they are disclosing, reveals Pant. 720
boxes for the business channel have been activated.
"We are working on our pay TV plans hard and are in talks
with several programmers," says Dasgupta. "The market for
international product is opening up in India. We see another
three or four channels joining our package," adds Pant.
He expects pay TV operations to pitch in with Rs 1.5 billion
in revenues in the next three years.
both Sony and Star TV India are believed to be the front
runners to distribute the Disney channel in India. Disney
has been hovering around on the sidelines of the Indian
television market for nearly half a decade without talking
the full plunge with a 24 hour channel.
it terminated its programming contract with Zee TV on which
it used to air two hour long morning and evening animation
programming bands. It opted for Sony Entertainment Television
instead. The network is looking at really creating a lot
of hype around these two bands in the next two months, and
will even fly viewers to Disneyland every week should they
win the contest. "Disney animation is extremely popular
in India and we are serious about taking the maximum out
of it and make it a big viewing option," says Dasgupta.According
to him the standoff for the Disney distribution contract
is sometime away but he is going to ensure that Sony will
be at forefront when it happens.
On the international front, Sony Entertainment is looking
at foraying into newer markets teeming with pockets of people
of Indian origin. It already has a presence in the UK, is
getting ready for a launch in the US, is aiming for Africa,
is already viewed in Malaysia. On the roadmap are possible
forays into Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.
Pant says the stellar performance has been in the UK, where
it is being sold along with Bollywood music and film channel
B4U as a package on the BskyB platform and on cable systems.
"We are at 12,000 subscribers last year around this time
and we were falling," he says. "This year we are at 62,000
and climbing rapidly. It has been phenomenal growth." 25,000
subscribers are on cable and 37,000 on the DTH package with
B4U. As against this Zee is at some 130,000 subscribers
in the UK.
While some people credit the super showing to the slick
new movies that B4U brings to the table because of co-promoters
Kishore Lulla and Bharat Shah, Dasgupta says Sony is attracting
audiences too because of its well-packaged programming.
The channel is expected to do a soft relaunch in the US
in September on the Echostar platform after the Ethnic American
Broadcasting Corp went bust. "We have been freed from EABC
and now are on our own and being distributed with Zee TV,
TV Asia among, other channels as part of the Asian package,"
A foray is expected into south Africa too on the Multichoice
platform. In Malayasia, it is on Measat's Astro service
and Pant, says Sony should sing up 20,000 subscribers at
about $3 each to start with. "We would like to build it
up to 100,000," he points out.
Dasgupta and Pant and his team will have to work hard on
building up the mother channel Sony Entertainment Television.
The channel which had been leading the viewing sweepstakes
until June has slipped to the number two spot after the
stellar success of the Indianised version of Who wants to
be a millionaire? (Kaun Banega Crorerpati -KBC) on Star
Plus. The show has raced to the top of the ratings chart.
And it is attracting viewers to soaps before and after it
as they are getting in and staying on to munch on the fare.
Agrees Dasgupta: "KBC has been a major success. We are cutting
back our revenue target to Rs 6.5 billion from Rs 7.5 billion
set earlier. Imagine how much it will impact Zee TV."
Nevertheless, he is doing something about it. A couple of
new game format shows are to be launched before the year
is out. "Game shows had not done well in the country before
until Star Plus showed what they could do with KBC," reveals
Dasgupta. "We did not want to take the risk then. We will
take the plunge soon."
But more than that Sony will sport an entire new entire
fixed point chart come September. Seven new series have
been announced - ranging from comedy to soaps mythological
shows (Shree Ganesh produced by Creative Eye on the elephant
God). Event-based shows focusing on film stars like Bollywood
heart throb Hrithik Roshan,the Deol family and actresses
renowned for their dancing prowess have been planned.
The 9 pm to 10 pm slot has almost been vacated with lesser
known series being aired then. A revamp of the Indianised
Jay Leno Movers and Shakers is also on the anvil. The time
slot has been pushed back to 10:40 pm. "There will be bigger
stars on the show, the sets will be bigger," says Dasgupta.
"This is going to be a show to watch."
The channel is also upping its promotional budget to about
Rs 250 million this year. "Our marketing spends are going
to go up," says Dasgupta. "We've got our programming line
up in place. From matinee soaps through the day, we move
on to the kids band in the evening then onto light entertainment
late evening and finally heavy entertainment late at night.
Our viewers are loving the channel. Yes we were No 1 in
ratings, and now Star has moved us back to the No 2 spot,
but we will fight back."
Dasgupta reveals that the network is also on the verge of
signing on a programming head to replace Ravina Raj Kohli
who left to head Kerry Packer's Channel Nine India operations.
The buzz is that it could be a former agency creative director
who had made a mark with her focus on linguistic copywriting.
The channel has also lost close to 40 employees in recent
times. "But we have also hired strongly on the creative
front. And we have built up a strong management team on
top," says Dasgupta.
The Internet strategy for the Indian operations has been
scaled back. Earlier, Dasgupta had talked of acquiring portals
and building up a strong Sony India Web frontier with lots
of investments being poured in. Now the decision has been
taken to put minority investments in the business and only
as part of the overall Sony Worldwide portal.
"I'm very bullish," says Dasgupta. "We are going to do well.
I'm looking at a revenue of Rs 10 billion by 2002, going
up to Rs 30 billion by 2005. Sony Entertainment will be
an Indian entertainment powerhouse then."
reveals its 2000 Entertainment bonanza
has revealed a plethora of entertainment programmes called
CHOODIYAN: This is a heart rendering story of a girl
overcome by the grief of a diasaster which struck her mother.Since
then she has the mind of a child and is completely taken
care of by her brother.
HAAL KAISA HAI JANAB KA: In a twist to the normal
hospital environment, this serial is based on the day to
day of a hospital where everyone is having a good time and
where everyone is quite different from what you would normally
expect from a hospital staff.
MILAN: The serial is about a girl, Chanchal who is
caught between family ties and her love.With shades of the
clash between tradition and following one's feelings, the
serial promises good family entertainment.
DIL HAI KI MANTA NAHIN: Dil hai ki manta nahin is
a serial targetted at the young college crowd with the two
main characters of the serial being a chirpy 19 year old
extrovert girl, Priya and her classmate an introverted shy
This is a mythological serial about the story of Ganesha,
the most popular, auspicious and loved god of India.With
Ganesh Chaturti fast approaching, this serial promises
to attract a lot of interest.
GOOD MORNING DISNEY & DISNEY HOUR: These two
new shows being telecast with collaboration from Disney
will surely woo over cartoon crazy kids. Previously telecast
by Zee TV, Sony seems to have taken care of its young audiences.
DUNIYA HAI RANGEEN:
Reminding us of a bygone era of chawls and 'Nukkad',
this serial is about overzealous neigbours who all come
from various corners of India but share the same desire-Gossip.
A hilarious and entertaining serial which will surely
remind you of some of your own neighbours.
SHAHEEN: After Heena's tremendous popularity especially
with the middle east crowds, Sony seems to have once again
captured the attention of this section of the society by
launching one more serial about a women of Muslim background
who finds herself in a strange game of fate.