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Programming Insight

"Sony enters the daily soaps war"

(Posted on 18 April, 7:15 pm)

Sony Entertainment Television on Tuesday took a calculated gamble while announcing the launch of two new daily soaps Kkusum and Kahin Diyaa Jale Kahin Jiyaa (KDJKJ), pitting them directly in the line of fire of Star Plus' gameshow Kaun Banega Crorepati.

By targeting the prime time 9 pm to 10 pm band, presently dominated by KBC with superstar Amitabh Bachchan as host, Sony sent out a clear signal that it was confident that the two new programmes were good enough to hold their own against the show which was the driver that took Star to its position of pre-eminence in the channel wars.

Both the soaps premier on Tuesday, 1 May and will be aired on weekdays from Monday to Thursday in a direct head-on with KBC for the first three days of the week. KBC will be thrice a week come May with Thursday's show going off air and a kiddies KBC to be telecast on Sunday mornings.

Balaji creative head Ekta Kapoor (R) says Kkusum starring Naushin Sardar Ali, S.K.Batra and Savita Prabhune is a soap that she closely identifies with and that no efforts have been spared in its production. "The rest is for our viewers to decide," she says.

Kkusum, a Balaji Telefilms production, will air at 9:00 pm while KDJKJ, produced by Karnik Media & Communications, is to be telecast at 9:35 pm.

Sony may also be banking on the fact that with soaps again ruling the roast, KBC, which has seen its ratings steadily slipping, could be delivered the knockout punch if the two shows do as well as is expected. "KBC is not the monster that it once was; it's looking more like a teddy bear," says SET programming head Rekha Nigam.

Speaking about Kkusum, the channel's prized project, Nigam says: "Kusum embodies the quintessential working girl who we see in every city today and with whom many girls would be able to relate to and empathise with."

"The backdrop is a Maharashtrian family," adds Balaji creative director Ekta Kapoor. "The character of Kusum is very close to my heart and I can empathise with her. Kkusum is a very high quality program. We have worked very hard on every aspect of its making. The rest is for our viewers to decide."

KDJKJ on the other hand is a family drama with a strong thread of romance, a theme "untouched in any daily soap as yet," says producer Reena Wadhwa. "It's a poignant story of pain and sacrifice," she says, adding: "while someone celebrates, someone elsewhere is pining away due to unrequited love."

The soap revolves around Rohit Rajvansh played by Mukul Dev a Thakur caught between two women, one who he agrees to have an arranged marriage with and the other who he loves.

Given the strong storylines, Sony is confident of winning over audiences. Investments of between Rs 150,000 to Rs 200,000 are being put behind each episode of both the shows.

"We are not going to speculate on TRPs. Needless to say, we have built in incentives in our contracts with our producers; the higher the TRPs the shows generate, the more they will take home," says Nigam. "I'm looking at viewers getting hooked over five to six episodes of each of the soaps. Currently viewers are crying between 10 pm and 11 pm, with Kkusum and Kahin Diyaa Jale Kahin Jiyaa, they will start sobbing earlier and for longer."

Kahin Diyaa Jale Kahin Jiyaa producer Reena Wadhwa featured here with Mukul Dev says the soap is "a poignant story of pain and sacrifice. While someone celebrates, someone elsewhere is pining away due to unrequited love."

According to SET executive vice-president (Marketing & Sales) Kacon Sethi, sponsors have already signed on for both the soaps. The 10 seconds commercial rate for Kkusum is at about Rs 160,000, while KDJKJ is being sold in the region of 130,000 for 10 seconds. "We have got seven sponsors for Kkusum and six for KDJKJ. Even our advertising spot inventory has been more or less sold out in advance" says Sethi.

Sethi reveals that a major promotional push for Kkusum is on the anvil. "It covers the print media, outdoors and radio," she says. "And it's going to be aggressive."

Interestingly, both the soaps make a foray at a point of time when Amitabh Bachchan anchored KBC is losing its charisma and has slid down to number nine among the country's top ten most watched programme chart.

It should also be noted that Sony has avoided taking on Star Plus' daily soap Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the present number one show, which airs at 10:30 pm as well as the present number two Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki that airs at 10 pm.

The only problem one can foresee is that families will be expected to stay glued to soap based entertainment for a solid two hours every day. And even more because Zee TV is also expected to roll out its extravaganza of daily soaps. Ditto with DD Metro and Sab TV.

Clearly not all of them will attract the same number of eyeballs. This is going to be a mighty slippery soap battle.

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