"Sab will be among the Top Three Hindi GECs"

From being a copywriter, director to business head, the soft-spoken Anooj Kapoor has worn various hats. But what makes him different from others is the way he manages the work-life balance. He proudly claims that in his more than 20 years of career there has rarely been a day when he has been in office later than 6 pm. Even today, he leaves office at six in the evening and on weekends he switches off from work, unless required. Someone who believes in working hard hasn't forgotten to live to the fullest too…'s Meghna Sharma spoke to the executive EVP and business head of Sab Anooj Kapoor about the channel's current plans,the reason for there being no other channel like Sab and the channel's future plan. Excerpts:


The channel underwent a revamp recently, was it really needed? 

Nothing we do here is what everybody else does, starting from our programming which is totally differentiated from the rest in the GEC space. So, this revamp is not because others have done it too. All we have done is revamped the packaging of the channel. The last revamp was done almost six years ago, and we thought we have had a wonderful growth in the past five years. So we wanted the packaging to be more colourful. We have retained the old colours and added more colours to our package to convey freshness, more audience on the channel as well as more people sitting together to watch our shows. It can convey a lot of things, but essentially, we wanted a fresh look.


You said you are adding more people who are watching your channel. So through the revamp and apps are you targeting youth now? 

Asli maaza sab ke saath aata hai… has stood true for us. The entire family comes together and watches TV. We have a mix of audience, from males, females to kids. We also have a healthy mix of Sec A, B and C. So we are not trying to broad base our TG, it is already 4+.

However, we cannot deny that new things always appeals to people. In the age-group of 4-14, we are the number one channel. In the last TAM rating, we were ahead of Star Plus. In the higher age-group, 15-24, we are fairly strong but we realised there is a need to engage audience on fresher platforms - facebook, comics, SABurbia and other apps. And the age-group after that, we keep appealing through our ads where the whole family comes together.


Our other initiative 'Sab ki Saafari', is also first of its kind. The idea was to get people from smaller towns meet their favourite characters or watch a shoot. Through this initiative we get our loyal audiences to meet their favourite characters and also show them what goes on behind the camera. We have another loyalty program called SABprise wherein the more you watch the channel the more you get rewarded for it. We feel that today it has to be a two-way communication. If they have given us so much and helped us grow 600 per cent in five years then we should also give them something in return.


With the awards season on, when can we get to see Sab ke anokhe awards? 

We are coming back with Sab ke anokhe awards in August. The first round did well for us as we got a rating of 2.8 which I'm not going to compare with other award shows, but for a channel like ours which has a limited reach it is a very healthy rating. It was purely because of the uniqueness of the show. We came up with categories which went beyond the clichéd categories. This time we are going to add even more categories and try to be as anokha as possible. We will be sticking to our strategy of being different and innovative.


What kind of weekend programming does the channel currently have? Any plans to introduce new shows?

Currently, we have two silent comedies on Saturday - Guttur Gu and Malegoan ka Chintu. Guttur Gu has been recognised as the longest running silent show in the world by the Limca Books of Records, and then we have Waah Waah Kya Baat Hai which consistently rates among the top five shows in the non-fictional category on the weekend. So, we have fresh weekend programming. We might add new programs in the future wherein we will look at reality or mix of unique concepts like silent comedy but nothing is crystallised yet.

"We touched our highest rating of 159 in February this year and now with digitisation when we are far better placed"


SAB is the only comedy-centric Hindi GEC, wherein other networks have second GEC channels, why do you think there aren't many players in this genre? 

We are the number one comedy channel in the world. We are the only channel in the world which does daily comedy shows. If you will look at channels like Zee Café or Star World, the sitcoms they have are weekly and have seasons. We have Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah which has done 1200 episodes now, Lapataganj in its first avatar had done 850 episodes and FIR will be touching 1000 soon (in September). So while we have been able to be innovative, we have also done successful programming. All this while we know that there is a limited pool of comedy actors, writer, directors and producers.

Also, before SAB, comedy wasn't seen as an important genre by GECs. We have been able to reign in that limited talent and try to cultivate a few more. With the limited pool I don't think there is enough talent for more than one channel to survive. And secondly, we have a DNA which has gotten us consistent success. There is no doubt that other channels have dabbled into comedy especially after seeing SAB's success, but all the top three or four GECs have not been able to succeed. And, therefore they are apprehensive.


Do you work with a certain set of production houses or open to others as well?


We have always encouraged new producers, but at the same time we have certain set of producers that have consistently worked for us. We also have people who have never done comedy before and doing it successfully for us. For instance, Malegaon ka Chintu is produced by Deepti Bhatnagar Production which hasn't done comedy in the past, Gutur Gu is done by Fireworks who have in the past done CID and Aahat. And of course, we have Asit Modi, JD Majathia, Vipul Shah and Ashwini Dheer. So, we have been able to mix both.


You are also available in the US, UK and Europe, what has been the response there? 

We are extremely popular abroad. In the UK we are the fastest growing channel.

It is a fact that we have created almost 7,000 hours of original programming and when we compare data with other channels dedicated to comedy we are miles ahead of them. From the 70s, since DD started, no channel has claimed or can claim to be the number one channel based out of India but we can!


It's going to be a year now since digitisation took place. How has it helped the channel? 

We have a business model which by definition doesn't afford us very high rates and because we also have to keep our profits in mind, we couldn't place ourselves where top three or four GECs could. This meant, we could not be well placed in the analog. However, with digitisation, we now fall in the GEC cluster. Now our sampling will soar up. We also strongly feel that our trial retention rate is high.


Currently, which are the weak slots that you would like to strengthen?

The difference between manufacturing and television is - that in manufacturing you can perfect a formula whereas in our industry, the same raw material will go to the same factory but the end product sometime works and sometime fails.


Lastly, when do you see Sab among the top three? 

We are well on our way. We have never stopped growing. We touched our highest rating of 159 in February, this year and now with digitisation when we are far better placed, I hope we will one day be among the top three.

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