Television

How Neeraj Vyas is bringing SAB back to the top of the charts

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MUMBAI: Four months ago, Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI) rebranded its 10-year-old comedy channel SAB TV under the leadership of veteran executive Neeraj Vyas.

Vyas, who has been with SPNI for more than two decades and was last seen running the shows of music and movie, was additionally entrusted with rejuvenating the flagging SAB by SPNI CEO NP Singh earlier in February 2017.  This followed the departure of its earlier head Anooj Kapoor.

He humbly admits that running SPNI’s second GEC has been a new experience and he has been learning something new every day.“It has been a very exciting journey. It has opened up my eyes to many realities,” says Vyas who was re-designated as senior VP and head Sab TV.

Being charged with library channels earlier, there was little to experiment but he managed to spike Sony Max and Max 2 to numero uno positions in the movie channel vertical.

“It’s a different world altogether. It’s a world where you have to be deeply connected to the viewer; it’s a genre which matches viewers day by day,” he confesses. “The learning never ends.”

To his good fortune, he has a good bunch of creative pros on his team. Amongst the folks who have come on board after he assumed the mantle figure former Star TV producer Neeraj Vaidya as programming head, and Devika Shivdasani and Shantanu Agarwal as creative directors.

His initial goal was to study and evaluate how SAB can be morphed. He chose to delay its re-launch by a couple of months, which finally happened on 13 June, in order to get it right.

What emerged at the time of reboot was a catchy brand identity ‘Haste Raho India’, lively packaging, vibrant visuals - all targeting a younger demographic.

Explains Vyas: “We had got into the rut of catering to a particular set of audience. Families will remain our core but we wanted to look a little younger and appeal to a younger audience.”

Comic Bollywood actor, the ever so popular and young, Varun Dhawan was signed on as the channel’s brand ambassador to help attract this untargeted demographic. A marketing blitz across the network, print, outdoor and social media followed.

Without jeopardising its long running anchor show Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah, a new bunch of comedy series was unveiled: Tenali Rama, Sajjan Re Phir Jhoot Mat Bolo, and Aadat Se Majboor.

“Taarak is not really a show now, it is beyond being a show; it is a part of our viewers lives. It is our sheet anchor. And yes the new shows have added a new energy to the channel,” says Vyas. “We are focusing on storytelling the way we present our shows, market our shows.”

The efforts seem to be bearing fruit, highlights Vyas, step by step, four months down the line.  “We have had some success and some failures along the way,” he reveals. “Most important and critical is that things have started working for us in the past few weeks. In fact, for a couple of months we have had a very loyal base of youth that has started watching us. Be it male - female, urban - semi urban or small towns, between the ages of 15-20 and 21-30 they have started coming to us.”

All Day

CS 15-21years % contribution for SAB

Regions

Pre branding

Post Rebranding

HSM Urban

18

25

Source: BARC; All Day; Pre branding wk 24-42'16 & Post Rebranding wk 24-42'17

The average ratings of the channel before rebranding was 193 million impressions, which has increased to 212 million impressions, post rebranding.

All Day

SAB TV - Impression in Million

Regions

Pre branding

Post Rebranding

HSM Urban

193

212

source: BARC; CS15+;HSM Urban; All Day Impression in Millions; Pre branding wk 20-23'17 Avg & Post Rebranding wk 24-27'17 Avg

And not just that, even the reach has been on an ascent. At 30 per cent today, it is about 20 per cent higher than the stats before the revamp. “I am happy as everything we set out to do has worked. Perception has changed for the better. Viewer feedback is that they love the new SAB.”

Advertisers too have taken note especially youth centric brands such as Mahindra TUV Three Double O, Patanjali, PC Jewellers, Syska, Vivo, Colgate and Macho have open their wallets and released campaigns on SAB.  “Reach is one factor to get brands but it's also a huge quality change that is attracting them. A lot of youth brands which never considered SAB have all come to the channel,” points out Vyas.

He is quite kicked up about SAB’s upcoming show – Partners —Trouble Ho Gayi Double – which heralds the arrival of veteran comedian Johnny Lever on TV after a 10-year hiatus. The show written and produced by Paritosh Painter also stars comics Kiku Sharda, Vipul Roy, Kishwer Merchant, Shweta Gulati, Ashwini Kalsekar and old timer Asrani. Says Vyas: “We have many exciting thoughts and ideas. Watch out for the way we market the shows and there are many more launches in these 3 months.”

With the weekday programming yielding results, Vyas would now like to crack the weekend. “Most GECs get a lot of reach on the weekends. I would like that for SAB too. We are figuring out what can be the SAB TV weekend but that is work in progress. I don't think spending money is the only way to get the eyeballs. In the long run only great programming will.”

That kind of attitude will serve him well as he and his team gear up to take SAB to the next level.

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