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Sony Pal: Where original shows failed; old shows did the turnaround

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MUMBAI: It started off with an aim to target those whose hands controlled the small black device that runs the idiot box. In its bid to win over women, Multi Screen Media (MSM) made a move by launching a third GEC – Sony Pal, under its bouquet to scale up its popularity amongst the core general entertainment TV audience.

However, MSM’s six-month-old off spring did not see its vision being fulfilled for long. In February this year, the channel canned its quota of original shows. The reason was the failure of a few of its shows to connect with the heart of its target audience.

Interestingly, what followed post the closure of the original content went unnoticed. When Pal decided to do away with its new shows, MSM made a smart move by revamping the channel with some of the best shows from its other channels like Sony Entertainment Television (SET) and Sab to keep the flanking channel alive.

If one were to connect the dots here, it can be noted that the channel had sent notices to the producers working on the channel to stop shooting from 13 February this year. Post that, Pal had a different story to tell.

When Indiantelevision.com scanned through the ratings of the channel pre and post the ‘so-called’ revamp, it was noted that before the revamp, on an average the channel recorded 25-30 million GVTs. Post the revamp; in the week 8 of TAM TV ratings (15 – 21 February, 2015), it generated 39 million GVTs.

Courtesy of shows like Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, Saas Bina Sasural, Parvarrish – Kuchh Khattee Kuchh Meethi, Kuch Toh Log Kahenge, FIR and Comedy Circus Jubilee amongst others. Since then, the channel has been consistently delivering numbers between 45-49 million GVTs on an average.

A media planner believes that the move made by the network was an interesting one. “Pal decided to get those shows onto the channel, which worked for Sony and Sab, further bringing in the visibility for those shows. These programmes were once the shining stars for the respective channels until other big channel’s different concepts came into picture, which worked. These series were loved by the audiences and somehow the content still relates to the core TG and is thus still being able to deliver decent numbers despite being a repeat,” the executive opines.

Another media expert asserts, “Once upon a time, Sony had a strong base of loyal viewers who enjoyed watching shows, which had a powerful storyline and Pal decided to get those programmes on-board. With this move, the old viewers have switched back again to Pal, who otherwise don’t go on the main GEC, SET for their own reasons. Sony’s experiments with differentiated content have not paid off so far and we hope when Pal revamps, it keeps its core TG’s expectations in mind.”

What failed?

Launched with a tagline – ‘Yeh Pal Hamara Hai,' it targeted the 'traditional, yet modern' Indian woman.

A media analyst explains that Pal had positioned itself incorrectly. “If the channel claims that it targets the housewives, it should have experimented in the afternoon slots. This would have given Pal many reasons to rejoice. Firstly, visibility, secondly, it would have been the only channel in the GEC space running original content in the afternoon slot and thirdly, good advertisers also would have come in who otherwise don’t have options to put in bucks apart from prime-time and other demanding slots.”

The analyst further goes on to say that in the initial six months, Pal should have seen the response from the audiences and then build up its prime-time slots.

It can be further noted that, even though MSM is trying to target the GEC audience that has been addressed by other Hindi channels so far, the brief for Pal’s programming was decidedly different. The content was designed in a way to be different from what a GEC usually portrays, sans villains.

The channel had also signed up a brand ambassador in keeping with the theme - actor and co-owner of Indian Premier League franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders, Juhi Chawla, who was involved in promoting the channel through appearances in activations and on television.

Apart from launching shows in the prime-time slot and weekend offerings, Pal had got on-board Raveena Tandon for a talk show and a game show with only women as participants.

The channel had series like Simply Baatein produced by GR8 Entertainment and anchored by Raveena Tandon, Dil Hain Chotasa Choti Si Asha, produced by SOL Productions and hosted by Ragini Khanna and Jay Soni, Shashi Productions’ Ek Rishta Aisa Bhi, Miloni Films’ Khushiyon Ki Gullakh Aashi¸ Singhasan Battisi by Creative Eye, Pia Basanti Re by Rashmi Sharma and Pawan Kumar, Tum Sath Ho Jab Apne produced by Sphere Origins, Sister Didi by DJ’s Creative Unit and Yeh Dil Sun Raha Hain by Balaji Telefilms.

Sony Pal's highest rated programme was Sinhasan Battisi that rated 190 TVTs in its opening week. Ek Rishta Aisa Bhi with 103 TVTs followed behind.

If one were to observe Pal’s viewership ratings, its run so far has been comparable to Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited’s (Zeel’s) Zindagi, which was launched in June last year. However, while Zeel positioned it as a mass premium channel, Pal was positioned as a mainstream GEC. Both the channels recorded 25-30 million viewers per week.

Pal now features in the genre which has archive content and is thus competing with Zee’s Zee Anmol, Star India’s Star Utsav and Colors’ Rishtey. The ratings of these channels vary anywhere between 60 to 80 million over a week.

A step back

Shutting six months old operations definitely requires courage, especially after a substantial amount of investment was pumped into it.

According to an industry source, the investment in the channel could be anywhere close to Rs 90 - 110 crore, including marketing spends. Ad rates for a 10-sec slot were estimated to be approximately Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000.

It can be recalled that Sony Pal and Sab senior EVP and business head Anooj Kapoor had earlier said that one of the reasons for the failure of Pal was lack of proper distribution strategy. The channel was not optimally present everywhere at the time of launch, which obviously affected the initial sampling. The fact that, in the digital space, the channel was about 15 LCNs (local channel numbers) away from the leading Hindi GECs made it worse. For the audiences to locate, sample and actually break a habit of viewing other shows was an uphill task.

For a better distribution, Kapoor had stated that the network would plug in the learnings from the core TG when it brought in fresh programming. Moreover, if the channel has already hit a certain threshold, then the investment will also be poured, as that is required to plug in the distribution gaps.

With all the given circumstances, namely incorrect positioning, content not up to the mark and minimal distribution working against the channel, the industry thought it would not survive for long. However, all speculations came to rest when Kapoor issued a statement revealing that the channel will be back with a better plan and content strategy.

“Sony Pal was launched five months ago subsequent to which the channel carried out extensive research. Basis the research, the channel is in the process of realigning its content strategy. Sony Pal has achieved extensive distribution as a pay channel and will continue to be an important asset for the MSM Network,” read the press statement.

Until the time that the channel is back with a fresh line-up of shows, MSM had come up with a strategy to put Pal on Prasar Bharati’s free-to-air (FTA) digital platform DD Freedish.

Moreover, it had added shows from SET and Sab on Pal to attract audiences from the Freedish market. Kapoor earlier stated that the idea on Pal was to get a certain threshold level of ingredients and get in fresh and original programming again.

It can be noted that, in the repeat format today, Star Utsav from the Star India stable, gets 67 per cent of its ratings from Freedish and Kapoor’s understanding was that if Pal wants to reach anywhere near to those figures, it had to get onboard Freedish.

Now it remains to be seen how the upcoming revamp strategy helps to build the channel.

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