DD Sahyadri ups programming ante; aims to push profit margin by 2017

MUMBAI: With an aim to shake up the Marathi general entertainment space and completely overhaul its prime time programming, DD Sahyadri is ready to go out all guns blazing with as many as 10 new show launches in November. Of these, nine programmes are in the fiction space, with one in the non-fiction.

Facing stiff competition in the Marathi regional space from private channels like Colors Marathi, Star Pravah, Zee Marathi and Saam TV, the public broadcaster has upped its budget for programming and aims to press the accelerator on revenues and push up its profit margin by 2017.

DD additional director general Mukesh Sharma says, “The first 13 weeks of ratings saw us falling behind the other regional Marathi channels, and it’s high time we up our game and compete with them. They are already way ahead of us when it comes to ratings and viewership, and a revamped prime time slot was the need of the hour if we want to bridge that gap. Since Prasar Bharati has allowed us to spend this much for quality content, we are expecting a lot from the success of these shows.”

The ten shows include Pashanpati, Maati Kokanchi Naati Janmachi, Vachanbaddha, Sangharsh Milanacha, Bantya Televison, Goshta Umaltya Manachi, Anakalniya, Chitrakathi and Sushilecha Dev in the fiction space and Doosri Bajoo in the non-fiction space.

Speaking to on what these new launches mean for the Marathi television ecosystem from an advertiser’s perspective, a veteran industry analyst opines, “I hope they get a sizeable chunk of the viewership and shake up the ecosystem, as the Marathi regional television space is in need of just that.”

“Marathi regional television space being one of the most expensive to buy for advertising, DD Sahyadri’s presence helps to moderate that cost to a decent level. So far BARC data does not count the non-C&S (Cable & Satellite) viewers that DD Sahyadri largely caters to. If they somehow grab eyeballs and grow their C&S viewership base, which in turn helps their ratings, then I see advertisers inclining towards DD Sahyadri,” he shares.

BARC India’s inclusive ratings with rural data could come as a welcome change for a regional channel such as DD Sahyadri as it splits the viewer base into the metro and hinterland viewer, with the rural one being so far unaccounted for. This poses as an opportunity for the channel to yank its ratings northwards, by grabbing eyeballs with new and revamped content on its prime time band.

Sharma adds, “I believe that the millions of Marathi viewers always look forward to seeing quality content, engaging stories and connect instantly with the deeply rooted cultural ethos of Maharashtra. This is for the first time that we have launched new shows in this (Satellite 8 t0 10 pm) prime time band and we look forward that all the new shows will not only entertain the audience but as a responsible broadcaster, our programming content must also attempt to create awareness about pertinent social issues.”

However, the new show launches are not the result of a knee jerk reaction by the channel in response to the BARC India ratings. “We were lacking new solid shows that will retain attention of viewers in the prime time slot, as our stronghold has always been the terrestrial audience. The foundation for introducing new prime time shows was laid about a year ago, which sees its completion today,” Sharma informs.

Sharma also points out that DD Sahyadri never pitched for advertising revenue for the prime time slot as they are still largely dependent on ad revenues from FMCG sponsors like Unilever, Godrej, etc which are still keen to spend on advertising on the pubcaster's non-C&S viewership.

In fact, the  DD network offers a volume incentive scheme for its advertisers that allows any brand which spends over Rs 10 crore to be entitled to a certain percentage of free advertising. Unilever, the network’s biggest sponsor’s with Rs 100 crore advertising spends, enjoy 28 per cent bonus air time, according to industry sources.

However, Sharma says that the base advertising revenue from its terrestrial platform is now shrinking to three to four per cent of the total. “So this time I thought we should concentrate on satellite programs. That was the reason for going all out and spending on high quality content and launching 10 shows at once,” he informs.

Speaking of spends, Sharma shares that the cost of production for the new launches is above Rs 2 lakh per episode on an average. “I am not looking for a program that will give me money for a short time. I am looking for something with a long shelf life. Better produced shows also give scope for dubbing them into other regional languages, which will in turn give us more viewership,” he informs.

When asked about the advertisers’ response to the All India BARC ratings, Sharma says it is too early to comment. “We have our fingers crossed over DD’s jump in BARC ratings in week 41 and 42, because cricket was airing at that time. DD National, being an FTA (free to air) provider of the sports entertainment, naturally got more eyeballs. If DD National continues to retain its position in the next two weeks, we certainly expect a positive reaction from the advertisers,” says Sharma.

With the pubcaster having a certain threshold on budgets, DD Sahyadri has limited resources to its disposal for marketing and promoting its new launches. Having said that, the channel is taking largely to social media for promotions as well as print media (national and regional). Apart from this, DD Sahyadri plans to put up hoardings and use its own channels to spread the word.

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