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'Our primetime viewership has increased 78%, revenues by 400%' : Purnendu Bose - Sahara One Television COO

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After joining Sahara One Television in April last year as COO, Purnendu Bose has been able to steer the channel through a period of growth and turnaround. Bose has been responsible for Sahara One Television's new fresh look and content.

Bose was also a part of the team that launched Radio City, Star News and Hungama TV.

Under his leadership, Sahara One has seen an almost 400% jump in revenues and a 78 per cent rise in primetime viewership. In this interview with Indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara, Bose speaks about cricket, the new shows lined up on the channel and more...

Excerpts:

Let's start with the current hot topic of cricket. What do you expect cricket to do for the channel?



With cricket we found a lot of synergy. First of all, rival channels do not carry our ads and the second thing is that housewives don't read newspapers. And cricket is religion in our country. With cricket we hope to increase the sampling of the channel and it has all the ingredients -- drama, excitement, highs and low -- that we aim to offer viewers with our soaps.

Apart from this, post cricket, our viewership in prime time has gone up by 78 per cent.

How much has the switch of Sahara One signal to Filmy impacted the connectivity of the channel considering the fact Filmy has just launched?



There is no loss of connectivity post the switching of signals. We have encrypted our channel and in fact we have almost 99 per cent connectivity in Tam towns. Earlier it was 94 per cent. We just had 48 hours to do the needful and the team did a fantastic job of ensuring availability of the channel across the country.

Since you have encrypted your channel, are there any plans of going pay?



Going pay is very much on our agenda but not immediately. Maybe in the next six - seven months, we will go pay.

Your afternoon band has completely gone off with cricket coming in. Doesn't that bother you since after cricket gets over, it will have to be brought back and viewers may not come back?



Our afternoon band comprised repeats of our primetime shows - Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki, Hare Kaanch Ki Choodiyan and Kituu Sabb Jantii Hai. We did not have an afternoon band where we showed other new soaps. Now with cricket on, our loyal viewers are watching those shows on primetime. When cricket does get over in April, we are sure that they will come back to our channel in the afternoon.

How is cricket being used to build other properties of the channel? One of the things one would expect would be to make a big noise around a new or existing property during this time?



We already have our key leading ladies from our primetime shows in an ad campaign around cricket. That is being aired on our channels (Sahara One and Filmy) and we also have online ads on the same theme. Apart from that, we keep promoting these shows during the match ad breaks.

As far as launching new shows is concerned, we do have a few in the pipeline, which will go on air in April - May. These are fiction shows and are tentatively titled Sati and Kya Socha. Sati is most likely to replace Buniyaad when it ends its run in May.

How would you define 2005 for Sahara One in terms of the programming and marketing initiatives taken? How much has the channel grown in the last one year in terms of viewership and revenues?



Last year has been good for us in terms of programming. We had success with our shows like Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki, Hare Kaanch Ki Choodiyan, Kituu Sabb Jantii Hai and Kohinoor. Buniyaad is also doing well on the channel. As I already mentioned, our primetime viewership has increased by 78 per cent. On the other hand, our revenues have increased by 400 per cent. We have more than 260 advertisers on board. Clients are also seeing value in our programming and hence are advertising more with us.

Recently we have divided our programming into two blocks and moved away from classifying shows as fiction and non-fiction. The first time band we will focus on will be the 7 pm - 9 pm one and the second will be from 9 pm - 11 pm.

These two time bands will be overseen by two programming heads. Naina Toor Singh will be looking after the 7 - 9 pm band and for the time being, I will be looking after the 9 - 11 pm band -- until we find a replacement for Kumud (Chowdhary).

What was the reason behind bringing about this change?



It's quite simple. Viewers don't classify shows as fiction or nonfiction They focus more on the timings of the shows that they want to watch or are interested in. Our aim will be to look at programming from the viewers' eyes.

Hence we will be looking at strengthening programming in these time slots. That's where our new shows will also come in a couple of months.

Apart from 'Sati' and 'Kya Socha', another property will be the game show 'Mission Ek Crore' with Sanjay Dutt as host. When is it likely to launch and how is the production progressing?



We will launch Mission Ek Crore some time around the end of April or beginning May. The initial plan was to launch it before the end of this fiscal year. But we have stalled it. One of the main reasons behind this is that we first want to build our programming lineup in the 9 to 11 pm time band.

Currently we have Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki, Kittu Sabb Jaanti Hai and re-runs of Virasaat and Kadam in this time band. We will be introducing new shows and once that is done, we will launch Mission Ek Crore.

After the launch of Filmy, how much importance will the movie band on Sahara One hold? Will the premiers be on Filmy now? Would you take off movies from Sahara One and place shows in the weekend or will movies remain a part of the weekend lineup?



Movies are an integral part of our weekend lineup and they will continue to remain so. We have introduced the concept of multiple premiers wherein the movie will be premiered on Sahara One at 12.30 pm and on Filmy at 3.30 pm and then again on Sahara One at 7.30 pm. So we will be airing the movie premier three times in a day. It's on the model of a film airing in a theater at different time slots. The idea is that maximum number of people can watch it at whatever time is suitable for them.

In the GEC space where would you rate Sahara One and why?



Let the viewers say the same. Recently we did a survey with 2000 general entertainment TV viewers across five cities. And they personified Sahara One Television as the Abhishek Bachchan of Indian television - a star with the potential of becoming a super star. That's how viewers rate us. And this is a strong endorsement and a matter of satisfaction for us.

What has contributed to the growth at Sahara One in the last one year?



It's not one big thing that matters, but doing thousands of small things behind ever big decision, separates the winners from the others. It is a team effort that has resulted in the change we see on the channel.

I'll attribute this to the programming, on-air promos, off air marketing, sales and distribution of the channel. The program strategy of women are real on Sahara One, we have consciously stayed away from stereotypical programs and portrayed the real women that we see all around us.

The on-air promos strategy has been cutting edge to the brief with simple and crisp messages communicating the channel differentiator. Marketing has burnt the mid night oil to evolve below the line strategies / activities to increase sampling and using mass media to reinstate the differentiator and driving traffic to the channel.

Sales backed it up with exceptional revenue growth, through innovation thus creating value for money for advertisers leading to over 260 brands advertising with the channel resulting in a 425 per cent growth, in last six months over the first six months of this fiscal. Distribution ensured that we are available in over 96 per cent of 60 million cable viewing homes. All being a team effort.

Despite the fact that individual shows are doing well on the channel, why does it not reflect in the ratings?



We have seen an improvement in ratings over the last few months. But the reason why ratings of shows that are doing well are not reflected remains a mystery to us.

Sahara One was due to launch in the UK before the end of this fiscal. Has that happened as yet?



No, we have not yet launched in the UK. We want to ensure that we launch in this market with the best partner in order to ensure the maximum reach of the channel from the very beginning. We are in active talks with leading potential distributors which we would close shortly. We will be looking at launching Sahara One there in early 2007, not before that.

How is the channel faring in the US?



We have got a good response from our viewers in the US. We get letters from all over the States. In the first six months, we have close to 70,000 subscribers there.

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