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Guest column: Looking back and beyond

Despite the challenges, Sony Pix managed to chart growth in consumer viewership and reach.

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Mumbai: Looking back, none of us had remotely fathomed the enduring chaos that 2020 would unfold. More than the startling impact of the global pandemic, I believe it was the abruptness of the situation, subsequent lockdowns and the looming uncertainty that caught us off guard. However, though in the face of adversity, the undying human spirit coupled with technology helped us adapt quickly to the disruptive reality. An overwhelming year as this introduced us to the humane side of technology that kept us connected and fastened us to some semblance of stability. 

Undeniably, the impact on businesses was harder. For media and entertainment, the complete halt on shoots and production was a major roadblock, but I feel the hurdles prompted content creators to realign their programming choices, adapt to changing trends and be more accepting of risks. The skyrocketing success of the most iconic shows from the past made headlines, generated viewership growth and reinstated the power of content that engages and inspires. Not only did this lead to a surge in family viewing in 2020 but was key to the 20 per cent increase in daytime viewership including a spike in average time spent on television (as per a BARC –Nielsen Report).

This reassuring response spilled over to niche categories like Infotainment and English movies as well with the latter surging by 95 per cent in non-prime time viewership. To cater to the new set of viewers on Sony BBC Earth and Sony Pix, we introduced afternoon slots and expanded our offerings that opened to positive feedback. Our marketing and programming innovations were driven by this sole intent of being a consumer-first brand and be visible at all touchpoints.

Talking of touchpoints, social media topped that list with a growth of over 87 per cent as per industry estimates (as per Hammerkopf Consumer Snapshot Survey). With more than four hours being spent on the platforms daily post lockdown, social media engagement led brands to explore avenues that would connect across demographics and geographies. Launching AR Filters on Instagram and Facebook and hosting FB Live Workshops for Sony BBC Earth and Sony PIX were reflective of this paradigm shift.

Another pioneering transition was in education, with the surge in digital learning, it opened brands to the benefits of constant engagement and showcasing of more content. Driven by the purpose of offering a holistic experience to young minds and reach more students, we ensured an online presence for our existing school contact programme. This was achieved via a microsite that hosted e-bulletins, recorded videos, live interactions and more. With more than 3.6L pageviews and increasing by the day, this has emerged as an effective delivery mechanism for us, and I believe it is here to stay.

As regards online engagement, Sony Pix hosted an online gaming tournament with around two thousand gamers that fetched more than one million-plus views.

In culmination, from a business standpoint, I feel understanding of audience behaviour, adaptability and innovation were my biggest takeaways of 2020. Despite the challenges, Sony Pix managed to chart growth in consumer viewership and reach.

On a personal level, I hope we remember 2020 not just as a year of impediments but as one that gave us a chance to pause, reflect and rejig our way of life. Forward to 2021, I wish for all to start over with more empathy and awareness towards self and the world at large as we inch towards a year of hope.

(The author is Sony Pictures Networks India English cluster business head Tushar Shah. Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to his views)

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