You cannot programme only for ratings: Sony SAB's Neeraj Vyas

The channel is expanding its content repertoire by launching a new show 'Dharm Yoddha Garud' on 14

Mumbai: Hindi GEC Sony SAB is expanding its repertoire of shows by launching a new mythological drama show called “Dharm Yoddha Garud” on 14 March. Apart from being a magnum opus for the channel, the show is expected to be a trendsetter on Indian television with a unique storyline, compelling use of virtual production and technology, and a budget that could rival the production of a blockbuster film.  

A first look of the show was unveiled on Monday during a press conference attended by Sony Pictures Networks India MD and CEO NP Singh, Sony SAB business head Neeraj Vyas, head of marketing for Sony SAB, PAL and Sony Max movie cluster head Vaishali Sharma, Sony SAB head of programming Prashant Bhatt and producer Illusion Reality Studioz founder Abhimanyu Singh.

The visual effects and animation are created using world class technology and a world class team that leveraged eight technologies used extensively in high budget motion pictures and AAA video game titles. Some of the technologies used are MetaHuman Creator – a body capture technology that can create photorealistic digital humans, Unreal Engine – a real time 3D creation tool for photoreal visuals used for background and XSens – a 3D motion capture technology.

“The game is no longer about channels. Access to video content is unprecedented and we are competing with every screen and not just what is there on channels,” said NP Singh, addressing the media.

“We believe in putting out differentiated content because with so much content being available across so many screens, henceforth, whatever you put out has to be interesting for somebody to put in the time to watch it,” said Neeraj Vyas to “When we decided to do mythology, we wanted to move away from the comedy perception that people have of the brand obviously because of shows like ‘Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah.’ Every show that we’ve done in the last two years, whether it is ‘Wagle Ki Duniya,’ ‘Bhakharwadi,’ ‘Kaatelal & Sons’ or ‘Maddam/Sir’ each one of them is differentiated. It's not like I’m doing five love stories.”

Adding further, he said, “I was very clear that we don’t want to tell stories of Krishna, Hanuman or Ganesha which have been done to death. ‘Garud’ is a story that has never been told in films, digital and definitely not on TV.  Similar to ‘Bahubali’ it is a story that people will not know of. We wanted to tell an untold story, with compelling emotions and ensure that we had the technology to say it.

Vyas recalled, “We started talking about ‘Garud’ in January 2021 and it has taken us more than a year to put it together. We knew it would take a lot of time to create because we were learning the technology and rendering the graphics takes time. ‘Bahubali’ took four years to make, we will be releasing 24-minute episodes every day. This is the most expensive show we’ve made and we’ve commissioned 230 episodes or one year’s worth of content.”

“With this show, I’ve realised that Indian mythology is endless. This country can create ten ‘Game of Thrones’. I’m definitely sold on the fantasy genre. Today, you cannot programme only for ratings. There is a wider audience that craves a variety of content and you need to serve them as well. According to me, you can’t just survive with ‘saas bahu’ dramas. You have to keep evolving, keep trying and push the envelope,” he noted.

Sony SAB has become the top second channel in the Hindi speaking market (Urban, 2+) as per Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) in the last eight months. “We’re largely seen as an urban channel and focused on the urban markets i.e, one million plus towns. But this show has the potential to attract a mass viewership,” remarked Vyas. “We do considerably fewer hours and content and don’t do any large format reality shows on Sony SAB. Not because we can’t do it but because, how much of singing and dancing reality shows can you do? We’d rather focus on what we do well rather than make another make another me too.”

Speaking about the marketing for the show, Vaishali Sharma told, “There are many dimensions to the show and the way we positioned it. It is a mythological drama from one perspective but it is also a show about family ties and exciting use of technology. For us the challenge was to take the story and make it appeal to A) the family and B) audiences in metro, tier 1, 2, 3 cities. We leveraged digital to build on the storytelling and technology and customized a lot of messaging across age groups. We travelled to tier 2, 3 cities where there would be appeal for mythology and used a lot of outdoor and ambient branding. We did not do a typical activation where you go and do engagement because it is still post pandemic and because marketing is evolving. We wanted to build an aura around the show and make people look at the big picture.”

The channel has roped in Dollar and Rajnigandha as sponsors for the show.

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