Sony Pal was launched by the then Multi Screen Media (now Sony Pictures Network) on 1st September, 2014 as a third GEC to their existing bouquet of the network’s flagship Sony Entertainment Television (SET India) and Sony SAB. This channel was launched to cater the women audience in the country as the other two GECs cater mostly metro and family audience. In this post I will discuss about the launch of Sony Pal, why it failed and how in 2016 is the forerunner to become India’s No.1 FTA (Free to Air) channel.
Why Sony Pal was launched
To understand any event, the root cause because of which the event had occurred must be understood. Sony Pal was launched by MSM with a core TG (Target Group) of 15 – 34 year old women in SEC B C D and E too in Hindi Speaking Markets in the country.
SET India, MSM’s flagship Hindi GEC mainly caters metro audience (towns and cities with population over 1 million) in SEC A B and C segments. Shows like CID, Kuch Rang Pyaar Ke Aise Bhi, Crime Patrol, Suryaputra Karn, etc.… makes the channel skewed to the urban male and female population.
Sony SAB, a 24-hour comedy-centric Hindi GEC is mainly positioned to target family based audience in both metro and non-metro cities. They have catered huge fan base among kids too with their shows like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (entertaining since 8 years) and Baalveer (show made specifically for a child audience at a prime time of 8pm Mon-Fri).
By its market segmentation strategy the major sector, which MSM stable misses out is the women audience. Women constitute the major TV watching population in India, thanks to our old age customs of women not allowed to work, making TV their only entertainment purpose to kill their free time (if they have… Actually they work more than any working male member of the family 365 days a year).
Sony Pal was launched by keeping women as their core TG, aged between 15-34 years in SEC B C D and E segments of different geography, psychology and human ecology. SET India has not been able to cater women audience from various segments onto their channel except for some shows like Jassi Jaise Koi Nahi, Kuch to Log Kahenge, Bade Acche Lagte Hai, etc… or reality shows like Dus Ka Dum (Salman Khan as host which had propelled SET India to No.3 position at that time).
Women audience is the most important sector in TV audience in India for which most FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies (Shampoo, Soaps, Wheat, Rice, etc.…) set a separate advertising budget which depends from company to company to advertise on channels which cater women audience. Secondly, coming to the point of women audience, there are large populations of women audience in the North India (UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, etc.…) which accounts for more time spend on TV; SET India’s content is not able to meet the needs of these audiences.
With Sony Pal they were capable to target audiences from almost all segments in the country without affecting the viewership base of its sister channels. Equally, we recognize that every broadcaster is in a fray to launch their second GEC (Star’s Life OK (Success); ZEE’s &TV (achieved initial success)) whereas Sony had a second mainstream GEC way before the other two broadcasters. But Star Plus and ZEE TV’s core TG are women; Sony misses out there as it doesn’t have a mainstream GEC catering women audience. Combined GRPs of all channels from the same network for a particular language gives them a more serious edge over other networks to place themselves as the best network; thereby moving a good bargain with the advertisers. In the Hindi GEC space Star India accounts for approximately 40% of the total viewership followed by SPN and ZEEL group neck to neck fight for second spot with around 20% apiece. The next contender in the list is Viacom 18 with around 12-15%.
A killer logo and tagline
The logo is rather dissimilar from its other sister channels. The broadcaster for the first time has brought in its channel name stylized in Hindi as SONY पल which may be a little matter to take down but says more that what it is. It will help the channel to position itself different from its peers.
They launch the channel with the tagline “Yeh Pal Hamara Hai” which signifies “The moment is ours”. The network says that it won’t be a generic promise, unlike seen on other GECs but it will deliver content based on socioeconomic evolution in the country, perspective change in the families about girl child and her ambition to succeed different from what is shown in various other women centric shows in the GEC space.
The logo also has sports a brilliant pink colour which reflects positivity on which the channel stands on. They assure to deliver content which has a positive message stored in it without villains. The channel believes that in today’s Indian society women don’t fight against negative characters due to the unique form of bonding between the members of the family, but today’s women fight against any specific problems with a positive attitude to win. The content was designed in a way that today’s young women find it relatable to their personal life.
The channel had roped Juhi Chawla, former Miss India (1984) as the brand ambassador to promote the channel during its launch. They found Juhi Chawla as the best bet as an ambassador for their channel as she was a successful actress, producer, mother, wife and a businesswoman; these characters reflect on their motto to serve the modern women but still traditional by their culture.
Fiction line-up designed by Sony Pal for its launch
The channel was launched with six half-a-hour running six days a week. SPN had tied up with renowned producers from the industry to pitch content with a positive message and thinking about its audience.
I have listed down the shows below
- Sinhasan Battisi
- It is a tale of a king (Bhoja) who tries to convince the 32 angels that he is the most capable to ascend the throne of King Vikramaditya.
- The show was designed by Creative Eye productions, who is a famous producer, producing shows since the Doordarshan era.
- Tum Saath Ho Jab Apne
- The main concept of the story is of a mother and a daughter who fight the odds such that the young girl achieves her dreams.
- Produced by Sphere Origins of the Balika Vadhu(Colors TV) and Gangaa(&TV) fame.
- Ek Rishta Aisa Bhi
- The main concept of the story is of the “Jija-Saali” relation. The plot revolves around a girl who keeps a condition that she will marry the man who accepts her sisters too.
- Produced by Shashi Sumeet Productions of the Diya Aur Baati Hum (Star Plus) fame.
- Hamari Sister Didi
- The story revolves around a young widow who runs the hospital (husband’s dream) as the head nurse.
- Adapted (Hawthrone) by DJ’s Creative Unit of the Left Right Left (SAB TV) fame.
- Khushiyon Kii Gullak Aashi
- A story of a girl who longs for parental love which she tries to find with her new parents.
- Produced By Miloni Flims.
- Piya Basanti Re
- Story revolving around a girl who believes in hard work and dedication to achieve in life which is not inherent by caste or status in the society.
- Produced by Rashmi Sharma Telefilms of the Sasural Simar Ka(Colors TV) fame.
- Yeh Dil Sun Raha Hai
- The story of a love story between a highly educated girl and the son of a political goon set in Bihar.
- Produced by the ‘Queen of Indian Television’ Ekta Kapoor under the Balaji Telefilms Banner.
For any channel to succeed non-fiction shows with the viewers favorite stars try to be the audience puller for the channel. The channel launched two non-fiction shows during its launch for the weekend. Unlike many other GECs the channel did not launch any music or dance show, but decided to stand by its generic promise which made them launch shows speaking about women empowerment and motivating them in spirit.
Two Non-Fiction shows
- Simply Baatein with Raveena
- Hosted by famous Hindi Cinema actress Raveena Tandon, a talk show featuring famous woman personalities who have accomplished something in their lifespan, their journey and emotional state to succeed.
- Produced by GR8 productions telecasted every Sunday on Sony Pal for a 12 episodes.
- Dil Hai Chotasa Choti Si Asha.
- In this show, women from different parts of the country are invited on the show who tells the world about the life stories. The hosts Jay Soni and Ragini Khanna; conduct different kinds of games throughout the show. The winner would be evaluated on the basis of the performance of the contestants in the show.
- Created by White script for 13 episodes in its first season on Sony Pal.
Slow beginning for Sony Pal
The channel launched with a good fiction line-up with the face of the channel as Juhi Chawla opened for 11 million GRPs which were very less compared to its peers during their launch. Despite the high positivity from the network (MSM) backed with a strong bouquet of channels on its network, expectations from the industry was very high from the channel. Sinhasan Battisi was the highest rated show on the channel with 190 TVTs followed by second best being Ek Rishta Aisa Bhi with 103 TVTs. The weekend shows ‘Simply Baatein with Raveena’ and ‘Dil Hain Chotasa Choti Si Asha’ couldn’t make a quilt to be the highest rated show despite having strong faces like Raveena Tandon to host the show.
The channel continued to grow its viewership, but only up to 25-30 million in the month of January, 2015. The channel in the month of December had decided to reduce its original programming to two hours with shows like Tum Saath Ho Jaab Apne, Pia Basanti Re and Khushiyon Ki Gullakh Aashi were put off air.
The channel had planned to come up with a new line-up of shows in the month of January, for which it had decided to launch two new campaigns. ‘Lakh Lakh Badhaaiyaan’ in which the viewers would be asked to answer questions during the prime time for which, the lucky winner would get Rs. 1 lac. They had tied-up with radio stations, print media and outdoor advertisers to extend this campaign. The second campaign was first-of-its-kind ‘Luka Chupi with Juhi’ in which the viewers get an opportunity to play hide-and-seek with the actress and win laurels for themselves.
Only in the month of January 2015 the management took a decision to stop airing original content on the channel from February 13th 2015. The channel would continue airing successful old shows of their sister channels (SET and SAB) till they launch new shows with the same generic promise on Sony Pal again.
Why did Sony Pal fail
Sony Pal failed to grab audiences on its channel. Their content, despite being high on positivity failed to create a unique image for itself in the crowded Hindi GEC space. “Failure is the stepping stone to success”; SPN believes that this failure has motivated them to do better and deliver their audiences with better content in the near future. SPN has tried to make SAB TV a success since 2005 (it was acquired from Shri Adhikari Brothers) tried cloning it to the flagship GEC, repositioned it to a youth centric channel (on the lines on Star One) but couldn’t succeed. In 2008 they got back to the roots of SAB TV’s history by making it a 24-hour family comedy centric channel, thereby converting the flanking channel of the network to a mainstream GEC (namely SAB TV has a better ROI and one of the few channels which are making profits in the Hindi GEC space).
The major reason for the channel’s failure was reported to the LCN (Local Channel Numbers). When Sony Pal was launched SPN network had no problem in contracting it on all major DTH and MSO operators thanks to its presence of its large network of channels in India. But Sony Pal was placed around 10 – 15 channel number away from the leading Hindi GECs in the channel list, thereby making it difficult for the channel to gain instant visibility from the audience to break their existing routine of watching different shows on other GECs.
The channel was launched to reach the women audiences in the country which was skipped by SPN due to its market segmentation strategy. If that was the case, then Sony Pal had to invest on content that would be telecasted in the afternoon slots when the housewives generally become free from their work. Secondly, in the Hindi GEC space, the afternoon slot is generally a repeat telecast of the prime time shows which was a potential Sony Pal had to tap. If shows had been launched in the afternoon prime time, the channel would get quick visibility and a differential positive content would have turned it into a success. Let’s consider an example of Kannada GEC space. The afternoon slots are mostly occupied by cookery shows on all channels. ZEE Kannada gets a good visibility thanks to its famous cookery show “Oggarane Dabbi” which makes it a hit show in the afternoon slot. These shows may not be shows that would make it in the top 10 of the BARC ratings, neither get huge GRPs for the channel; they will help the channel get the necessary visibility for its growth.
On the business side, Sony Pal wanted to garner a good share of the FMCG budget, which is largely invested in women centric channels. The afternoon slots run on major channels leave advertisers struck to invest in repeat telecast, on the same shows they have already advertised during the prime time. Equally know that repeat shows have a poor visibility (Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is an exception), advertisers would invest and promote their product heavily on afternoon slots; thereby increasing the probability to get draw more advertisers on board to advertise on the channel’s prime time slots too. This would have turned out to be a win-win situation for all.
The content remained positive which should have been the biggest driver for the channel, but after Sony Pal’s stint, we came to know that the Indian households are yet to accept shows with a positive message; sans villain based long dragging shows still make a cut for major channels. I really like watching shows with a positive message. In India people don’t stop watching shows for years, despite these shows have become completely meaningless. In this manner we can suppose that Sony Pal thought way ahead of times in designing its content. May be in future we may see shows with a strong positive message. Most shows on the top 10 ratings are mainly based on saas-bahu sagas which have a negative character keeping the audience glued to the shows. The only show, which makes the cut in the top 10, is Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, which gives a very strong positive message and despite running for 8 years, it hasn’t introduced a villain kind of character in the show. Family audiences of this show love watch en-number of repeat telecast of the old episodes on SAB TV. Sony Pal was designed to meet the needs of a positive message, but women audience isn’t still able to accept it seems!!!!
The non-fiction property of Sony Pal seemed to be less attractive compare to other channels. Agreed that Sony Pal stood by its generic promise, but for an initial crowd puller some killer kind of non-fiction (foreign adapted shows) is necessary to hold the audience. Like for example Kharton Ke Khiladi Season 1 launched by Colors TV on a day-to-day basis, which acted as a funnel to social issues-based shows like Uttran and Balika Vadhu thereby making the channel successful. &TV’s India Poochega Sabse Shaana Kaun was also a crowd puller to shows like Gangaa and Begusarai which made &TV clock 91 million GVTs at its launch. I really feel Sony Pal must have thought of this kind of a concept. The non-fiction property of Sony Pal should have been on Sundays and a killer non-fiction show on a daily basis would have done wonders and makes the channel stand by its generic promise.
Now let’s think in a hypothetical way. If Sony Pal would have become a success, then SPN would become India’s 1st network to handle all types of audiences. SPN then would have channels catering male, female and family audiences. Mostly family audiences like comedy based shows that can be savoured by all in the household. You may reason that Star Network has channels catering male (Life OK) and female (Star Plus) audiences with comedy shows like Comedy Classics, it attempts to cater audiences from all segments. But only comedy shows don’t serve the purpose as most comedy shows try to entertain their audiences with so called double-meaning jokes thereby adults find it difficult to watch these with children. Other networks have the same kind of a system, but no network caters all three segments namely male, female and family audiences.
Converting the channel into a Free to air channel with a promise of a revamp
The network converted the channel into an FTA (Free to Air) which would show reruns of successful shows of Sony Entertainment Television and Sony SAB in order to get back its old viewership base back on the channel.
As we know that FTA channels are mostly watched by rural India which sleeps early, the channel created two time spans like 6-9 pm for comedy with shows like Jeanie Aur Juju, FIR, Saajan Re Jhoot Mat Bolo, etc… and 9-12 pm slot for shows like Parvarish (Season 1), Kuch Toh Log Kahenge, Bade Acche Lagte Hain, etc…
They continuously revamped the channel with new shows until they reached a threshold in ratings with shows like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, BaalVeer, Gutur Gu, CID, etc…
They have telecasted sporting events like Syed Modi Badminton Championship with Hindi feed and the Pro Wrestling League with Hindi feed. It would be interesting to see whether it would telecast IPL on this channel
The magic what old shows did for Sony Pal
Sony Pictures Network might have never thought to launch an FTA. Circumstances made them convert their 3rd GEC into an FTA. The media industry and the network themselves might have been gape struck by the response of its loyal viewership.
When the channel was converted to an FTA, TAM used to provide ratings for all channels mostly covering urban centres with negligible rural data. Sony Pal which was performing with 30 million GVTs suddenly got consistent ratings of around 50 million GVTs every week. The rerun of shows was done keeping in mind the women audience, which is the core TG of the channel. It was given a straight competition to the likes of Star Utsav and Zee Anmol both present in the FTA market for a couple of years. Star Utsav was launched in 2001, which is way before the launch of Zee Anmol in 2013.
BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) had thrown out its ratings data first in the 16th week of 2015 but only covering urban cities under its measurement system. Only the week 41’s ratings were a combination of both rural and urban data. On a general note there are roughly 150 million households with TVs in India of which 50% are from rural areas. Before BARC no rating system gave out rural data, thereby neglecting the time spent by rural audiences on TV.
As I spoke earlier Sony Pal had started reruns of its old successful shows keeping in mind to get its old viewership base back to the network. But the BARC ratings of week 41, 2015 was shocking. ZEE Anmol was given a run for Star Plus’s money as it was in direct competition with Star Plus despite being an FTA. Sony Pal couldn’t make in the top 10 list of most watched Hindi GEC.
Sony Pal in Week 44 clocked 252727 impressions (000’s) which was a good feat to be achieved within six months. In week 48 it jumped to 363535 impressions (000’s) thanks to change in content on the channel. It remained consistent for some weeks until week 3, 2016 when it clocked close to 394000 impressions (000’s). The surprise came in week 7 when it clocked close to 433000 impressions (000’s) followed by ratings in week 11 with 520000 impressions (000’s) making it India’s No.1 Free-to-air channel beating the likes of ZEE Anmol and Star Utsav. The difference in ratings between the three channels (sorry fourth one is rishtey, may become a serious challenge for all the FTAs) is very small thereby there may be changes in ranking order in future too.
Sony Pictures Network must be very happy with the phenomenal growth of Sony Pal beating the likes of ZEE Anmol, Star Utsav and Rishtey within a short span of time (one year).
SPN had never repeated its shows on an FTA thereby giving variety for people on DD Freedish to watch great content. Secondly, most shows on other networks (ZEE, Star and Colors) are remade in local languages on their channels; thereby there may be fewer takers for the same shows in Hindi. SPN’s vast library is hoping to keep its newly created loyal viewership glued to the network for a long time.
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