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Sony determined to get its fiction formula right

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | February 10, 2009
With a new programming head and a few lessons learnt, Sony is starting a new innings

A few years ago, and before it was pushed to the No.3 slot by Zee TV, Sony Entertainment Television was the clear No. 2 channel, just behind STAR Plus. After the advent of newer channels such as NDTV Imagine, 9X and Colors, the channel had to give up its No.3 position even.

In the past, the channel has experimented with a few reality shows. A few of these programmes worked for the channel, while a few might not have clicked with the viewers, but reality shows has always been considered to be Sony Entertainment Television's forte.

However, a & #BANNER1 & # dark spot for the channel has been fiction shows. The channel has had its share of success with shows such as Kkusum and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, but those are things of the past now. Lately, no fiction show on the channel has been able to match the spectacular success of these.

"Our fiction programming hasn't been grabbing as many eyeballs as expected. The acceptance level is low among audiences," agrees Albert Almeida, executive vice-president and business head, Sony Entertainment Television.

Almeida says that while non-fiction shows are money spinners and will continue to drive the channel's programming, a conscious effort will be made to dish out fiction shows that match the image and DNA of the channel.

Known for experimenting and innovating, Sony is now determined to get its fiction formula right. Gurdip Bhangoo, senior vice-president and head of programming, Sony, believes that fiction is the heart of television viewing and the channel will get its act together soon.

Research was recently undertaken to gauge what viewers perceived of the channel and its programming. "A Sony viewer expects an innovative streak in the programming," Bhangoo says. "Sony has not believed it playing it safe. Our focus will be to retain the innovative streak and devise a new manner of storytelling - be it in terms of the storyline or production quality," he informs.

He says that going forward, the idea is to have fiction-led weekdays and reality shows on weekends. The channel has launched a thriller-love story fiction show in the 9.30 pm slot, called 'Ek Safar Aisa…Kabhi Socha Na Tha'. In the 10 pm slot, where repeats are aired currently, a new one-hour show called 'Special @ 10' will be launched, which is a series of stories produced by well-known Bollywood personalities, such as Anurag Kashyap and Madhur Bhandarkar.

This will be a 13-week programme and based on the viewer response, the channel will feature more such series. Bhangoo informs that the performance of some of its recent fiction shows, such as Aathvan Vachan will be gauged and if need be, the shows will be replaced. Some of the other shows on the channel are Meet Mila De Rabba and Hum Ladkiyan.

On the non-fiction front, the channel will launch the third season of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, after the conclusion of Indian Idol by the end of February. This time, the dance reality show is being produced by BBC in India, through their new local division. The next season of Dus Ka Dum is also on the anvil.

In addition, at least three new international formats will be brought onto the channel in the next few months. Although tight-lipped about these, Bhangoo says they will be in a whole new genre.

When asked about the fierce competition in the general entertainment space, Almeida says that the next six to eight months will be testing times for the television industry, and the dynamics could well change. "This is going to be a reality check on the industry. It's not about speed, but about sustenance and resilience," he says.