Sony promised to paint the television red, with its much talked about tie-up with Yash Raj Films' television division, YRF TV. As part of an exclusive agreement, YRF produces content for the channel. And produce it did. January 2010 saw five YRF shows launch on Sony -- one non-fiction and four fiction shows on the weekends.
The channel reportedly spent close Rs 15 crore to promote the new weekend line-up. The first lot of YRF's shows are now drawing to a close, without having created much furore. Most of the shows could not even garner an average TVR of 1 (Source: TAM Media Research, Jan-June 2010, C&S, 4+, HSM). The most popular show among the five was Lift Kara De, which opened at a TVR of 1.6, but was unable to attract sustained viewership.
Sony's older weekend properties -- CID, Aahat and Comedy Circus -- maintained their momentum. While CID raked in an average TVR of 2.8; Comedy Circus got an average TVR of 2.1. CID and Comedy Circus now air twice a week, and Aahat airs from Monday to Thursday.
Ajit Thakur, business head, Sony Entertainment Television, believes that it was an experiment that has yielded results. "We knew that these shows were different from what viewers had seen on television before. YRF was our first attempt at creating content comparable to the West. Shot on high definition, some of the best film guys writing scripts, pace and narrative were fast," he says.
When asked about the poor viewership, Thakur says that the objective was not to set ratings on fire. "We were not chasing numbers with the YRF shows. We knew it wouldn't attract high TVRs in the first year. We wanted to get the Indian audiences used to content like this," he explains, adding that the response has been encouraging.
But media planners such as Divya Radhakrishnan, president, TME think otherwise. "Sony is not patient enough with its shows; hence, there is constant dropping and replacement of shows," she says. About the YRF shows, she says that viewers do not watch programmes based on the banner. "Irrespective of who is producing it, the content has to catch the viewers' attention. And the TVRs show that the shows haven't worked," she adds.
According to Thakur, the shows managed to attract the youth to the channel. "We found that on various youth forums -- Facebook, YouTube -- the shows have got outstanding following. They have watched and liked the shows across India. We are certain that the rest of the audiences will also come," he adds.
TAM data suggests that around 25 per cent viewership for these programmes came from the 15-24-year-olds. Apparently, they have been well-received in international markets too, where interest in syndicating these shows has also been expressed.
The channel will have a couple more shows from YRF this year. Besides, a few of the current shows will be seen in a second season next year. As a replacement to YRF's shows, Sony will launch a few weekend properties soon.
Thakur is content with the graph Sony has charted. "I don't think anybody has managed to double their GRPs in less than 12 months. We were about 80 GRPs last June, and now we are about 150-160. We have actually had a great run," he says.
Sony commands a relative share of 11 per cent in the Hindi GEC pie, as per the latest TAM data.