Going by Indian television programming standards, it is akin to hara-kiri - not having a staple fare of 'family melodrama' anywhere in your channel's prime-time band.
But it could also be a channel's main differentiator. And that appears to be what SABe TV has in mind, going by its decision to stay away from family melodrama-based serials - the bread-and-butter of Indian television audiences, and channels - in the 7 pm-to-10.30 pm slot. Instead, the channel has chosen to take its chances with a mix of current affair programmes, and comedy- and fantasy-based shows.
Starting February 25, the channel will air a new sitcom, Sajan Tu Jhoot Mat Bol, at 8:40 pm. The show, a daily, is directed by Rajan Waghdhare, and written by Ashok Patole, the famous duo that created other sitcom hits such as Yes Boss and Shriman Shrimati. On the same day (February 25), some new current affairs programmes will debut in the 10-to-10:30-pm slot, week days. Karan Thapar will host two of these shows - Line of Fire on Mondays, and Court Martial on Thursdays. Veer Sanghvi is to host another show, Meeting of Minds, on Tuesdays. All three shows are in English. Priya Tendulkar anchors Jawab Talab, modelled on BBC's Hard Talk, on Wednesdays. To round it off, on Fridays there is Khula Manch, which has Manoj Raguvanshi in the anchor's seat. However, unlike the other new shows, Khula Manch is a one-hour programme.
The new programming line up of SABe TV reads like this. Cartoon show Asterix starts at 7 pm, followed by the fantasy Alif Laila (7.30 pm). Comedies Office Office (8:00 pm), Sajan Tu Jhoot Mat Bol (8:40 PM), Yes Boss (9:10 pm), Shriman Shrimati (9:40 pm), detective series Colonel at 10:30 pm, and a 11-pm current affairs show.
In keeping with its tryst with humour, the channel has also recently initiated a new idea: a one-minute stand-up comedy show, SAB Chalta Hai, enacted by Saajid Khan, which is aired every half hour, every day, with the host impersonating people in the news… from Osama Bin Laden to the common man.
Courageous moves, certainly, going by INTAM figures for the week January 14-20. All the Top 10 shows on Indian television are emotional soaps - nine of STAR, and one from Sony. And going by the TAM figures for the same period, only one non-family-soap programme, the Star Plus Asian Screen Awards, made it to the Top Ten. Also, all the other major general entertainment channels are launching serials of this genre thick and fast. For instance, early next week, Sony will launch Dhadkan and Hubahu, both supposedly intensely emotional serials. And STAR still reigns at the top slot with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (TVR rating 10.06, for the week January 13-19, across all C&S homes), and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki (TVR rating 9.44, for the same period, across all C & S homes).
Courageous, yes… But it wise? "My immediate goal is to attract more and more viewers. If I compete with the Big Three with the same kind of programming, nobody is going to notice me," Markand Adhikari, vice-chairman and managing director, SABe TV, makes his point.
There is some sense in what the channel is doing. Among the programmes that have consistently done well on SABe TV are its fantasy offering Alif Laila, and comedy Office Office. And in some categories - such as men in the Hindi-speaking markets of North India - the channel splits the top 50 programmes with Zee. This is based on the TAM figures for the week December 16-22, in 14 North Indian cities.
Also, the moves seem to have caught the advertisers' attention. Currently, Marico, Kinetic Honda, ICICI Bank and Gujarat Ambuja are some of the major advertisers on the channel. "We have seen a mix of varied advertising that cuts across all categories, and we have carved a niche in the cluttered television market," avers Sandeep Singh, vice-president, SABe TV.
Media analysts point out that SABe TV also competes with the 'second rung' of television channels, such as B4U, etc and Sahara. "By trying to differentiate itself, SABe TV is trying to stand out," says one senior media planner. "However, the question is whether the channel can break into the ranks of the Big Three with such a strategy, given the taste of Indian audiences." Indian audiences do have a sustained taste for intensely melodramatic soaps. The hugely popular Hum Log set the trend in 1984, followed by Buniyaad (1986), the first mega soap. Khandaan, Junoon, Swabhimaan, Shanti… Amanat (1997) helped Zee reach the top. And Kyunki Saas… furthered what KBC had set out to do for STAR.
Adhikari, of course, has his plans cut out. "The current taste is part of a cycle," he says. "It won't last, and we are preparing to move into the vacuum that will arise. By creating a niche now, we have a first-mover advantage."
The question is, will the vacuum arise anytime soon? Â© 2002 agencyfaqs!