Sony tries out new programming strategies

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 03, 2002
While the demise of Hubahu marks a setback for programming strategy, the key now is to bring in new audiences

Sony's attempts to consolidate the 8.30 pm to 9.00 pm slot, four nights a week, Mondays to Thursdays, received a blow, with Hubahu (Thursdays, 8.30 pm) being yanked off air due to low viewership. No exact date has been fixed for the final episode, but word is the serial will come to an end once it completes 30 episodes. The 17th episode will air this week, on June 6, Thursday.

In retrospect, Hubahu, the story of twins who swap places and live one another's lives (produced by Milind Soman and Parvati Gopalan and directed by Nupur Asthana) was unlikely to succeed in sustaining viewer interest for a very long period. For a simple reason, its inherent weakness. Once the switch had taken place, and the initial episodes had explored this, there was nothing much to hook the viewer. In fact, even at the time when the show was launched many avid television observers expressed this apprehension. Many also pointed out that several English movies and serials had explored the theme.

Hubahu also was a high cost serial - with some episodes shot in Bangkok - and is supposed to have been made at an estimated cost of Rs 5,00,000 per episode. While Sony was willing to shell out the money, the programme failed to attract viewers. However, at another level, media planners say that the show did not garner much attention because of the marketing thrust on Dhadkan, which was also launched at the same time, and was Sony's counter to Sanjivani on STAR Plus, Wednesdays, 9.00 pm.

Both Hubahu and Dhadkan were an attempt to have a solid block of programming between 8.00 pm and 9.00 pm during the week and thus broaden Sony's reach in that time slot. The channel's strength is in the 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm slot, which, has seen a 30 per cent rise in ratings in recent months, for shows such as Kkusum, Monday to Friday, 9.00 pm, and Kutumb, Monday to Thursday, 9.30 pm. "Sony's strategy has been to extend this slot, but the serials that are still doing well are the older ones. The new serials have not gone down well," points an official from a rival channel.

The figures bear out his words. Hubahu was pitted against STAR Plus' Kasauti Zindagi Kay, which has TVR ratings that hover around the 5 mark. On the other hand, going by the TAM ratings of 12 May to 18 May 2002, for all audiences, only Kkusum and Kutumb from the Sony stable have made it to the Top 100 shows on C&S television.

While the dice was loaded against Hubahu from the start, at a broader level, the failure of the serial also reflects a narrative crisis in Indian television. STAR Plus, though still the clear leader, has had to pull out Kamzor Kadii Kaun (KKK), and despite earlier speculation is not planning to bring back KBC in its original format. Zee has played the 'different' card to a certain amount of success though. While the channel claims its performance is not adequately reflected in the TVR figures, undoubtedly shows like Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (Fridays, 9.00 pm), and Khelo Number Khelo (Thursdays, 9.00 pm), have created a certain buzz. On its turn SABe TV, anticipating comedy as the next wave, has completely done away with soaps in the prime time slots.

However, the challenge right now is for Sony to bring in new audiences rather than experiment with new shows. The least risky way to do that, say media observers, is to opt for the sure fire hit movie tactic, something that STAR Plus, which replaced KKK (Tuesdays 9.00 pm) with the unedited version of Asoka, has done. Sony, in fact, has started a Subhash Ghai Film Festival, from May 25 to July 13, with some of the master's greatest movies, including Karz, Hero, Taal, Khalnayak, Pardes, Karma, Saudagar and Yaadein airing at 8.00 pm. To further cash in on the popularity of these movies, Sony has a series on the making of the particular movie, to air on Thursdays, at 8.00 pm. Thus, while Taal will air on Saturday, June 8, at 8.00 pm, "The Making of a Dream - Taal" will air before that on Thursday, June 6, at 8.00 pm. The idea is to create viewer interest and hype, confess channel executives.

Though the channel will not comment on figures, Sony is hoping to recover the costs through advertising alone. "These movies are sure to bring in new audiences, and Sony is likely to use the advertising time to promote its own products. That way, the channel will pitch its offering to this set of new viewers and try and keep them hooked on to the channel," explains a senior media planner.

But the question is, will they stick on, or like the fickle crowds who watched Hubahu, drift away once the show is over. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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© 2002 agencyfaqs!