For a man who turned MTV around, this is going to be one big challenge. Though officials at Sony were unavailable for comment, industry sources say that Sunil Lulla, the former CEO of portal indya.com is slated to take over as general manager, Sony Entertainment Television, by the end of this month. Lulla, with his collection of colourful socks, and crew cut, was one of the most quoted poster boys of the dotcom era.
If Lulla were to join SET, it would be second high profile recruitment since Rohit Gupta, who joined SET as executive vice-president, sales & revenue management, on April 15, 2002. Interestingly, Gupta, joined Sony with a background entirely different from that of Lulla's. An economics graduate, Gupta had spent his entire corporate career at Xerox Modicorp and had no experience in selling media
In contrast, the expertise that Sony will be looking for in Lulla is his stint with MTV, where Lulla indigenised the predominately Western music channel, to give it, its current 70:30 Hindi-English mix. Not that he is a stranger to the media industry. One of the nomads of the corporate world, Lulla has been the general manager, marketing, of HMV, and director of client services at J Walter Thompson, in Taipei. He was also vice-president with United Distilleries and Vintners (UDV), where he brought about vibrancy and colour to the brands of the company.
However, Lulla might find his assignment at Sony the toughest ever. The channel has not been able to meet its revenue targets for two successive years. SET's advertising revenues have also dipped by nearly 10 per cent to Rs 380 crore in the year 2001 to 2002. In addition to this, the network has made heavy commitments. It has shelled out millions for the rights of the ICC Cricket tournaments, and has also gone on a buying spree, its latest acquisition being the rights of several Shubash Ghai movies.
However, the challenge right now is for SET 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 Kamzor Kadii Kaun (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 aired on Saturday, June 8, at 8.00 pm, "The Making of a Dream - Taal" aired before that on Thursday, June 6, at 8.00 pm. The idea is to create viewer interest and hype, confess channel executives.
With all this costing the channel dear, several analysts have expressed doubts as to whether the channel will recover the costs, let alone make a profit.
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," hopes a senior media planner. © 2002 agencyfaqs!