Sony, in its ceaseless battle with STAR Plus, has identified an area of programming where it could make its mark. That is the weekend, where it has launched a new show Kya Hadsaa Kya Haqeeqat (KHKH), Friday to Sunday, 8.00 pm, with the first episode going on air on August 16. The new show marks a determined bid for leadership in the weekend slot, where, without the challenge of the perennially popular 'bahu' serials, the channel has a more level playing field.
For quite some time now the channel has adopted an aggressive weekend strategy, first filling the Saturday 8.00 pm slot with blockbuster movies from the Subhash Ghai stable, and now, with the new serial from the Balaji stable. Says Sunil Lulla, executive vice- president, Sony Entertainment Television (SET), "We have a consistent and strong franchise on the weekends. We are now strengthening it."
However, this is not an easy slot to win in. Sony will be in competition with its usual rivals STAR Plus and Zee, but when it comes to the weekend, it will also have to contend with the tendency of the average Indian viewer to take a break and walk out of the home to see a movie at the theatre. Thus, not only will Sony have to convince the viewer to stay with Sony, it will also have to convince the viewer to stay at home.
To offset this, Ekta Kapoor, the producer of KHKH, has cast her bet on a social thriller, which she hopes will keep the viewers glued to their seats on this crucial day. The story revolves around a young girl who comes to Mumbai from a past she cannot escape, and then suddenly, caught in a strange series of events, cannot decide whom she can trust. "The serial is a mass-based social thriller. Weekend programming is very different from weekday programming, and you need a different angle to attract the viewer," says Kapoor.
Another lacunae that she - together with SET - is counting on is the relative lack of quality programming on weekends, when most C&S households tune in to the movies. Combine this with the absence of the 'bahu' serials in prime-time weekends, and the field becomes open.
Sony seems to be concentrating on movies as the main challenger in this slot. Thus, rather than go in for a long story line, the show has been crafted to move fast, and end soon to offset the challenge from the movies. While the entire show will last for 39 episodes, a story will come to an end every three episodes. However, to keep continuity, the serial has borrowed a technique from the movie Humrazz, where one story ended at the interval, and another started; yet there was continuity to the movie as such.
"A socio thriller like this will have to take into account that many weekend viewers are unlikely to want to commit all their weekends to one serial. They might have the patience to watch a few episodes, but would not want a long winding series. Thus, it makes sense to have a kind of episodic format that people can leave and come back to. There is a large number of young men among the viewers for whom the thriller element is going to be important. For the women the social element will be the big draw. That seems to be the logic behind the show," points out a senior media planner.
"What we are trying to create is a scare or fear element, an all pervasive one, that exists in Hollywood programming, but not in the weekend programming line up we have on television here. This is a dramatic socio-thriller," says Kapoor. Currently, across all channels, a mixture of thrillers, dramas, movies, and events dominates weekend programming.
For example, for Friday 8.00 pm, when KHKH will debut, STAR Plus has Kya Masti Kya Dhuum (which will bow out soon), followed by game shows like Khullja Sim Sim at 9.00 pm, Ssshh Koi Hai at 10.00 pm, and Avinash IPS at 11.00 pm.
Zee's line-up on Friday could be a possible challenge, with the popular Jai Santoshi Ma starting at 8.00 pm, Close Up Antakshari at 8.30 pm, and finally at 9.00 pm, one of the more popular serials from the Zee stable, Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. On Saturdays, Zee has its new entry Simply Shekhar at 7.30 pm, followed by Saturday Live (Shubha Mudgal) at 8.00 pm, and the weekend movie at 11.00 pm.
On its part, STAR has recently reintroduced Sea Hawks at 7.00 pm on Saturdays, and a movie pitted against KHKH in the 8.00 pm slot. On Sundays, both Zee and STAR have a mixture of movies and serials that are not very serious challengers to Sony. Thus, programming-wise, though the rival shows are popular, Sony has it easier in this slot, than it has on weekdays at prime time
In a related development, SET has also given Ekta carte blanche to reformat one of its strongest properties from the Balaji stable, Kutumb, which is telecast by the channel in the Monday to Thursday slot, at 9.30 pm. The show has been very popular, and revolves around a new storyline with no change in casting. The lead roles are being played by Gauri Pradhan and Hiten Tejwani as in the earlier version. Says Lulla, "The show has over 10 million people watching it and has given Sony a strong franchise in the 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm slot."
However, some analysts have expressed their doubts on whether it is a good idea to tamper with a show that has demonstrated its popularity and created its own brand equity. Kapoor has an answer to such doubts. "The brand as such gives us a tremendous advantage. And that enables us to experiment with it. Yes, an attempt to be different has its risks, but unless you do it, you cannot find out if it will work out," is how she responds. © 2002 agencyfaqs!