"Positioning is all about sacrifice; you can't offer everything to everybody" - Danish Khan, SET

By Anirban Roy Choudhury, afaqs!, Mumbai | February 06, 2019
The business head of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) talks about what went into making it the most watched entertainment channel in recent weeks.
Danish Khan

Danish Khan

Business head, Sony Entertainment Television

Sony Pictures Networks India's (SPNI) flagship Hindi General Entertainment Channel (GEC), Sony has emerged as the most watched channel in the urban Hindi speaking market (HSM) for consecutive weeks (Week 3). Non-fiction shows like 'The Kapil Sharma Show' and 'Super Dancer' have helped Sony retain its top slot in the past weeks. Three years ago, when SPNI roped in Danish Khan as the business head of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) and gave him a new team, the task for them was to establish the GEC as an urban hit. Khan feels the clear positioning has helped Sony set its course.

The Hindi GEC has had a tough time during FY18 where the advertising spends in the genre declined by 9 per cent. In the same fiscal, the ad spend in Regional GECs grew by 5.4 per cent (as per KPMG). Hindi GEC, the biggest genre in Indian television which witnesses 27.7 per cent of advertising money spent on television (second is Hindi News at 7.9 per cent), has new challenges to face. There is a constant rise in India-centric original content created by digital video platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, ALTBalaji and others, regional general entertainment content and the new tariff order allowing consumers to subscribe to channels on MRP.

Khan, in an exclusive interview to afaqs!, says TV content will see a lot of changes in 2019. He is also of the opinion that it's time to change the media buying mechanism followed in the television industry.

Edited Excerpts

What does being number one in the Urban HSM market mean to you?

For the last three years, we have been focussing on the urban markets and the affluent audience. If we go deeper, while we are getting about 180 - 190 GRP (gross rating points) in HSM Urban, in metros we do more than 300 GRP. In 1 million markets, we do more than 250 GRPs and over 250 GRP plus in NCC A. We want to continue focussing on this market.

But, doesn't that narrow your market?

Positioning is all about sacrifice; you cannot offer everything to everybody. Our positioning is that we are a channel which is targeting the urban and affluent markets. There is a set beyond this market who also consumes Sony, but we are not actively chasing them.

How challenging is that market as you are not the only ones chasing the deeper pocket?

The set of audience we are chasing is the most challenging one as far as Indian media is concerned. The challenges come in terms of out-of-home activities like movies and dineouts from OTTs and the new players. English language content is also a big challenge in this market.

How different is the urban affluent market from others in terms of consumption pattern?

These people are exposed to a wide variety of content and they are extremely quality conscious. A few things never work here. You cannot stretch a story beyond a point so you always need a finite series. You need to produce it in a real sense so production quality and authenticity become very important. Yes, it is tough to crack it in that market but, once you do, it is far more rewarding - both in terms of creative satisfaction and revenue.

Three of the top five programmes in the Urban HSM market are non-fiction shows. Why do you think fiction fails in this market?

What is a non-fiction show? KBC, Bigg Boss and song and dance shows are more universal in their appeal. With fiction, you get into sub-psychographics. So the success of a fiction show depends on the number of sub-segments you can appeal to. By the nature of its appeal, non-fiction will always have a bigger universe.

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What is going on in your new venture - the internal production house - Studio Next?

Studio Next is very busy. They are doing a couple of shows for us and couple more are commissioned by players outside Sony; those announcements are in the pipeline. It is a new company and the team was set up just two months ago.

So, should the production houses making shows for you worry about Studio Next as they can easily become your first preference? And is it only making TV shows?

The ambition is to reach a point where Studio Next makes more shows for people outside than it does for Sony. Production houses outside Sony are still creating 90 per cent of our content and we will continue to have those relationships because they bring a lot to the table.

In the next few days, Studio Next will announce a web series which is being created for a platform outside Sony.

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How do you see the TRAI tariff order where subscribers get the opportunity to buy channels on MRP, changing the content space?

You will have to be very clear about your target audience. India is a very vast country and it is very difficult to become everything to everybody. Every channel will now have to identify its own market and be number one there. You can no longer go by width, you will have to go by the depth and the deeper you go, the quality of content will get better. What multiplex did for Films, MRP has the ability to do for television, it can revolutionise the content.

From the advertising perspective, what changes would you like to see?

I would be delighted if this concept of CPRP (cost per rating point) goes and we move to CPM (cost per mile) or CPT (cost per thousand). CPT is an actual measurement; it means the cost for reaching out to an X number of people. The digital industry works on that and Print follows CPT, but Television is the only industry which does not work on actual numbers, following the notional number - CPRP rating which is a notional number, not a real number.

How does moving from CPRP to CPT help you?

Here's an example - the circulation of a leading English daily would be one-fourth that of a leading regional newspaper and the value the English newspaper is able to rake in is at least 10-times more than the regional daily only because you know who are the X number of people reading it. The moment you go to a CPT model, you know who these X numbers of people are and what are they consuming - depending on that you can charge brands. On television, we see oranges and apples sold at the same rate. The measurement system has moved, from measuring only metros to bigger metros, 1 million plus, rural etc.

The absolute number of people watching television has grown exponentially. Because of the CPRP model, the content creator never gets the value of absolute reach of that programme, which I think will change once we move to a CPT model.

What is it that you would like to see in 2019, in terms of programming?

If the vicious cycle of low monetisation leading to low investment transforms to high monetisation and high investment, as an industry, we will be much more influential and that would make me very happy. Television was dominated by American content for more than 20 years and suddenly we see Israeli and Turkish TV dominating the world. For a country like India, which has a population 130 crore and such an ancient civilisation and a huge amount of low-cost creative talent, we are yet to make an impression on the world stage. One of the reasons why we are unable to do it is because of the lack of investment.

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