Benita Chacko

Moving away from comedy, Sony SAB bolsters its position as a living room brand

Neeraj Vyas, business head, speaks about the channel's recent rebranding.

Sony SAB has adopted a new brand philosophy, yet again. As it evolves from being a comedy channel to one that tells relatable stories to the entire family, it aims to strengthen its emotional connection with its viewers through the tagline, ‘Jo roz chhoti khushiyan dete hai, wohi rishtey toh bade hote hai’. The channel has launched a campaign to cement this position.

"Over the last 3-4 years, we have strongly positioned SAB as a family channel. We keep growing on that perception. Initially, it was only comedy shows like ‘Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah’. But the idea was to build on that goodwill and get emotionally closer to the consumers," says Neeraj Vyas, business head, Sony SAB, PAL, and Sony MAX Movie Cluster.

The channel has also launched three brand films to firmly establish the new philosophy.

"Through these films, we want to establish that our content will work on relationships and emotions. We're not claiming to change your world. All we are saying is that we'll make small differences in your daily reality," Vyas adds.

This is a part of the rebranding exercise of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI). The network rebranded all its channels last month to be more aligned with Sony’s global ethos.

Accordingly, the channel also has a new logo. "The new branding colours are energetic, inspiring and remind us of a brilliant light spectrum. The curve in the logo comes from the swing of the Sony-S, with the dominant background being synonymous with the Sony brand. With this uniform shape and the associative play of colours, Sony has created a visual thread that connects the diverse family of Sony’s networks and reflects the 360-degree entertainment experience," SPNI had stated in its press release last month.

The new logo not only sports vibrant colours, but the earlier smile (placed in the A) is also missing from it, highlighting its shift from comedy.

"We want to emphasize that we are beyond just the smile now. We are not just a simple expression of comedy. We want to create happiness, hope, aspiration and value, while we continue to entertain you. We want to create content that is more relevant to the changing reality of the country and changing social structures of the world," he says.

Launched as a comedy channel by the Sri Adhikari Brothers Group in 1999, it was acquired by SPNI in 2005. Since then, it has undergone several makeovers.

Moving away from comedy, Sony SAB bolsters its position as a living room brand

In 2017, it coined the tagline 'Haste Raho India'. In the 2019 rebranding, it consciously moved away from its comedy avatar to position itself as a living room brand, with a new tagline, 'Khushiyon Wali Feeling'.

"We see more merit in catering to a large underserved segment in the family - kids, teenagers and the older people. Most of the general entertainment channel (GEC) shows focus on women in the 20-40 age group. And, because 96% of India is still a single-TV household, a lot of viewing is forced co-viewing. So, we spotted a bigger opportunity here. We decided to make our palette richer and more diverse," mentions Vyas.

Apart from ‘Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah’, the channel had some of the most popular comedy shows, like ‘F.I.R.’, ‘Maddam Sir’ and ‘Chidiya Ghar’. In fact, comedy became a distinct identity of the channel, setting it apart from a host of GECs on Indian television.

However, Vyas admits that comedy is the single-most difficult expression to consistently deliver. As the channel set out to make more comedy shows, it realised that the writing and acting talent was diminishing, and it was not sustainable.

"It is difficult to maintain a standard with comedy shows. It's difficult to write around 24 minutes of comedy daily and deliver it, in terms of direction, screenplay, writing and enactment. Imagine the amount of talent eight shows like that would need. It's just not available. So, the next best aspect was to keep the happiness growing. Happiness is a much bigger emotion, as compared to comedy."

The channel is steering towards offering more progressive content and will launch new shows in the coming months to further strengthen this position. Vyas says the channel has chosen the hard route. He believes that television needs a new narrative and Sony SAB wants to be the flagbearer of it.

"The easier route would have been to create more soaps and tell the same stories. But we would have lost the opportunity to tell the stories that we want to tell," he adds.

Though the channel has shows like 'Wagle Ki Duniya,' 'Pushpa Impossible,' 'Dharm Yoddha Garud,' and the recently launched 'Alibaba Dastaan-e-Kabul', unlike other GECs, it does not have a diverse mix of genres like reality and crime.

However, Vyas is clear that it will not foray into these genres. He says these have been done to death and there is nothing new to add to it.

"We want to be in a zone where others have not treaded yet. We would rather be known for a niche than go for shows that qualifies us as a GEC. We are not in that business of labels and we are not looking at any of those tags. We want to be a boutique channel known for the uniqueness we bring to the table," he says.

Vyas says today the channel has equal viewership from men and women. This is a shift from the times when it was a true-blue family channel, as at that time it was completely lopsided towards male viewers. "We are the only channel to have an almost equal divide."

The channel's objective is to not remain restricted to a certain age group, but to cater to the entire family. Its content line up is also designed in a way to attract audiences across ages. With the rebranding it is clear that it doesn't want to appeal to a mass audience.

"We will be a little more urban and restrict ourselves to the markets with population less than 10 lacs. We will not go into the hinterland. Once you try to become a shoe that fits all, you don't fit anyone," he says.

Vyas says going forward the reality is segmentation and personalisation of content. "From the advertisers point of view, most brands want the premium segments."

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