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Keeping Sony BBC Earth as pure play factual ent channel has worked: Tushar Shah

Within a year of its launch, the factual entertainment channel Sony BBC Earth has emerged as the No. 1 channel in the Metros as per BARC numbers [TG: 15-40 AB Market – All India 1Mn+ Period – Week 8-11, 2018 (All Day)]. As per BARC data for Week 30, the channel has garnered a gross viewership of 4,682 and is ranked second in the Infotainment genre. This makes Sony BBC Earth the fastest growing channel in the Infotainment category. 

From being the No. 6 channel when it was launched a year ago, the channel has seen a steady increase in viewership that is clearly reflected in its performance. Backed by a strong distribution network, strategic content line-up and robust marketing innovations, Sony BBC Earth has been increasing its market share, which stood at 22 per cent in March this year. 

According to Tushar Shah, Executive Vice – President and Business Head, English Cluster, Sony Pictures Networks India, “Strong distribution is imperative for any product’s success. A brand needs to be not only available, but also visible in the right place at the right time. While we are extremely proud of our content, we are equally proud of our marketing and distribution prowess, which has helped Sony BBC Earth become a leading channel.” 

He further said, “The English genre has seen growth in viewership as per BARC data in FY2017 as compared to FY2016. We are extremely bullish about the genre. The English genre is evolving and so are we, keeping in mind the changing needs of the viewers and the market. Backed by great content and marketing innovations, we have seen an increase in the appeal for all our 4 channels, resulting in viewership growth of 54 per cent for the cluster in 2017 vis-à-vis 2016.”  

In conversation with Adgully, Tushar Shah chalks out Sony’s strategy to further grow Sony BBC Earth, marketing innovation, advertiser response, the infotainment genre in India and more. Excerpts:  

Sony BBC Earth was the No. 1 infotainment channel in the 1st quarter of 2018. How was this achieved?
Sony BBC Earth is a premium channel that provides pure play factual entertainment, owing to which we were in the No. 1 position in Mega Cities for the first quarter of 2018 week-on-week with 26 per cent viewership share. Our differentiated and innovation-led strategy straddling across brand, content, marketing and distribution has also led us to be #1 in reach as well as time spent. We entered a cluttered category with established players, but our strategy of keeping Sony BBC Earth a pure play factual entertainment channel has worked with the viewers who love to watch content that makes them ‘Feel Alive’. 

What are the marketing innovations that you have done?
Innovation and differentiation are at the core of everything we do. ‘Blue Planet II’, one of our most iconic and internationally acclaimed series, needed a grand launch pad to create awareness amongst the masses. We, therefore, came up with a completely disruptive and innovation-led strategy of releasing it exclusively in PVR Cinemas across 22 cities. The response was phenomenal with theatres running houseful for a period of 4 weeks. This initiative was kicked off with India’s first-ever Blue Carpet premiere attended by the who’s who from B-town and television industry. Social media was abuzz for days with reviews and recommendations from them. 

In addition to the above, we also hosted international legend Dr Michael Mosley in India (also a New York Times bestselling author), who busted many myths related to Indian food while talking to India’s health and fitness expert Shilpa Shetty. 

Moving forward, we have several innovative initiatives lined up, which will be unveiled in the near future. 

Sony BBC Earth’s content stands on three pillars – never before seen content, grand visual spectacle, and positive and insightful stories. How have these changed the perception of the viewer when it comes to an infotainment channel?
Prior to the launch of Sony BBC Earth, we had clearly identified that the viewers of the Infotainment category were missing the ‘Information’ aspect. This led us to arrive at the brand promise of ‘Feel Alive’ with 3 strong pillars of grand visual spectacle, never seen before content, and positive insightful storytelling. 

We are delighted that our differentiated offering of pure play content has indeed resonated with the viewers. We have changed the game and this why Sony BBC Earth is the No. 1 channel in Mega Cities since March 2018. 

How are you taking the content on ground?
Initiatives such as the theatrical release of ‘Blue Planet II’, and ‘Feel Alive’ hours in schools and offices are some of our ground-breaking innovative and experiential marketing ideas, which have helped us connect with people in over 22 cities across the country. We will soon share more details on our upcoming initiatives. 

How has the advertiser response been?
Sony BBC Earth is an extremely premium channel appealing to the hearts and minds of consumers across strata. The response has been fantastic from brands across categories such as Banking, Travel, FMCG, Automobile, Consumer Durables, Telecom, E-commerce, F&B, etc. 

What has been your content strategy, especially in the prime time band?
Prime time for the Infotainment genre is similar to that of any other genre. We have unique programming across strategic day parts. Suffice it to say that Sony BBC Earth gets excellent viewership not only during prime time, but throughout the day.

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