Sony BBC Earth will be a major player in factual entertainment: NP Singh

Sony BBC Earth is all set to go live in India on March 6, 2017 at 8 pm. The premium factual entertainment channel is brought by MSM Worldwide Factual Media, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) and BBC Worldwide. 

The JV partnership combines SPN’s extensive experience and expertise in operating and distributing televised entertainment both to audiences in India and across the globe, with BBC Worldwide’s extensive catalogue of programming and reputation for excellence in premium factual content. 

Sony BBC Earth will be available in both SD and HD in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages. 

Commenting on the new channel, NP Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Sony Pictures Networks India, said, “Sony Pictures Networks is known to create compelling and differentiated brands across all genres that it operates in. Nurtured as a JV partnership, Sony BBC Earth combines the strengths of both partners; including fascinating content, estimable brand equity and superior sales and distribution prowess. This gives Sony BBC Earth a distinct positioning and watchability. I am confident that this channel will be a major player in its category.” 

On tying up with SPN, Paul Dempsey, President Global Markets, BBC Worldwide, said, “Our relationship with Sony has been a long one, built in the first instance on our production business, and one that has since grown across all key areas of BBC Worldwide’s operations. We partner with them to bring top programmes like ‘Sherlock’, ‘Orphan Black’ and ‘Top Gear’ on AXN to our fans in India, and now, this joint venture which is a pioneering model for us. By working with a respected local partner of the caliber of Sony Pictures Networks, we look forward to bringing BBC Earth’s world class content to a new audience who we know has a huge appetite for premium factual programming.” 

Sony BBC Earth aims to make the viewers ‘Feel Alive’ through its offering of mind blowing visuals, never-seen-before content, and positive insightful storytelling. As a key differentiator in its category, the channel will have defined programming slots – Why, How & What on Earth at 8 pm for fun and insightful science, Wild Wild Earth at 9 pm for nature and wildlife, and Earth Explorers at 10 pm for adventure and human interest stories. Weekends will showcase distinctive stories with a special slot – Earth Specials. Key launch shows include ‘The Hunt’, ‘Where The Wild Men Are with Ben Fogle’, ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor’, ‘Snow Chick’ and the iconic series, ‘Planet Earth II’, among others. 

The channel will bring award-winning, premium factual content from the BBC to over 500 million of SPN’s viewers across India, and will feature some of the world’s foremost factual film-makers and storytellers like Sir David Attenborough -The Godfather of Natural History and other well-known BBC Earth personalities like Bafta-winning English naturalist, writer and television presenter Steve Backshall, author, broadcaster and writer, Ben Fogle, Dr Michael Mosley – a medical doctor and award-winning science journalist as well as award-winning wildlife cameraman, presenter and film maker, Gordon Buchanan

The channel has created a unique brand film with its ‘Feel Alive’ ambassador Kareena Kapoor Khan, which brings alive the feeling of subliminal happiness that Kareena experiences while exploring the compelling content on Sony BBC Earth and expresses what it is to Feel Alive. The campaign will be launched on a massive scale across multiple mass media and social media platforms. 

Saurabh Yagnik, EVP and Business Head, English Cluster, Sony Pictures Networks India, remarked, “SPN’s philosophy is to create brands based on deep consumer understanding. We have worked extensively with viewers to sharpen our insights into what they want and have synergised this understanding with our compelling content and storytelling. Our brand positioning of ‘Feel Alive’ captures the emotion of subliminal happiness which viewers experience when they consume our content. This has been brought to life through a clutter-breaking film featuring our ‘Feel Alive’ ambassador, Kareena Kapoor Khan – whose persona embodies positivity, happiness and full of life demeanour that naturally blends with what our channel and its content stands for.” 

Kareena Kapoor Khan, ‘Feel Alive’ ambassador for Sony BBC Earth, remarked, “Nature, wildlife and adventure are three things that have always fascinated me. I am also a huge fan of Sir David Attenborough. The brand message of ‘Feel Alive’ has a positive ring to it that resonates with my persona and beliefs. The brand film captures snippets of the content and the emotion of Feel Alive beautifully. I am sure that Sony BBC Earth will make the viewers‘Feel Alive’ just the way I did when I watched some episodes of its fantastic shows. I know for a fact that I am going to tune in regularly to Sony BBC Earth.”

Addressing the media at the launch event in Mumbai yesterday, NP Singh, Saurabh Yagnik and Paul Dempsey, also provided more insights on launching Sony BBC Earth in India, local content, marketing strategy, content offerings and much more. 

Localised content 

According to Paul Dempsey, Sony BBC Earth in India will have the same big global landmark shows that are aired in other parts of the world. He, however, added that over the time more local content would be introduced that are more relevant to the lives of the audience here and that’s something the channel partners have already started talking about. 

Saurabh Yagnik added here that Sony BBC Earth will initially have about 19 hours of local content every week. Along with this there will be shows like ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’, ‘The Hunt’, ‘Snow Chick’, which have not been seen in India, and then there is a constant process of commissioning new shows. “There will always be shows in the pipeline and we will be accessing content accordingly,” he said. At the same time, he said that it would be difficult to comment on the total number of shows as some are multi-part series, while some are limited part series. “But broadly speaking, when we start we will have five shows,” he informed. 

The research behind genre-specific content 

Speaking about the research that the channel undertook prior to launch, Yagnik said that the channel spoke to about 2,000 viewers across the country. He pointed out that not everybody consumes every kind of content. During the research, some people said that they like content around science, while some said they liked the adventure aspect of factual entertainment, and there were some who liked the pristine natural world. “If you look at the kind of content available in the factual entertainment space, it is broadly in these buckets and that’s how we brought the two together and said how do we make it more relatable to the viewer,” Yagnik explained. 

Weekend strategy 

He further said that for weekends, Sony BBC Earth will have ‘Earth Specials’, wherein shows spread over one or two parts, called Specials, will be aired. 

The TG 

Initially, the channel will focus on the mega cities and the 10-75 lakh towns. However, the distribution will be far and wide. But from a marketing perspective, the channel will be focusing on these markets. 

Sony BBC Earth is targeting the young upwardly mobile affluent for its marketing and communication, however, the channel will broad base the content to appeal to everyone. 

Advertiser response 

Yagnik said, “We are in talks with advertisers and doing upfronts. The kind of feedback that we have from people is that it is interesting and a very different approach. The media fraternity has appreciated the innovativeness of the channel as well as the consumer base.” 

Digital campaign 

He further informed that the campaign will continue for four to six weeks. “We went Facebook Live for the launch. There is a comprehensive campaign and we will be creating ‘Feel Alive’ moments based on the entries received. There is also a robust social media plan leveraging Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, and our website,” Yagnik added.

Kareena Kapoor Khan as brand ambassador 

Commenting on roping in the Bollywood actor as brand ambassador for Sony BBC Earth, Yagnish said, “The full-of-life kind of a personality that Kareena has absolutely resonated with the kind of emotions that we would like our audiences to experience.” He further noted, “One of the distinct gaps that we saw in the category was that there was no sharp and defining positioning that anybody has taken very clearly and we took the emotional route of ‘Feel Alive’.” 

Synergies between BBC and SPN 

Paul Dempsey remarked that while BBC had partnerships with TV channels in other parts of the world, this is the first time that they had partnered with Sony Pictures Networks for BBC Earth. 

He added, “There was a very strong connection between our brands in terms of the values that we share, the team strength, the respect we have for big global brands, because we enjoy the global recognition ourselves, as well as the strength and capabilities of the Sony team in India.” 

Size of the factual entertainment space in India 

According to Yagnik, when one looked at the total value chain, which is the revenues from advertising, subscription, etc., “I think the size of the market would be around Rs 1,500 crore”. In terms of viewership, this category is anything between 1 per cent and 1.2 per cent of the total TV viewership pie, he noted.

Road ahead for Sony BBC Earth 

NP Singh asserted that in a year’s time Sony BBC Earth should be among the top 3 channels in the genre. “Given the positioning, content and strategy of the channel, I am very confident that it will be loved by the viewers and will be in the top three,” he added.


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