We will make shows about India that lives in the smaller cities: Neeraj Vyas

In conversation with Adgully, Neeraj Vyas, Business Head - Sony Entertainment Television, Sony SAB, PAL and Sony MAX Movie Cluster, delves into the details of their upcoming show for 2024, ‘Srimad Ramayana’. He recounted the inception of the idea, stating, “We’ve been thinking about doing the Ramayana for more than a year, and Siddharth and I happened to be chatting. I see an opportunity at 09:00 pm, a time when we should tell a story that the nation wants to see, not what we want to show. So, we said, ‘Let's do Ramayana’.”

“This was, I think, 7-8 months back, and Siddharth’s first reaction was that it will be impossible to pull it off in 7-8 months. I said, see, we have a choice – either we do it or we don’t do it. Because once we don’t do it and something else comes up with it, your year has gone away. So, we went for it and that’s how it just turned out. It is something that both of us wanted to do for a very long time,” he added.

Reflecting on the diverse audience that Ramayana caters to, Vyas said, “Ramayana is for the age group of 4 years to 94 years. Around 95% of India is a one TV household, and TV is almost like a family member.”

He highlighted the importance of the show’s timing, adding, “It is content that connects and probably unifies the entire family, which is why I think airing this at 09:00 pm was very critical, anything earlier or anything later would probably not work. That’s the time when the entire family gets together.”

Discussing the marketing strategy, Vyas detailed, “We will do a big social media campaign which talks about the values of Ramayana very clearly. It will unfold in the next few days. There will be a lot of activity across outdoor, radio, TV and social media, but largely social media, because, if you ask me, the younger generation needs to watch this more than anybody else, because of the values that Ramayana has, the feeling of sacrifice to family bonds, etc.”

Reflecting on 2023, Vyas called it a watershed year for Sony channels, citing the success of shows like ‘Vanshaj’ on SAB and a unique approach to KBC. “We approached KBC very differently, we made a campaign which was very unlike a regular KBC campaign. We spoke about the emerging technologies in India, we spoke about the new shining India, we spoke about the youth of India, we spoke about the QR code and so many other things. And we merged KBC and how knowledge is very important to the growth of the nation and growth of people,” Vyas said. He expressed the commitment to creating content for smaller cities, saying, “We will make shows about India which lives in the smaller cities.”

On the impact of technology, Vyas noted, “Technology is always going to make it better from a creation point of view. But it all depends on how smartly you adapt to it, how smartly you use it to bring your costs down. Television is a medium where we don’t get too much time to do things. It’s the only medium in the world in India where you actually cater to 6-7 days of content normally, so that is always going to be a challenge. But I think technology will hopefully in the next few years, help us to tell a lot of these kinds of stories visually in a far better way.”

Commenting on the significance of mythological shows, he said, “Mythology as a genre is very important to put it out in a way that it remains entertaining, understandable, and a lot of people watch TV or any content, to get some learnings and values and to get a few things right for yourself. These are very subliminal things that are always there in your conscience.”

Looking ahead to 2024, Vyas shared Sony’s approach, stating, “Trends change only when you try to change them. Otherwise, trends will be the same every year. For us, it has always been an ongoing effort to make sure that we keep trying new things, anything, any issue, the way we approach fiction or the way we approach non-fiction. We are also working a lot in terms of trying to do more things on the non-fiction front, get more talent, try more romance. We have to evolve, television has to evolve. The minute you get into a comfort zone of only doing what so called works, you have it. Plus, TV is also shrinking a bit, so the challenge is for all of us to make sure to keep trying new formats, to keep putting out more variety. Some will work, some will not work, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t try. Irrespective of the trends, we will continue to put out new formats, new shows, new genres, because I think that is the need of the hour.”


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