Viacom18’s ‘Sonic’ plan to dominate TV-land

01 Dec,2011

By Rishi Vora


After announcing the launch of Comedy Central, Viacom 18 has now unveiled yet another offering in its bouquet: Sonic, a sci-fi entertainment channel catering to young adults, falling in the age bracket of 10-17. The channel will bank on Action, Adventure and Animation – the three main areas around which the programming strategy will revolve.


What Sonic’s launch does to the market is extend its scope a bit. With other channels in the kids’ genre typically falling in the age group, largely between 4- 14, Sonic extends that to slightly older kids, up to 17 years – a segment which constitutes 30-40 percent of the 4+ market, and the one which is underserved in India. For Viacom 18, it is a significant development, for now as a group it caters to every segment in the Indian entertainment industry. Colors – the Hindi GEC, MTV in the youth category, Nick catering to kids aged between 10-14, and Comedy Central – a comedy channel for 14 + audiences.


But it is too early to tell, whether Sonic will make an impact. A senior member from one of the kids’ channels, who did not wished to be named, said, “While we welcome one more channel in the genre, these are early days to comment on what it does to the segment – will it succeed, will it not? So it is only fair to wait and watch. Coming from the Viacom stable, all I can say is it’ll be interesting to see how the channel progresses.”


Nikhil Rangnekar, Joint CEO, Spatial Access said, “It’s going to be challenging for the new player to establish itself, with its new positioning of catering to young adults. It will be interesting to see what differentiation they bring to the genre, as animation and adventure is a game that existing players are already playing.”


Viacom 18 execs, however, are confident of putting up a good show. Mr Haresh Chawla, Group CEO, Viacom 18, said in the official communique, “Sonic further expands Viacom 18’s presence in a demographic bracket that has remained un-tapped, but is probably the biggest influencer on family purchase decisions. Like our other businesses, we are confident of Sonic establishing a dominating presence within the first year of its operations.”


He further added, “The next 12 months will see Viacom 18 in an expansion mode and Sonic is the first step in that direction.” Mr Bob Bakish, President and CEO, Viacom International Media Networks said, “The launch of Sonic is significant in many ways. Not only does it further expand the Viacom 18 Network in India but it also opens up an interesting category for both viewers and advertisers. The Viacom 18 Network can now take pride in being the only entertainment network that has specific brands to entertain viewers across every possible age segment.”


Mr Chawla’s comment on reaching a dominating position is a clear indication that the channel will pump in distribution monies, and of course investments on content acquisition. The plan is to reach 40 million households in India. So distribution and content acquisition are two key areas of investments the channel is looking into, in its bid to be a significant player.


Executive Vice President and General Manager, Ms Nina Elavia Jaipuria said that the channel’s efforts will be to have a large set of loyal viewers and keep them engaged through never-seen-before digital initiatives. Elaborating on the TG, she said, “It is going to be a challenge to hold the attention of our TG – the young adults – ones who are on the cusp of adulthood. They’re rebellious, impatient, tech-savvy, hyperactive, confident and competitive. They’re early adapters, experimental, extremely opinionated and big influencers on matters such as purchase decisions.”


Revenue-wise, it will be both advertising and subscription. Though digitization will help, the channel’s foremost challenge is to bring a wide variety of advertisers, from different categories on the channel.


The tagline for Sonic is ‘Thrills. Guts. Glory.’ For presentation and packaging aspects, UK-based company – Red Bee has been hired. Scarecrow is the creative agency and Vizeum will handle media duties.


December 2011 is when Sonic will go on air. The marketing will roll out soon, it’s going to be a 360-degree campaign to start with and digital initiatives as an on-going strategy to engage and interact with tech -savvy young adults.


As history suggests, in other categories of course, many channels have launched with a bang. On being asked what her expectation were at launch, Ms Elavia Jaipuria chuckled, “Wish I could get 30 percent share and even surpass Nick. On a serious note, it will be only be right to review the channel’s performance post four to five weeks of launch.”

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