Sony Sab: An Unusual Success Story

30 Aug,2019


By Shailesh Kapoor


Even as the Hindi GEC category struggles to recover its lost glory inch by inch over the last year-and-a-half, there’s a special little story unfolding on the side. Sab TV (or Sony Sab, as it’s officially called) has grown almost 40 per cent in the last one year, to now emerge as the No. 2 Hindi GEC in the Pay TV segment in Urban HSM in the pre-KBC period. The channel has seen an upward surge in the months of July and August this year, overtaking more seasoned players like Zee TV and Colors, and competing well with the network flagship Sony Entertainment Television, which has big-ticket material like KBC on its side for 13 weeks now.


The channel is by far the No. 1 channel on TSV (time spent by viewer), being about 30 per cent ahead of the category leader Star Plus on this engagement measure week-on-week. Star Plus is the leader on viewership, because of its significant Reach advantage over Sab, symptomatic of the former’s wider appeal vis-à-vis the latter.


A deeper look at Sab’s viewership numbers can be fascinating. The channel’s Gujarat viewership is almost five times its UP viewership. The Mumbai to Delhi ratio is almost 2. Evidently, the channel manages to do much better in the Western markets, which have a higher proportion of Gujarati population in their viewer universe.


This, of course, is attributable to the flagship show Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (TMKOC). Now on air for more than 11 years, TMKOC contributes a staggering 83 per cent to the channel’s viewership. 58 per cent of the channel’s programming time is allotted to the show, across various original, repeat and rerun airings.


The show has wallpaper-level presence on the channel. Sab benefits hugely from the non-prime time performance of TMKOC. Compared to Star Plus, which gets 51% of its viewership from the 7-11pm prime time, Sab gets only 30% of its viewership from it, thus relying heavily on the afternoon time band, where repeats of TMKOC do ratings that some of the big Hindi GEC shows will be happy to achieve in their original telecast in the prime time.


Yes, Sab is a one-show channel. It has struggled to find a second big hit anywhere close to TMKOC’s stature. And it’s been 11 years now. There is a reasonably-robust second line of shows, led by Aladdin currently. But the stature of TMKOC dwarfs everything else Sab puts out.


Breaking down the success of TMKOC is a matter of another detailed piece. But it can be briefly mentioned that the show goes well beyond being just another comedy show, and manages to integrate culture, values and family, eventually delivering a wholesome family entertainer, a genre which very few Hindi GEC shows can claim to have a foot in.


How long can TMKOC remain at its peak? A conservative answer would be ‘at least another 10 years’. Its protagonist Jethalal, played by Dilip Joshi, has been the most-popular Hindi GEC character in India for years now, as per Ormax Characters India Loves. Character bonding ensures longevity, and TMKOC has very strong legs on that count.


Sab went through an elaborate brand refresh (Hindi GEC’s category when-in-doubt activity) recently. The new proposition ‘Khushiyon Wali Feeling’ strikes the right chord, relying to SAB’s positivity and light-hearted charm as its differentiators in a melodramatic category.


But currently, all the branding is just scenery for a channel that runs on the towering presence of a giant. If there was a second TMKOC, and that’s easier said than done, Sab will be the biggest Hindi pay channel by some distance. If that happens, it will be some success story to tell!



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