Sony Marathi to grow the market with its differentiated positioning & content

The Marathi general entertainment space is set to see some refreshed action with the launch of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) new GEC – Sony Marathi. The channel will hit the airwaves on August 19, 2018 with as many as 11 new shows. The Marathi GEC space is currently dominated by Zee Marathi, the genre leader, along with Star Pravah and Colors Marathi. 

With the positioning of Vinuya Atut Naati (weaving unbreakable relationships), Sony Marathi endeavours to weave bonds of genuine emotions with each life it touches, through its innovative and engaging content comprising original fiction and non-fiction programming that will celebrate the rich cultural fabric of Maharashtra. 

Being the collective efforts of industry stalwarts, shows such as ‘Julta Julta Jultay Ki’, ‘H.M. Bane T.M. Bane’, ‘Saare Tuzhyach Sathi’, ‘Ti Phulrani’, ‘Duniyadari Filmy Ishtyle’, ‘Year Down’, ‘Bheti Laagi Jeeva’, ‘Hrudhayat Vaje Something’, ‘Garja Maharashtra’, etc., aim at going beyond ordinary content offerings, challenging the status quo and breaking perceptions that exist around relationships in society. The non-fiction line-up includes ‘Maharashtracha Favorite Dancer’ and ‘Maharashtrachi Hasya Jatra’. Along with the daily dose of entertainment, the channel also promises a great library of Marathi movies. 

Commenting on the new channel, NP Singh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), said, “With entertainment being one of the key focus areas for Sony Pictures Networks India, the launch of Sony Marathi is a milestone initiative. Aligned to the belief, Vinuya Atut Naati, our new channel aims to weave unbreakable relationships with its viewers, through content that is contemporary in nature, yet deeply rooted in tradition. This brand promise will reflect in our immersive programming line-up, the quality of production and storytelling which will resonate with viewers across age groups, providing a complete family viewing experience. Sony Marathi is determined to enrich the cultural fabric of the Marathi entertainment space.” 

Ajay Bhalwankar, Business Head, Sony Marathi, added here, “Our top most priority in this market is to deliver premium sophisticated content that caters to the entertainment needs of the Maharashtrian audience. The Marathi-speaking broadcast market is a very lucrative one, we look forward to expanding our footprint in this space.”

In conversation with Adgully, Ajay Bhalwankar spoke at length on Sony Marathi’s plans to make a place for itself in the Marathi GEC space, the strong focus on content, leading in people’s mindset share and much more. Excerpts:   

Why this late entry into the Marathi GEC market?
It’s never late. It’s just that we thought this was the right time for us to enter the market. The language market in Maharashtra is growing and fairly rapidly, and we have traditionally had a very strong presence in Maharashtra – with our other Metro channels, we have a 23 per cent market share in Maharashtra. Therefore, we decided that it is time for us to talk to our loyal audiences in their language, by entering the regional market and giving them content that is aspirational and differentiated, which our research tells us that there is a need gap. That’s why we came up with Sony Marathi. 

There are great expectations from Sony Marathi because Sony Pictures Networks has always been known to come up with innovative and pioneering content which is aspirational and that’s exactly what you will see on Sony Marathi. I feel very confident that with our entry and our differentiated positioning and content, the market will grow further. We see an opportunity within that growth to capture a decent market share. 

What kind of need gap do you see in the Marathi GEC space?
As I said, when we speak to the viewers there is a type of content that we offer to them. If you look at Marathi cinema versus Marathi television, you will see a marked difference between the kind of content that gets done in cinema vis-à-vis TV, and also the treatment, especially in the last 2-3 years. The last 10 years have been a renaissance for Marathi films and as we have seen, content driven films have also done well commercially in the Maharashtra market. That’s something that has not happened in television. We feel that the television content is kind of stuck in the period 10 years ago and is only being replicated. 

Thus, there is a huge need gap in the urban television audiences and somewhere current television is not dishing out those kinds of content. That is why you will see a distinctiveness in all the promos that are going on air for Sony Marathi. 

There is overlapping of viewership between Hindi GEC and Marathi GEC…
Absolutely, and that is why we have a very strong presence in this market. It is important for us to cross-pollinate audiences between Hindi and Marathi languages as well. 

While Sony Entertainment Television is urban centric, will Sony Marathi target the same audience? The promos look very urban and affluent…
Absolutely, and that is why we are targeting the 15+ urban markets. I would not say affluent, but definitely urban and aspirational is what we are targeting. 

How will the positioning of Vinuya Atut Naati reflect in the channel’s content?
We have been working on Sony Marathi’s content for more than a year. It is the content offering that has given rise to the tagline – Vinuya Atut Naati – and not the other way round. The content will be about breaking stereotypes; the women that you see on Sony Marathi will be empowered women, and actually they are powerful women as well. One of our characters is a boxer. This is the kind of content that Sony has always been known for and it is something you will see on Sony Marathi as well. 

How many hours of programming are you looking at initially?
We are looking at four hours of content – Monday to Saturday, with 9 fiction shows and 2 non-fiction shows. The prime time of the channel will be from 7 pm to 11 pm. The programming will be a mix of fiction and non-fiction. As you know, Sony is known for its non-fiction shows, so in Sony Marathi, too, we will have innovative shows. 

What is your marketing strategy for Sony Marathi?
We have a very strong network presence and all our channels have already supported us. Beyond this, there has been a 360 degree approach, right from news channels, music channels, outdoors, and digital marketing – we have been very aggressive. You might have seen our promos going viral and people commenting with a lot of passion. 

What kind of distribution deal do you have in place?
On the day of launch we will have a 100 per cent distribution. Sony Marathi will be available on all cable networks and all DTH platforms. It is an unprecedented launch on day one. 

What kind of market share are you aiming?
More than the market share, it is the mindset share that we are aiming at – we want to be on the top of the minds of the people. That’s more important for us. For this, the first task is to establish brand Sony Marathi and that’s what the team is focused on. This will happen through the kind of content that we putting out on the channel. The rest will follow.

Who are the production houses on board for Sony Marathi’s shows?
All the big production houses are working with us – SoBo Films, IRIS, Vidyalal Pathare, Sriyan Godbole, Sameer Patil (of ‘Poster Boys’ fame) who is turning producer for the first time. There are some producers like Bodhi Tree, who are entering the Marathi space. We have got a mix of good, talented people who have given big successes and iconic shows and are featuring on Sony Marathi. 

How often will you be refreshing your shows?
We have a strong development pipeline already. There are different airing slots for each and every new show – while some shows will air six days a week, some will air four days a week and some will air twice a week. There will be weekly shows as well. Hence, we are playing with different formats. There is a predefined life for the shows.


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