Sony Entertainment Television (SET) remains bullish on non-fiction programming as it prepares to introduce multiple international formats to India.
To be sure, non-fiction programming in India tends to describe talent shows and game shows rather than documentary and current affairs films. Danish Khan, business head, Sony Entertainment Television, digital business and StudioNEXT and network channels licensing said in an interview that, unlike the annual reality show template that begins around the festive season, Sony will look to have one non-fiction show on air on weekdays and two on weekends through the year.
Viewership for the category has risen cumulatively if both linear and digital platforms are taken into account and advertiser interest remains strong.
The network is also betting on multiple language versions of hits like Shark Tank to bolster its digital offering on SonyLIV, its video streaming platform. International titles like The $100,000 Pyramid, Raid the Cage and Can’t Touch This will be adapted for India in the coming months.
“Everyone is offering a variety of fiction, and over the last six to seven years, Sony has created an infrastructure where we are able to produce non-scripted shows, not just reality, which are popular with audiences and also result in profitable business for us. That is a reason why we want to expand (the non-fiction slate),” Khan said.
Going forward, non-fiction will be a priority for Sony the whole year, with two shows, one a singing, dancing or talent hunt and the second, a comedy show, both on weekends and a third show on weekdays.
Mint had earlier reported that television viewership of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and Bigg Boss was around 30% lower than pre-covid times last year.
That said, only established franchises are working, and hardly any new properties have a chance of gaining draw.
Refuting the argument that non-fiction doesn’t grab the kind of eyeballs it used to, Khan said overall viewership for the category has grown and a lot of it is reflected in digital traction for these shows since viewership of TV content is no longer limited to prime-time appointment viewing but spread across devices, many of which allow for consumption on the move. For example, other than the show itself, a lot of people watch short clips from it on social media. “If you look at the viewership on TV and that on digital, all of our properties are expanding (in viewership) and we’re seeing a similarly positive response from advertisers,” Khan said adding that the company isn’t worried about the shift of urban audiences to OTT as the overall content consumption pie has only grown across mediums. He said that the presence of a celebrity and the ability to integrate brands within a show make for a value proposition to advertisers.
The latest season of Kaun Banega Crorepati had 13 sponsors on board for TV and seven for digital, while the ongoing MasterChef India season has seven sponsors for TV and five for digital.
To be sure, the rise of connected TV sets is fuelling the consumption of television content on streaming platforms, industry experts like Khan say. For instance, shows like Shark Tank and MasterChef India are more digital-driven.
Calling SonyLIV the only profitable OTT in India and the second-largest platform after Disney+ Hotstar, Khan said subscriptions have been growing at a rapid pace. “In 2023, the number of Hindi titles will remain the same as 2022 but the output in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali will be greater,” Khan said.