Interview with Sony TV’s Neeraj Arora

Neeraj Arora, Executive Vice President and Head of International Business at Sony Pictures Network spoke to exclusively about the UK/Europe premium via-a-vis free market and plans for HD services.

19th September 2016    0:01

Neeraj Arora

Neeraj Arora

Sony Pictures Networks has gone through a number of changes in its organization & on-air, how have the past few months been for you?
Network has done very well given the challenging market dynamics we are faced with in most of the key markets internationally. Alignment in the structure and key launches on the flagship brands will help further.

Sony TV has gone up in numbers in India ratings recently, mainly thanks to Kapil Sharma and your new fiction launches, are the TRPs what you had hoped these shows would have delivered?
Doing well in India always helps us in International territories though not all overseas markets have measurement currency except a few. But in select key markets like US and Middle East where we are measured, ratings and channel performance has been very good and consistent. With some interesting new properties lined in the next 2 quarters, it will only get better.

Kapil Sharma’s show ends soon, how do you think your viewership will be affected when it exits & when does it plan to return?
TKKS is doing very well and when the season finishes, it will be replaced with a new show. Besides TKKS, it’s the success and traction on the fiction shows which is really working well and that’s the key to sustained good performance.

You’re returning to reality TV shows with Superstar Dancer & Indian Idol this year, how excited are you with the launches of both these?
Very exciting times ahead. Super Dancer launched last week and initial feedback is positive. Having Shilpa Shetty who is a household name in the UK will be an advantage in this market.
After few seasons of Indian Idol Junior, the show is returning in its original format and with some of the original judges (including Sonu Nigam and Anu Malik), so hopefully it will also bring the fortune of the early seasons where it was a huge success.

SAB TV has gained pace on the back of big movies and premieres. It recently launched Adalat & aired fictions from Sony Pal, do you feel the channel has moved away from its philosophy of just light entertainment shows?
For the UK market specifically, we have tried a different approach with SAB because we had the ability to measure the audience preference in its FTA BARB model. Movies and some of the non SAB shows were received very well. Don’t forget SAB is in a very competitive FTA space with over a dozen quality channels including some of the top tier channels from India and Pakistan, so relatively it has done very well and we will continue to experiment to garner better share.

The Sony brand in UK remains one of the most popular amongst broadcasters despite dip in viewership in India, how have you maintained this?
Sony is a very strong brand not only in the UK but globally and even in India regardless of the market challenges, the Network enjoys a very good brand loyalty amongst the partners in distribution and advertising alike.
Viewership figures provide a measure of a specific nature and can peak and drop depending on many variable factors. Over the years all stakeholders have also realized that ratings are a good indicator but doesn’t truly define the value a brand can deliver to distribution and advertising partners.
Brand equity is built over years by delivering quality and excellence where we have been true to our promise of giving high quality family entertainment to our viewers all around the globe very successfully and that is why we have gained undiminishing trust and popularity with our viewers.

…here in the UK, the landscape has changed for the South Asian channels in the last decade where we have over 50 South Asian channels in the FTA space..

Do you feel the Sky Asia Pack has proved underwhelming for viewers and premium channels like yourselves have lost out to the influx of free channels?
Historically the niche premium content distribution worldwide has always been subscription driven, here in the UK, the landscape has changed for the South Asian channels in the last decade where we have over 50 South Asian channels in the FTA space, it’s bound to put pressure on the premium subscription model.

Do you see the Sony TV & Sony Max channels switching to free statuses, if the Sky Asia Pack deal is not renewed next year?
As a network, We have our presence in both Pay TV and FTA space with different channels and we are constantly reviewing our position to align with market dynamics. It is very difficult to say what will happen in a years’ time in this ever changing and evolving market but we do have a roadmap which I can’t share but all I can say is we are always striving to get the best in the circumstances and have done that very successfully for last two decades.

…andscape is changing and all broadcasters and content owners are keeping viewers interest above everything else and as part of that strategy we also decide on distribution of content between pay and free offering.

What’s your take on premium content being aired on free channels before shown on channel as a part of the Sky Asia Pack?
As I said earlier, landscape is changing and all broadcasters and content owners are keeping viewers interest above everything else and as part of that strategy we also decide on distribution of content between pay and free offering.

Cricket returned to Sony TV last year, will you be broadcasting anymore this year?
In terms of sports we have the UK rights to ISL, the Indian football league but don’t have any cricket lined up for rest of this year.

Technically, Sony TV has recently gone widescreen, are you planning to implement this on other channels? Any HD plans?
Yes, as part of our commitment to offer the best entertainment experience to viewers at home, we made these changes which have been appreciated by our viewers. HD is definitely on the cards, we will announce our plan when ready.

Where do you see Sony Pictures Networks a year from now?
Continuing as an established brand and one of the most successful television networks in the world. We endeavor to always live up to the expectation of our consumer and in the process continuously improve and consolidate our market share in terms of viewership and revenue.

Sony Pictures Networks International channels include Sony Entertainment Television Asia, Sony MAX and Sony SAB TV.


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