Launching the first show under the banner of SET Originals – Prithvi Vallabh – this month, Sony Entertainment Television is setting off on a journey to create a parallel content creation company.
Danish Khan, Executive Vice-President, and Business Head, Sony Entertainment Television says he is determined to take Indian stories to the world through strong and extravagant storytelling.At the same time, he mentions that SET Originals has a strong business objective to it.
He explained, “While our primary aim is to make the world know about Indian stories, there is an intention to generate syndication revenues through SET Original. We will build it as a parallel revenue stream for us while making SET a content creation company.”
During his regular visits to MIPCOM with Ashish Golwalkar, Senior Creative Director, SET, Khan noticed that while South America has been a huge content provider to the world, Israel and Turkey have also emerged as huge suppliers of content. “In last 10 years, Turkey and Israel have taken the world of content by storm. These are small countries with finite number of stories and history. The potential of India and its ability to tell stories is so high that we can become the biggest export in the content world. It can take our TV industry to the next level.”
Sony has made some progress in this direction as its first in-house production Beyhadh has been picked up by Turkey and is being adapted for their audiences locally. Moreover, Porus is already being telecast in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, merely within five weeks of the launch of the show on Sony in India. The network is also in final negotiations with a few international markets about their shows Porus, Prithvi Vallabh and Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai (YUDKBH). Some of these markets include Middle East, Turkey and South America. While Prithvi Vallabh is the first show being officially launched under the SET Originals banner, Beyhadh and YUDKBH are also in-house productions. YUDKBH is being allowed for syndication and dubbing in a couple of international markets.
It is definitely a big step that the channel has taken up but it remains to be seen if anything follows Prithvi Vallabh under the SET Originals banner, or it becomes the only show. Only time will tell if the first show will give the kind of returns to the channel it expects and if the network will have to wait longer for success.
Technically, in-house productions also allow the channel to own the IP of the show and use it in any form that it may. “Syndication is being taken as a serious revenue stream for us. We have a dedicated team on this. Along with this, Sony is gradually making inroads in the global markets. The biggest win is going to be with Prithvi Vallabh’s syndication,” added Khan.
Khan said one of the reasons for taking ownership of the concept is that the gestation period of these shows is generally very long. Prithvi Vallabh was conceptualised about two years ago. “Investing two years in a concept is otherwise unheard of in TV. We are ready to invest that much effort and money despite all the uncertainty. Also, we have a definitive way of working here. For example, for Prithvi Vallabh, we have planned 40 episodes for season 1 and another 40 episodes for season 2. Each 44-minute episode is written already. It is keeping global sensibilities in mind,” Khan said.
The investment is high on the SET Originals shows and the network is ready to commit that money. In one year, there might be more than one SET original series, but these will be finite. Khan explained how the structuring of the budget is also different, in the sense that more investment and effort goes into the research, writing and screenplay because that is where the foundation is set.
The first SET Original show, Prithvi Vallabh, is launching on January 20, on weekends at 9.30 pm.
Speaking more about Prithvi Vallabh, this is the first time that the channel has slotted a periodic drama on weekends, which are generally otherwise reserved for crime (Sony’s favourite genre) and comedy (Indian TV’s peculiar weekend dose). Khan explained why. “This is a very special show for us, it is the first SET original. We had to give it the biggest possible slot on our channel. Weekend is most important for our channel and this is the most fertile slot for us.”
Prithvi Vallabh is an alternative thought of what kings are generally known for. Unlike other kings, who are their best in the battlefield, this king feels that war is the last resort. The focus is on culture, literature, art and civilisation. It is about real historical characters weaved into a near fictional story.
The show is replacing Drama Company onthe weekend 9.30pm slot. Speaking about the marketing plans, Khan added, “Marketing has evolved over the years. There is some bit of traditional marketing, but these days content is the biggest marketing tool. We have a 360 degree plan – TV, OOH, radio, print but digital is biggest. Porus’s YouTube masthead was a great success on the day of launch. We will do the same with Prithvi Vallabh.”
The channel has already signed two co-powered by sponsors – Datsun and India Gate. The channel is expecting to sign up five more associate sponsors before the launch.