Sahara One gears up for the GEC fight; sets up team

It has been a laggard in the general entertainment channel (GEC) sweepstakes. But with new CEO Avinash Kaul in place, Sahara One, the Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) from Sahara One Media & Entertainment Ltd (Somel) is now pressing the accelerator pedal in a bid to move itself to a better position.

Under Kaul, who comes from a now dismantled NDTV Media, the channel has launched a new corporate identity with a new logo and also has set up a team of hand-picked executives to head different operations.

Among the recent appointees are Sheetal Ladha, who has joined as head-programming for Sahara One and is looking after the current shows, while creative director Mushtak Shiekh will oversee new concepts and ideas.

The responsibility of ramping up the distribution is on Nitin Raghuvanshi while the channel has also roped in former Walt Disney executive Kapil Sahani as head-affiliate sales.

Though the channel’s advertising sales is still being taken care of by Raj Nayak (now through Aidem Ventures), Sahara One has roped in Karthik L as head – marketing and international distribution (UK, US and Canada). For the rest of the international distribution, Somel has appointed Pallav Nagar, former Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) head subscription – Asia Pacific. Nagar will take care of South East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa region.

For the movie acquisition business, the company has appointed Vikrant Rai as head – syndication. He comes from Select Media Holdings.

Meanwhile, to head the research and planning, Somel has recruited former NDTV Media executive Viral Jani as AVP – research & strategic planning. Also, Puruskar Gupta has joined the company as head – finance. He joins in from Real Global Broadcasting.

On the new team and the road ahead, Kaul said, “In the last three months, we have put together the team and now it’s time to start the show. With the new identity and logo we also have a slew of new shows in the pipeline, but we will launch them in a phased manner.”

The new logo and feel of the channel has been designed in-house by the OAP (on-air promotion) team, headed by Ashish Kapoor.

Sahara One has four shows in the weekday primetime – Ganesh Leela (8.30 pm), Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki (9 pm) Kesariya Balam Aavo Hamare Des (9.30 pm) and Mata Ki Chowki (10.30 pm).

Starting 17 May, the channel will launch Bitto, produced by Contiloe Entertainment, at 8.30 pm. The show focuses on the prevalent caste-based discrimination in the state of Uttar Pradesh through the eyes of the protagonist Bitto.

The channel also announced another show Shor, which is to launch soon. Produced by Jay Productions, Shor is the story of a girl – Kanku – who cannot speak. Based in Gujarat, the show comes with the tagline, Gungi Kanku ki bolti kahaani.
Sources told indiantelevision.com that the channel has a total of seven shows in the pipeline, which will be rolled out gradually. However, Kaul reiterated that Sahara One is targeting the non-metro based audiences predominantly.

“Our strength is that we are connected to the bottom of the pyramid, the absolute masses, and the Hindi heartland. We are keeping this regional focus, which will be supported with extensive marketing,” Kaul said.

The channel has already begun to run its new packaging since 9 May, Mother’s Day. “We selected Mother’s Day as it is about the new birth of the channel. With the new shows, we are hoping to generate a good response. This is the foundation we are laying, and bit by bit, we will build up the programming,” Shiekh said.

On the marketing plan, Karthik said that the channel has chalked out a robust electronic and outdoor strategy. “We have bought spots for four weeks on different channels – with a total of 800 GRPs (gross rating points). Apart from an extensive outdoor plan in Delhi and Mumbai, every town and city in Uttar Pradesh has hoardings of Bitto. The same will be done for Shor in Gujarat. We also have radio, digital, SMS and on-ground activation strategies devised for promoting the shows,” Karthik said.

Meanwhile, Kaul said that the channel will focus on fiction and not burn cash in non-fiction content, which guzzles more money. “For the next three to six months, we are not looking at doing any reality shows,” Kaul said. “We are trying to identify the gaps in the current programming of other GECs and plugging our content there. We don’t want to launch everything at one go as it will not be easier for viewers even to sample all the shows together.”

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