For years, SAB TV has been the standout, lean, fit, channel from the Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) stable. However, the Hindi GEC space has being seen competition hotting up with new launches over the past year or so and existing leaders such as Star and Zee extending original fictional programming to seven days a week.

The SPN management has been taking corrective action to help SAB TV retain its edge. Among the tacks it has been taking is improving distribution and increasing the hours of original programming it airs. Two weeks back it unveiled a new show Khidki, which has begun getting some traction from its viewrs. Come 26 July and another fiction series is slated to make its debut at the 7:30 pm slot on weekdays.

The show is produced by Dheeraj Kumar’s Creative Eye and has Anirudh Dave in the lead with Rakesh Kapoor and Malini Kapoor essaying pivotal roles. It will track the journey of Y.A.R.O, (Your Aptitude Remote Operator) a humanoid, who is on the path of self-discovery. Created by super genius scientist Govardhan Aggarwal (Rakesh Bedi), who considers it his own son and has programmed the robot – with a human heart – to feel and behave like a 22 year old human. The story takes an interesting turn when Y.A.R.O starts interacting with people around him and how he eventually forges a strong bond with them. He learns the essence of life, love and above all humanity and he soon embarks on an adventurous journey with his family and friends.

“We have added Y.A.R.O at the 7:30 pm slot for two reasons: most channels are doing well at that timing, and second we are increasing the original programming hours we air to gain parity with others in the Hindi GEC space,” explains SAB TV executive vice-president and business head Anooj Kapoor. “There are two ways to extend our prime time. Go late prime time or early prime time. Since we have a core family audience watching our shows, we felt the 11 pm slot was too late, and chose early prime.”

Kapoor believes the show’s concept is young and refreshing and is in keeping with the channel’s strategy to differentiate through innovation. “It has a light hearted feel but Y.A.R.O Ka Tashan will help us see relationships with our family, friends, in a new light. Since Y.A.R.O is blissfully unaware of the rules of human society, he would experience the essence of love and humanity and in turn we would learn virtues of selflessness and generosity through his innocence,” he adds.

SAB’s new show is pitched against Colors’ Sasural Simar Ka, Star Plus’ yeh hai mohabtein, Zee TV’s Meri Saasu Ma and Life Ok’s Rishto Ka Saudagar Bazigar.

“Even as everyone was relying on dancing and reality shows on weekends, we launched two silent comedies, GuturGu and Rumm Pumm Po back to back on Saturdays and Sundays,” details Kapoor. “Extending the same logic Y.A.R.O is completely differentiated from other shows that are well established and some of them are running for a long time and some fatigue may have set in. ”

“The subject seems different definitely,” says a media observer. “How the audiences will react to Y.A.R.O will be decided by the treatment and execution by Creative Eye and SAB of the robot with a human heart. Watching the promos of Y.A.R.O Ka Tasha one feels that while the comedy is in the right direction, the visual effects could definitely be improved. However, the comedy could overshadow the VFX and engage viewers. Let us wait and watch.”

Kapoor is playing a wait and watch game himself and says he is not willing to speculate how the show will do and what ad rates it could attract. “The factors that decide the ad rates are the TRP and audience composition,” he explains. “If the audience is attractive to advertisers and even if the ratings are less, the channel may get a good rate. Some times if the rating is more but the audience is not that attractive the channel may get less. Hence, a decision can be taken once the show is live. This exposes not only the ratings but the composition of the audience.”

Two weeks back SAB TV had launched a first of its kind show Khidki which revolves around stories sent in by TV viewers.. Some of these select stories are being adapted into mini-series of episodes for the small screen.

“Not only did the show open well but, in its second week, the ratings have gone up. In the first week, on Friday, ratings were 0.4 and this week from Monday it’s 0.6. It has grown and it’s a good sign for us,” says the ever optimistic Kapoor

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