Digital is the future; Covid-19 baggage slowing down M&E revival: Markand Adhikari, Chairman and Managing Director, SAB Group

The Sri Adhikari Brothers Group is a known name in Indian televion industry and they have been associated with TV for ages. One of the early birds in TV industry they started as a little family-claimed association firm by siblings Markand Adhikari and late Gautam Adhikari in 1985, turned into the first openly recorded TV creation organization. SAB TV (which is presently essential for the Sony Pictures Networks bouquet) as of late finished 20 years in the business, while SAB Group’s mainstream music channel Mastii has finished 10 years in the business. In an exclusive meeting with Financial Express Online, Markand Adhikari, Chairman and Managing Director, SAB Group, talked about his journey of 40-year, the advancing substance utilization situation, effect of COVID-19 on M&E industry and substantially more. Excerpts:

Two Decades in the market for SAB Group & Four decades of your contribution in this Industry – What have been the key milestones in this journey?

It has been an incredible journey so far. SAB Group has been active in Broadcasting for 20 years now, and my experience during the overall 40 years of my experience is unparalleled. SAB Group being a core media conglomerate, had commenced its journey through a small advertising agency. My late brother Gautam was an art director back then. In the early ’80s, Doordarshan was so immensely popular that we used to approach them for sponsoring entertainment programs. For almost ten years, we continued programmes on Doordarshan- both national and regional. We produced many popular daily programmes like “Shrimaan Shrimati,” “All The Best,” “Hello Inspector,” “Waqt Ki Raftar,” “Suraag,” and many more of around thousands of hours for Doordarshan.

We were the first ones to be approached to produce programs such as “Commander” and Philips Top Ten” by the first satellite television ZEE TV in 1991. For the overseas UK based channel- TV Asia, we had created new programs. We were one of the first media/production houses listed on both the Stock Exchanges: BSE and NSE in the year 1995. That was how SAB TV was founded on 23rd April 2000. We created one of a kind niche category by changing the whole programming into comedy. Programs like “Office Office” and “Yes Boss” had made waves in the industry.

In 2010, Mastiii was launched with a new concept of comedy and music, which became an instant hit and was positioned number 1 in just a month. We had found a Bhojpuri channel “Dabangg,” Marathi music channel “Maiboli.

We have launched “Governance now” the public policy magazine (now Digital post covid) which has created its own niche and credibility amongst readers.

We’ve also produced and distributed films like “Pyar Ka Punchnama 2”, “Missing,” “Great Grand Masti,” multi-starrer “Total Dhamaal,” and some others on the regional front.

We’ve released our first web film, “Dheet Patangey” premiered on Disney+Hotstar on 2nd March 2020. As our future is digital, we have more movies and web series in our pipeline for various platforms.

With India now entering Unlock 4.0, how do you observe the revival of the Entertainment sector in this?

This COVID-19 pandemic has had enough impact on every media house, and SAB Group is no exception. While April was terrible, having revenues deepened down to 85%, the month of May did comparatively better. From June, the revenue percentage increased but was still relatively backward from the pre-COVID scenario.

We have high hopes for the festive season, but festive revenues are just a temporary boost up. The real analysis will begin from January 2021 onwards. With the unlocking of big metros, and particularly the exact time period of launch of waxing will revive economy. But the same will get slow momentum as it has the past COVID baggage.

What are your thoughts on the impact on the Television Industry amidst OTT’s gaining popularity?

Undeniably, OTT platforms have created its one-of-a-kind category in the industry and are doing so well. We can too watch our favorite channels on OTT platforms anytime and anywhere. Our future is digital, it offers us such stupendous advantages, but traditional Indian families still like to watch TV with their family members in the evening on dinner time. So, Television is here to stay. When I say Television, it means Television Channels comes on TV screen via cable or DTH mode, otherwise TV screen is just a monitor. Still Daily newspapers are not out yet (talking about pre-COVID era), how can TV Channels be out?

We have witnessed significant content consumption during the lockdown period, is there also any paradigm shift to viewership content in India?

As I mentioned earlier, today, movies and web series on OTT platforms have gained stupendous popularity because people love their new and unexplored content. Web series has created one-of-a-kind categories amongst the youth in the entertainment industry. And this lockdown brought a tremendous change in the industry with more people subscribing to OTT platforms for watching films and web series of varied genres. It is undoubtedly a new trend, not going to fade. The television industry, on the other hand, took one step backwards. It started broadcasting old TV shows to arouse the feeling of nostalgia in the minds of the viewers. We love to watch the acceptable ancient Ramayana on the TV after years as it makes us nostalgic and reminds us of our childhood. Several other channels had also started broadcasting old daily soaps which were once so immensely popular among the viewers. Undoubtedly, television has also succeeded in engaging the viewers in its way.

What does the future roadmap look like for SAB Group? What would be your key focus areas for growth?

Like I always say, that SAB Group will forever remain as a core media conglomerate. We can’t deny that digital is our future. Keeping this in mind, we shall be mostly focused on creating exciting content for digital. SAB Group would like to grow in our present horizons, and the sky’s the limit for creativity.

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