Food-related content on television has matured to an exceptional spectrum of show repertoire, from simple demonstrations of recipes to reality shows pitching budding chefs against each other
FROM monochrome to technicolour, from generalised entertainment to distinctive genres, television has been evolving on the twin pillars of technological advancement and social tastes. Globally, the medium that has seduced gazillions of people into decades of refreshment, occupation and even education, has been a social barometer of the transformations in the audience’s likings. Eventually, these likings and proclivities have given rise to the polarisation of channels – from channels dedicated to international music, to those that cater to crime and investigation buffs. And the Indian television market is not a new player in the exciting and ever evolving phenomenon of television segmentation.
With a big appetite for entertainment, the Indian audience is a wonderful melange of people who have diverse preferences. And these heterogeneous preferences are the baseline of the current segmentation in the TV industry — comedy shows, mythological sagas, indie music, et al. Powered by cable digitisation, the fragmentation of the audience and inclination towards channels with specific themes or a personality have given rise to genre-specific channels. Food channels are a natural extension of this ‘television segmentation’. In India, food forms the third religion right after Bollywood and cricket, and brings people together. Food-related content on television has matured to an exceptional spectrum of show repertoire, from simple demonstrations of recipes to reality shows pitching budding chefs against each other.
Multiplexes changed the movie viewing experience where one could pick and choose the movie they wanted to see. A family could watch different content based on their individual interests. With digitisation, there is an opportunity where viewers have the choice to consume genre-specific content of their liking. Viewers can actually pay to watch what they want to. With digitisation, future of niche food channels looks promising.
This differentiated content catering specifically to foodies mirrors the changes in the society, whether temporal or cultural, and also presents with it a whole new world of exceptional opportunities. It has become a gateway for a range of culinary experiences for the audience—learning how to whip up a sensational Jack Rose, or knowing the incredible foods of Down Under. Food channels have become great routes for exploring the vast galaxy of gastronomy. Shows have subject matter that includes myriad topics, such as healthy and nutritious food, cooking for kids, beverages and cocktails, and baking. Consumer thirst for content has magnified to include knowledge about global cuisines, restaurant-reviews, street food, sneak peek into food processing, and even cut-throat competitions between upcoming chefs. The premise is that not all food enthusiasts love meddling in the kitchen – they may be food connoisseurs who just love to give their taste buds a new experience! This naturally offers food enthusiasts a magnificent array of content that can suit their preferences and their need of the moment.
Food channels have also become a medium for budding cooks, amateurs, restaurateurs, Michelin-starred chefs, as well as people from allied fields such as food photography and food stylists, to converge, network and create content that stimulates the imagination of the viewers and simultaneously, builds business.
These channels are a wonderful forum for business and enterprise augmentation. These are unequivocally the best platform for promoting a range of goods and services in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and fast moving consumer durables (FMCD) sectors. Gourmet grocery stores are able to showcase their products better, thereby strengthening the food and beverage (F&B) industry in India. And why just food ingredients as brands, even technology gets a chance to shine on this niche platform. With culinary experiments becoming easier due to a wide spectrum of appliances and gadgets, food channels provide the perfect stage for visibility of these products, to the right audience. Advertisers get a channel with a sub-genre that will aid them in reaching out to their target interest group. The entire collaboration is a win-win situation for both, the channel and the advertisers, as they are able to access their target market in a strategic format. Also, the onset of digital television and direct-to-home television has vastly changed the way TV is consumed in the country because of which the cost of technology is declining for consumers. This makes it possible for broadcasters to give audiences niche channels at a cost-effective rate. The economics of this industry works brilliantly.
This sharper focus of channels on specific themes charts out several veins of development, be it in terms of sparking a passion in potential culinary experts, or establishing associations between brands in the F&B industry. And with any entity that surges ahead and progresses, there are quests too. The main challenges for a food network would be the ability to stand out. This would mean distinguishing itself from other channels, the ability to create new properties that are unique and the ability to churn out celebrity chefs. Even so, it is evident that niche channels are on the rise. Their advent is the harbinger of some stirring television content, making a headway for exciting business prospects in the process.
By Amit Nair
The author is business head, Zee Khana Khazana