With 800-plus+channels already jostling for viewers’ attention, the Indian television industry has transformed from a playground to a battleground. Pegged at Rs 543.2 billion, the industry recently witnessed the launch of a slew of channels in the English entertainment genre which garners just a little over 1% of the total viewership pie. The genre, including general entertainment channels (GECs) and movie channels, was recently dotted with launches like Colors Infinity (SD and HD), Star Movies Select HD; and the re-branding of Movies Now Plus to MN+.
It is clearly a case of the more, the merrier. Says Ferzad Palia, executive vice-president and general manager, English Entertainment at Viacom18, “Audience preferences change over time and we as broadcasters need to evolve with them.”
Thanks to digitisation, the English genre in the country has seen big changes over the past couple of years, the most important being an increase in the number of channels and the diverse fare they offer which has led to viewership coming from beyond the metros. This, in turn, has led to the creation of sub-genre niche channels such as Comedy Central, Star Movies Action and premium pay channels such as HBO Define and Star Premiere HD, as a newer set of audiences comes into play.
The market dynamics
Within the English genre, movies capture 60% of the market share while general entertainment stands at 25-30%.
“Our target audience member is an individual who appreciates the best that life has to offer. A person who seeks to fill moments of his leisure time with the greatest value,” says Vivek Srivastava, senior vice-president and head, English entertainment cluster, Times Network while adding that the rebranded avatar of Movies Now Plus, namely MN+, will have only six minutes of ads compared to the 12-minute per hour ad cap. Last year witnessed the HD universe of Rs 1000-1300 crore grow by 35%; and with the addition of more television homes, the next couple of years will see a doubling of HD homes as well, according to industry experts. It is a given that such channels command premium ad rates. However, with a dismal share in the viewership pie and thus, poor ratings, these channels have taken the digital route to entice both audiences and advertisers.
Considering the rapid emergence of digital, 20-25% of the marketing budget is diverted towards new media. Unlike Hindi GECs, which charge exorbitant ad rates based on viewership ratings, English channels want to create a bond with their TG which is very active online and doesn’t hesitate to share its opinion on social media. The two-way conversation not only lets these channels know what viewers like and dislike, but also allows them to show advertisers how engaging they can be with viewers.
A rough road?
Media planners admit that though the genre has been stagnant in terms of ratings over the past years, there is always room for more relevant and fresh content as different target groups consume such content differently.
Since fragmented consumption is on the rise, digital becomes important. “In my view, it is important for such channels to also offer the same TV content on digital. From broadcasters’ perspectives, many niche channels use digital for their marketing campaign apart from TV,” points out Neelkamal Sharma, COO-buying, Madison Media Group. For the English genre specifically, a lot of the content is a global occurrence and fans and followers of this content across the world like to come together and discuss characters, plots and favourite moments. Social media platforms have made it extremely easy for viewers to share/express and communicate with the channel/ cast/creators and producers of content.
Take Multi Screen Media’s Sony PIX,for example, which promoted the MIB 3 television premiere on Twitter in 2013 by engaging in live conversations with the viewers, thereby making it the first ever interactive movie premiere in India. It saw nearly 2,00,000 people joining the conversation nationwide in under three hours.
Through social media, these channels hope to build a unique community of content evangelists as they come up with well-packaged content and in the bargain, earn marketers’ interest too.