“We are India's very first premium 24x7 free-to-air travel channel in Hindi. Also, our model is based on working with the trade, and not just creating travel lifestyle programmes”
Ananya Saha | Delhi | June 8, 2012[caption id="attachment_23617" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Anil Garg, Chairman & Managing Director, Explore Broadcast"][/caption]
Hindi travel channel Explore TV was launched in January 2011. It is trying to create a niche for itself in the clutter of channels dishing out travel programmes. In conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Anil Garg, Chairman & Managing Director of Explore Broadcast, explains the highs and lows of the market that Explore TV is trying to turn into an opportunity. Excerpts:
Explore TV was launched in January 2011. How has the journey been for the channel?
We were a group of hands-on professionals who decided to create this channel, and from the time we actually began the test telecast in November 2010 till now – that’s over a year and a half – it has been a very interesting journey. We are India's very first premium 24x7 free-to-air travel channel in Hindi. Also, our model is based on working with the trade, and not just creating travel lifestyle programmes. In the last year, we have been extended a very warm reception by the trade and we are now working with dozens of NTOs, hotels and other organisations.
A significant part of this journey has been in understanding the needs of the travel trade who have been focusing on the print medium; and explaining to them how a 24x7 travel channel like ours can help them by creatively showcasing their products to targeted audiences via television at far lesser cost. For example, a good travel programme can showcase and reach out to audiences better than a full-page print ad showing the Eiffel Tower.
With an already crowded broadcast market with travel channels as well as travel-related programming on other channels, is the Indian market ready for another travel channel?
While there is travel programming on other channels, there is no free-to-air 24x7 travel channel in the country. Most of what you refer to are lifestyle oriented channels with Western style programming. Explore TV showcases creative experiential travel programming for Indians – from an Indian perspective. We offer facts, knowledge and information throughout the day, with an emphasis on the tastes and likes of the Indian traveller. By constantly extending our research, creatively building up our content in conjunction with travel experts, and staying purely travel focused with a pro-social motive, that is where Explore stands apart.
How is Explore TV different from other channels content-wise?
While other channels perceived to be in the same genre have 30-minute to one-hour documentaries or reality shows, Explore's unique programming additionally features a mix of travel infotainment programmes on different aspects of travel covering topics as varied as 'Boat Racing in Kerala', 'Thai Cuisine', 'Tanzania's Serengeti' to 'Sightseeing in Salzburg', ‘Atlantis – The Palms experience’ and ‘Blue Pottery of Jaipur’.
We also have a wide range of vignettes running through the day. Again, these are quick,
interesting and informative bytes on travel across the world including information that is of use both to the traveller and the travel trade. You have to explore “Explore” to see the difference! For instance, we have produced a talk-show called ‘Livewire with Ash’ where we have Ashwini Kakkar interview some of the luminaries of the travel trade. That is a first.
The channel is still not available across all DTH platforms. Has this been a conscious strategy?
No, it has not been a conscious strategy. There has been an issue of affordable bandwidth on the DTH platforms we would like to partner with. The entire distribution scenario across the country will change in the coming months with the mandated digital rollout starting soon. Very soon you will see Explore on Tata Sky VoD. Other digital as well as DTH platforms will follow once we and the cable affiliates and fraternity and DTH operators understand and appreciate the full impact of the distribution scenario with the new digital distribution rollout mandated by the government. Also, as the distribution industry increasingly realises the need to offer a more varied mix of channels to the consumer with more of infotainment, the scenario will change.
Which markets will be critical for your growth?
Much of our focus thus far has been on the A and B cities, but we find a large viewer base in the Tier III and smaller towns. Today we cover 75 per cent of the outbound travel market, but the domestic travel space is huge. We are actively looking at extending to that space.
What is Explore TV’s communication and marketing strategy? Has it changed since the inception of the channel?
As a single channel, not part of a bouquet, that too in the specialised travel, lifestyle,
infotainment space, we have so far been looking at word-of-mouth publicity, viral marketing and marketing through social networks. As this increases we hope to see a tipping point sometime soon. Our strategy here hasn’t changed much since launch.
How has the advertising fraternity responded to the channel?
The advertising fraternity is heavily biased towards GEC (general entertainment), News, Sports and such channels. Infotainment and that too specialised in travel is something they need to factor in. While we cannot compete with the kind of ratings a GEC channel would deliver, we do have an audience of 25-30 million viewers who should matter to the advertiser.
What is the content-advertising ratio on the channel? What is the percentage of in-house ads in this?
The advertising ratio on the channel is slowly but surely building up. Infotainment is relatively new in the television space. As clients/advertisers partner with us and see the returns, we are increasingly getting repeat orders. Having said that, we do have some way to go in building up our advertising client base.
Has there been an ad rate hike since the channel’s launch?
Not at all. Explore will always offer a tremendous and perhaps the best value-for-money proposition vis-à-vis print, online or traditional television.
Did you face any challenges in launching or marketing Explore?
As entrepreneurs, there are always challenges. Most people think of television as a glamour industry and not an educational or infotainment sector. However, this is changing as we see a range of channels – NatGeo, Animal Planet, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo, etc. – addressing an increasing demand and subsequently an increasing number of viewers who watch them after having had an overdose of traditional television.
Do you see breakeven soon?
As entrepreneurs, we are ever hopeful. We have the right product mix as well as portrayal; and a pro-social movitation in that we want to help promote the huge potential that the tourism sector has towards nation-building. Sooner or later we will.