Everyone who visited Goafest 2017 couldn’t have missed the presence of Times Network. Whether it was the life-sized Avengers installation where everyone could go click happy or the giant posters hanging from every nook and cranny taking a dig at HBO, Times Network and the channels from its English Entertainment Cluster (EEC) made sure their voices were heard loud and clear.
On the sidelines of the fest, Best Media Info caught up with Vivek Srivastava, Senior VP and Head, English Entertainment Cluster, Times Network, to understand the marketing strategy for the cluster going forward, the distribution challenges and how they plan to maintain their top position.
While viewership is an important aspect of marketing, share of mind is the second and, therefore, we have become very aggressive and we are very proud to say that we have the largest share of voice as far as marketing is concerned and it is not only restricted to television. We have gone beyond the ‘Plain Jane’ mediums like radio and outdoor. We invest very heavily in digital and we focus on engagement and try to make it more exciting.
When we launched we were number one and then we slipped to number five and a great part of that slip up was distribution. We did not move onto digital as fast as we could have but I think our distribution team has, in the last three years, done a fabulous job of being present everywhere. I think purely from a numbers standpoint we have the largest footprint as far as the English channels are concerned and distribution is an important part of our business and PR brainstorm.
On content and partnerships
We have partnered with Disney and we have the Marvels coming in. We have four other big studios signed up with us. From a content standpoint I think we have all the franchises right from the Hobbits to the Harry Potters to the Fast and Furious. We realise that content is the primary driver of viewership and I think that is our strength.
On Romedy Now and its content strategy
Romedy Now has done fantastically well and it is a business success. We have deliberately gone ahead with what we call a hybrid strategy as far as content on Romedy Now is concerned. The reason behind that is that Rom-Coms are being produced lesser and lesser in Hollywood. This coupled with the fact that the repeat ratio in romantic movies is much less when compared to that of action movies, we repeat the movies far lesser and therefore it is advisable for us to have a little more than just movies as long as we are true to the brand.
On Zoom and its turnaround
Zoom has actually been a turnaround story for us in the last six months. Ever since we have moved from TAM to BARC, FTA channels got a 10-15 per cent reach advantage. Having said that we slipped from our positions, we slipped to a number nine and 10. We have tried to change that part to a great extent in the last six months. The music strategy and the look has been changed, we are far more lively and upbeat right now. We are focusing on talkability. The fact that we have a huge digital universe in Zoom only helps us because unlike the other pure play music/youth players, we have a large repertoire of social media platforms. We just launched our website, which is the leading Bollywood portal in the country. On Facebook we are the lead channel, the apps are doing very well. On YouTube, we have a huge amount of public admiration. On digital, to be honest, we don’t even compare ourselves to the music and youth channels. Our focus is to compare with larger platforms; we treat ourselves as a 360 degree platform. With all these changes we have moved from number 10 to number five. If you look the FTA and retro channels, we are pretty much in the game. However we are not pitching Zoom as a regular vanilla music platform. It is a lot more than that because that is what we have toiled hard to achieve.
On edging out HBO
Compared to the industry we are a relatively young network. Movies Now launched about six years back and ever since then we have really consolidated our position as far as the English category is concerned. Movies Now has been in the top two spots and that is a good thing. What has also happened is that newer brands that we have launched have segmented the audience in a good way. Romedy Now is at the top of the pile as far as its segment is concerned, MN+ is a premium and leading brand in the HD space. We launched another channel last year called Movies Now 2 and it has knocked out HBO. HBO is a brand that most of us have grown with as far as movies are concerned and we respect that brand. Therefore taking over that brand is certainly a very exciting thing for us. The English Cluster per se has been on a growth curve for the last few years. We have been very positive and aggressive about it, we have invested heavily in the business; our management has been equally aggressive about the business. We have launched newer brands and fortunately for us most of them have been successful. We are coming with a strong repertoire as we move into next year.
On ad rates and under-indexation of EEC
The English Entertainment Cluster is definitely under indexed. The power that the English genre commands purely from an influence and though-provocation stand point is humongous. English comes with a certain amount of aspiration and that aspiration is led by the kind of movies that we are doing. So from that standpoint, it is under-indexed as far as ad rates are concerned. English movies specifically are the mass audience aggregator platforms and therefore they should command a lot more than they are getting but there are market forces at play and everybody is just running with it. We don’t have much to complain, we are the ones in top two. Therefore the onus is on us to increase the rates and for the others to follow.
The year ahead
In fiscal 2017-18, it will be important to have our leadership position intact but apart from leadership we want to gain action as far as share of mind is concerned. We want thought leadership and we have displayed that through MN+, MN 2 and other brands. Movies Now is important to us and Movies Now 2 will be important this year. Zoom has been consistently rising up the charts and we would want it to continue and get into the top three channels. So that is the broad plan as far as our strategy is concerned.