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Interview: Raj Nayak, CEO, Colors

“Our programming shows a willingness to walk the unbeaten path. We have done it consistently and we will continue to do so. This is in our DNA. If you don’t try, you will never know”

Niraj Sharma | Delhi | June 21, 2012

After having successfully spearheaded marketing and sales at NDTV, Raj Nayak decided to become an entrepreneur when he set up Aidem. And then suddenly, he gave it up and decided to take up the stewardship of Colors, the Hindi GEC that entered the market with a fairly loud bang riding on some very expensive properties. It has been a roller-coaster ride in the recent past for Colors, but Nayak is unfazed. He says that nothing is gained unless one tries out new things. In conversation with on the occasion of launch of celebrity dance reality show 'Jhalak Dikhhla Ja', Nayak talks about his new role, the content strategy of Colors, differentiated programming, and audiences. Excerpts:

As CEO of a leading Hindi GEC, how would you term your journey so far?

It has been extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. There have been ups and downs but that’s why I’m here because I love challenges and hopefully I want to make a difference and I’m sure you are watching it on air. We have done a lot of new things this year. We have experimented a lot. We have done Ring Ka King and Jhalak Dikhhla Ja. We did a show to pay tribute to Jagjit Singh. We launched a new show called Madhubala on the backdrop of Bollywood that nobody would have thought of doing. So, what we have done is to bring in some freshness and variety in the content and hopefully the audiences have begun to like it and this is reflecting in our ratings.

From media sales head to channel head, how different is the experience?

There is no difference at all. Even when I was with Star India or NDTV, I used to handle sales and marketing as revenue function head. I used to be on the executive committee at Star, so I was a part of the decision-making process. At the end of the day I was managing the P&L. Our business is all about people, we don’t have plant and machinery. My job is to nurture the best talent in every field be it in distribution or sales or marketing or creative. I have been fortunate enough to get an outstanding team at Colors. I have brought in two good creative heads – Prashant Bhatt and Manisha Sharma – who are extremely talented. And when a function head does his or her job well, the credit comes to me!

Colors is known for path-breaking shows since its inception. There have been more hits than failures for the channel. What is the key to this success?

I think it is the willingness to walk the unbeaten path. We have done it consistently and we will continue to do so. This is in our DNA. If you don’t try, you will never know. If anybody can tell what is going to work and what will not, then everybody will end up creating a hit film! The truth is, you have experience, you understand the environment, you do the research, and then your gut feel says ‘this can work’ and you take the chance and give it your full shot and keep your fingers crossed. Sometime things fall in place and sometime they don’t. In some cases tried and tested formulas like Jhalak Dikhhla Ja have been a success globally. In India too it has been a successful show and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be a success this year.

Where did this DNA come from?

When Colors started, there were 8-9 players in the market and there was nothing to lose. The channel experimented with the content which worked well and then it continued with this. And somewhere along the way it became a part of our DNA.

Has the channel become dependent on a few iconic reality shows like Khatron Ke Khiladi and Bigg Boss while it has lagged with round-the-year staple shows?

This is not true. It’s just that these two shows are our identity. Rather, we have most differentiated shows. One is India’s Got Talent. Then the kids’ dancing reality show Chak Dhoom Dhoom and comedy show with kids Chhote Miyan. With Jhalak, we have a celebrity dance reality show.

Would it right to say that Colors is yet to find a large corpus of loyal viewers?

This is also not true as Colors has most loyal viewers. They are the audiences that stay with us, swear by us. We know the kind of reactions we get.

How do you describe your audience?

Majority of our audience is middle class, housewives, young, because of the nature of the programming such as India’s Got Talent and Bigg Boss. Our core audiences come from the Hindi heartland. Colors is for the grandchild to the grandmother. Colors is the only GEC with a good balance between male and female. The ratio of male and female audience is 45:55. We need to understand that 93 per cent of Indian households have one television set and one show is mostly seen by all family members. We also understand that unique audiences are limited across television. But there is a primary and secondary channel for all. Also, several households have the tendency where they start watching a channel at a particular time band and end up watching the same channel till the end. Sometime people are used to watch a particular channel making that channel their first choice and we are among one of them.

One of the big acquisitions after you took over was Ring Ka King. Why did it fail to rake in TRPs?

It didn’t do as well as we wanted but it was within our expectations if we consider the kind of money we spent on the show and the return on it. It happens with many shows, you can’t have all shows working exactly how you want. It was an experiment with an international format. Even today, such shows are on the top on Ten Sports.

One can understand such shows on Ten Sports. But Colors is in a different genre, it is a Hindi GEC…

For us it was a clutter-breaker, it was different and there were different audiences who tuned in for it. There was nothing to lose because we were doing it in a weekend slot. If such shows are there on sports channels, it does not mean that you can’t do it. Who would have thought a Satyamev Jayate like show on Star Plus? This kind of shows are always seen on news channels, be it Zindgi Live or Reality Bites or India Matters. So you will have to give it a shot and keep experimenting as there is no hit formula as such.

So will you continue with such shows like Ring Ka King and Super Fight League?

We have not decided on next year’s programming. It’s too immature to talk about something which will fall in next April.

Would you agree that shows like Mixed Martial Arts and Wrestling do not gel with the format and viewership of a family-oriented GEC?

Our audiences love what we do. India’s Got Talent was a clutter breaker and people liked it. We have done Bigg Boss and Khatron Ke Khiladi which were completely different and people loved them.

Digitisation is seen as a landmark development in the broadcast industry. What benefit does Colors expect post digitisation and how well are you prepared to leverage digitisation?

I think it is a forward looking move by the Government of India and I congratulate the ministry and every stakeholder who are making it possible. There is no magic wand but over a period of time, it will be a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.

Do you see a space for Hindi sub-titled international soaps on Hindi GECs?

Not as of now.

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