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Consistency the name of the game as battle for English GEC space intensifies

The English entertainment space is in a state of flux as it makes the transition from niche to more mainstream. BestMediaInfo takes a look at the growing potential in this genre and the challenges of content differentiation

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | July 14, 2015


The English general entertainment space has been considered to be niche, with select players catering to the market. The cutthroat competition seen amongst Hindi GECs has been missing in the English genre for long. But not anymore.

With the advent of digitisation, the market for English GECs has widened and so has the fragmentation in the medium. English entertainment today is becoming more mainstream. Today there are around 250 million Indians who are English literate. The market is widening its appeal across viewers who think and speak in English, but haven’t been invited to consume international entertainment yet.

Gauging the potential of the English entertainment space, Viacom18 recently announced the launch of Colors Infinity and Colors Infinity HD, whose programming line-up will include four hours of content with seven new shows on seven days of the week. The channels will be following the international trend of ‘Essential Viewing’, which will provide an immersive experience of watching three continuous episodes of globally applauded narratives back to back.

Moreover, Star World, Zee Cafe, and FX have been airing entire seasons of popular shows during weekends as part of their ‘binge’ viewing offer to viewers who want to catch up on all the happenings in their favourite shows at one go.

To get a deeper insight on the English entertainment genre, spoke to some industry stalwarts who shared their views on the growing potential, the challenges, the intensifying battle for eyeballs, and more.

Vivek Srivastava Vivek Srivastava

Commenting on the current scenario in the English general entertainment space, Vivek Srivastava, Senior Vice-President and Head, English Entertainment Cluster, Times Network, said, “The English category is no longer niche play, it is growing bigger. The key is smart acquisition and smart segmentation. You need the right content mix and the right platform fit. As networks, if we want to ride the next phase of growth of English channels, content segmentation will lead the way. While mass brands continue to be strong, these sharply defined content buckets will emerge as the growth drivers for the segment.”

Saurabh Yagnik Saurabh Yagnik

Saurabh Yagnik, Executive Vice-President and Business Head, Sony Pix and AXN India, remarked, “Yes, the battle is going to become intense and with more players the competition is set to increase, therefore, there will be interesting times for the English general entertainment space. With increase in content delivery, the growth of consumption is all set to increase.”

Ferzad Palia Ferzad Palia

Agreeing with Yagnik, Ferzad Palia, EVP, Viacom18 and Head, English Entertainment, said, “Yes, the battle will be more challenging and every player will try to up the game. This space has been one of the oldest spaces in the television industry, but when the golden age of Hindi GECs started, the broadcasters missed out on the English entertainment space. However, all that has changed in the last five years.”

He further said, “This space seemed to be settled with the content that is there, but now there is a need for more and hence more players are entering this space. English GECs cater to a more elite consumer who is aware of the new content that is available in other parts of the world. The growth of this genre is phenomenal and encouraging.”

Content differentiation and challenges

Content differentiation poses a huge challenge in all genres and English entertainment is no different. According to Times Network’s Srivastava, the challenge is be two-pronged – content acquisition and content promotion. As more and more channels get launched, there will be fight for quality content. The other key area would be marketing the content. “We all know that English shows take a few seasons to get established in India, so broadcasters such as ourselves will need to put that extra effort in promotion. Social media/ digital, for example, are already becoming very important for the English segment. We need to invest in innovations and focus on regular engagement to be relevant to our consumers,” he added.

Yagnik felt that though the content was increasing, it all depended upon what kind of strategic alliances a channel would have with the content providers. Adding further, he said, “With more players entering the game, content acquisition will become challenging, and if there is increase in demand, then the challenges are set to increase.”

Speaking about the plans for the channel in Times Network’s bouquet, Srivastava said, “Romedy Now is in a very good place, it reached the good slot in a very short period of time. We already have the top rated English entertainment shows in ‘Friends’ and ‘The Middle’ on Indian television. We have ‘Jane the Virgin’, ‘Kitchen Confidential’, ‘Mike and Molly’, ‘Gilmore Girls’, ‘Friends with Better Lives’ and many more such shows. We need to keep adding newer shows and boosting the existing line-up.”

Palia too affirmed that they were in a better space and it all depended upon the kind of content that a channel aired. “If the content is right, then it will attract more and more eyeballs,” he added.

Speaking about the line-up for Sony Pix and AXN, Yagnik said, “We have a very clear positioning and we have been able to fit that positioning among our viewers too. Our strategy has always revolved around creating and establishing iconic shows and properties in line with the channel’s philosophy. We have the most diverse content in the space and we will keep strengthening the same.”

Will the USP (Unique Selling Point) change?

When asked about the USP of their channel looking at the increasing competition, Yagnik said, “The USP of our channels is simple – to give the best and iconic shows in an innovative and differentiated manner. So, for AXN, which already has a sharp differentiation, we just need to back it up with the right shows and create disruption in order to strengthen the brand.”

Srivastava added here, “At Romedy Now, we stay true to our promise of being the happiest place on television. Whether in content acquisition or promotion, we embody the ‘Love Laugh Live’ moto. Our viewers know that on this channel they will get only the best shows and movies. Going forward, competition or not, we need to offer only the best to our viewers.”

“Consistency plays a vital role”

Ashish Bhasin Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN), observed, “Going forward, in any significant genre there will be not more than three or four players that will survive. The English entertainment category is growing undoubtedly, but it all depends upon which channel is able to sustain the promise during the launch of the respective channel, as well as the content line-up. Consistency plays a vital role which makes the channel survive in any market, and those who are able to crack the consistency of the content will be able to stand ahead of the curve.”

On the advertisers’ front, he said, “Advertisers too select channels and plans depending upon the kind of response or eyeballs that the channel has been able to garner, within which content consistency and delivery play an important role.”

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