Ferzad Palia, EVP, Viacom18 and Head, English Entertainment speaks to BestMediaInfo about the plans for the new English GEC
Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | July 2, 2015
Viacom18’s announcement yesterday of a new English general entertainment channel – Colors Infinity – has evinced much interest from the industry. Though the launch date and content line-up is yet to announced, Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt’s involvement in the design and content selection for the channel has garnered much curiosity.
The channel will be available on both standard definition and high definition formats as Colors Infinity and Colors Infinity HD, respectively. The logo and the packaging have been designed in-house and in partnership with an international design agency. With an aim to reach far and wide, the network will be rolling out an aggressive marketing plan soon.
Speaking to BestMediaInfo.com at the launch event, Ferzad Palia, EVP, Viacom18 and Head, English Entertainment, said, “We will be catering to a wider audience base by airing shows across genres, including drama, comedy, biopic, miniseries, action, talent, thrillers, superheroes and awards. Additionally, there will be a special focus on reality television with some of the world’s biggest shows across dancing, cooking, magic, singing and other lifestyle interests.”
The English general entertainment space
English entertainment is now becoming mainstream as around 250 million Indians are English literate, which transcends the language barrier. Commenting on this space, Palia said, “It has one of the oldest spaces in the television industry, which slipped from its position with the advent of Hindi general entertainment channels. Then the golden age of Hindi GEC started within which the broadcasters missed out on the English entertainment space, however all that came back very strongly in the last five years. Where English language channels are concerned, it is not necessary that they would get monetised on the basis of GRP ratings as we cater to a more elite consumer who values privacy and is far busier and therefore does not monitor ratings in his or her home. But the growth of the genre is phenomenal and is encouraging.”
On the need for another channel
After a well-perceived comedy channel and a music entertainment channel, Viacom18 now looks at further firming its base in the English GEC space. According to Palia, there was a need in the market and within the network too. “Looking at the way Vh1 has been performing, there was a conscious call taken internally towards expanding in the English entertainment space and since then we started working on Comedy Central, which has grown and delivered quite well. Hence, we are quite confident on expanding our footprint in the English general entertainment space,” he affirmed.
With an aim to broadening their horizons, the network is all geared up for this channel and will be showcasing content from across all possible genres. “Not only that, there was a need in the network to expand as well as a need from the consumer’s perspective because they are not being addressed by the current set of shows that are available to them,” Palia maintained.
He also mentioned a situation that there was a lot of content out there in the market, but was not available on television which led to consumers downloading that content from the Internet. “There is a limited exposure to the quality content and there is also a lowest common denominator of programming,” he added.
On content deals
In an unprecedented acquisition strategy for the Indian market, the network has entered into a multi-year deal with Warner Bros, International Television Distribution, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, BBC and Endemol Shine, amongst others. “We will not limit ourselves to only the big studios and these partnerships will keep on increasing with time,” Palia informed.
On the competition and channel differentiation
Competition in the English GEC space is fierce and a lot depends on content and channel differentiation. Speaking on this, Palia said, “What we bring to the table is content that has not been seen in India, which is good and is in demand. Also, we are getting these shows because not just because they have never been seen before in India, but also because people want to watch these shows but this content is for some reason not brought in by the content creators. This is a clear differentiation.”
He further said that the channel would not run repeats and would bring in new and fresh content immediately after their release in the US in a bid to remove monotony and introduce more engaging and interactive content.
On plans for Vh1 and Comedy Central
Palia said, “Vh1 has delivered as per our desired goals and far deeper. Interestingly, with our local music strategy we have an encouraging amount of viewership from outside the metros.
On Comedy Central, he stated that the channel had also delivered well with the kind of content they had been producing. “The traction received has been very encouraging. Comedy Central has also migrated to high definition from July 1,” he added.
A lot depends on the content, say industry experts
The English general entertainment space is one of the most evolving and ever changing genres and the number of channels seems to be increasing day by day. With a plethora of channels from every bouquet in the English GEC space, the content is expected to multiply and cater to the needs and demands of the viewers in the best possible way. The English entertainment genre is ruled by channels like AXN, Zee Café, Star World SD & HD, FX, Fox Crime and Star World Premiere HD. The question here is, was there a need for another English GEC and would it be able to catch the advertisers’ attention? Industry experts respond...
Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network:
I think a lot depends upon the content that the channel is able to deliver and more importantly, how well the channel is able to sustain that content. Success and failure depends upon how well the channel is able to keep delivering to the needs and demands of its viewers. If the content is able to garner good eyeballs and that too on on-going basis, then the advertisers would also be looking forward to the channel as the advertiser does not buy a show or a channel, but the viewers.
Anita Nayyar, CEO - India & South Asia, Havas Media:
Every network wants to expand eventually and before launching a new channel every network does detailed homework. The English entertainment category is all about appointment viewing, hence it depends upon the kind of content a channel would offer and whether it will be able to create an impact on that appointment viewing. If the content is compelling, then every channel marks a space for itself. On the advertiser front, it is a wait and watch game.
Sanjay Tripathy, Senior Executive Vice-President - Head Marketing, Product, Digital & E-Commerce, HDFC Life:
The English entertainment space is all about content and programming. If a channel has a good mix, then it will mark its presence. On the advertiser’s front, it is still a wait and watch game because if the channel is perceived well by the viewers then marketers will surely look at it positively.
Lloyd Mathias, Marketing Head, Printing & Personal Systems, Hewlett-Packard India:
It is difficult to comment without looking at the content line-up. If the channel is able to deliver and air an interesting mix of content, then it will be able to break even in the cluttered space. Marketers will perceive the channel well if the viewers perceive it well.