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We are set to launch three new channels by next quarter: MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network

‘We have found out in the last two years that English is worth more than what we have been asking for, in terms of subscribers, distribution, trade and advertisers,’ says Times Network chief

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | April 13, 2016

MK Anand MK Anand

English is slowly becoming a preferred language in India and the trend is not only restricted to urban areas either. BARC India data shows that English was emerging as a predominant language in semi-urban and rural areas as well.

The craze for English is not confined to channel preferences on television either. In the realm of cinema too, Hollywood today challenges Bollywood. Films like ‘Furious 7’, ‘Avengers – Age of Ultron’, ‘Batman vs. Superman’ and ‘Dawn of Justice’ have outshone many big ticket Hindi film releases. The BARC data indicates that audiences were increasingly aware that the best content may be available in a language that’s not their own and were willing to pitch for quality over a primary language.

According to Ormax’s data on the Indian broadcast industry, the average monthly reach of English language channels extends to around 208 million Indians (All India, All Days, 24 Hrs). The Times Network alone reaches out to 44 per cent of all the English language viewers. On a daily basis, the network reaches 11 million English language viewers.

BestMediaInfo.com spoke to MK Anand, Managing Director and CEO of Times Network, to pick his mind on industry trends and the plans the largest television network in the country, had on the anvil. Excerpts:

Considering the kind of growth that English language channels have had, are you planning to launch any new channels?

We have three licenses and we are going to activate it. However, what those three channels will be, we have to decide, choosing from the six or seven options we have. We are currently operating in three genres; English news, English movies and English entertainment. And of course we have Hindi content in the form of Zoom. But suffice to say that the new channels will be in English.

Any plans to explore options for Hindi channels?

Currently, we want to remain focused on the headroom that we have in English, because somewhere, it is being limited by imagination. We have found out in the last two years that English is worth more than what we have been asking for, in terms of subscribers, distribution, trade and advertisers. The truism is that television is for the masses, and yes, Hindi is a mass language in India, so it is natural to think of Hindi and regional. There are advanced plans for those, but for now, we want to focus on getting our existing act right.

Our MN+ and MagicBricks Now were efficiency improvement on existing infrastructure and not real launches. MN+ uses our English movies’ library while MagicBricks Now uses ET Now resources. Launching a regional or a local channel is a parallel silo that we are working on. It is too early to speak about anything.

But, is there space in the Hindi genre?

That’s a theoretical question. Yes, I do see space there. Anyone from Zee News upwards is doing well, which means a mere four or five of them. The others are due and will also do well. Hindi, in general is mass, so ad-sales shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve already proven ourselves in English and I don’t see language to be a barrier to launch ourselves. But just because rural is opening up, to launch a regional channel does not make sense. If there is a profitable product option, then yes. But business is more about ‘Do you have a story to tell?’

Is distribution a problem?

From the business point of view, if one is aligned to a bouquet or have multiple channels, distribution is never a problem. So, players like India TV, Aaj Tak and ABP News shouldn’t be finding distribution a problem. Carriage is a situation which I would ideally think - is short-term. But instead of cribbing about it, we should look at being strong.

Are you satisfied with all the individual products of the Times Network?

I am pretty satisfied the way the network has taken off. We have framed the way we work by our tagline ‘Action Begins Here.’ That is for Times Now. With ET Now, post BARC, we’ve been in the consistent No. 1 position. ‘Movies Now’ has been the most delightful story and Romedy Now is a delightful product. I have heard that MN+ is seen as better than Star Select. Overall in the English genre, I am overwhelmed with what is happening.

With Zoom, there was a dip in numbers and we were alarmed, but that is what happens when one re-launches the channel. But we’ve got some 50-55 GRPs growth in the last quarter, however, I understand that there’s still a long way to go. More than that, I’m happy with the efficiency with which the team has launched four channels and the team has not gasped. I am sure we will turn around the upcoming ideas too.

How has the network revamp worked for you?

Fundamentally, as a company, the revamping has worked for us. We have a credo to go buy ‘Now or Nothing’, which links everything from Times Now to Movies Now to Zoom, because we are able to figure out that this is what the central theme is.

Where do you think MagicBricks Now stands?

At a personal level, I think MagicBricks Now elicits a lot of conversations. It’s still early days to talk about but from a reach point of view, we are happy now. We recently subscribed it with BARC. The distribution has taken a lot of time. From an impact point of view, we are very happy because we started getting calls from Noida Authority, Delhi government, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore municipality and others, wanting to participate in our urban debate. Urban debate is getting noticed. It is a channel that talks about a consumer centric issue, while Times Now talks of important social issues. We’re confident to take ‘Urban Debate’ as our next ‘Newshour.’

How do you respond to critics of your flagship brand Times Now?

At a certain point, you will have critics. I have about 1,200 people working for me. Out of that, at least 100 people think that - that ‘guy’ is idiotic and that I will have to live with. Just like, I should not be carried away by people who praise me.

Is there anything which you wanted to do at Times Network but still missing?

Not really. From February 2014, the day I joined the network, we have been absolutely on target. Eight quarters we’ve been on the top. I would have been happier if Zoom would have done better. We are planning a big digital launch. It is delayed because we are in various stages of beta.

Watch the full interview here:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjRc5qM5nDI[/youtube]

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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