Among other factors likely to affect the fortunes of this genre are OTT evolution, digitisation, marketing and shift in programming
Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | January 6, 2017
The television English entertainment space has seen rapid and significant evolution in the last few years and 2016 was special for a lot of reasons. The year witnessed quite a few channels launches in both movies and the general entertainment segment. With launches like Movies Now 2 and Sony Le Plex in 2016, shortly after Star Movies Select HD and MN+, the movies genre remained vibrant with niche channels.
On the general entertainment front, AXN’s HD channel was launched, along with the expansion of PIX in the South Asia markets. The English entertainment space has five major players, Star India (Star Movies, Fox Action Movies, FX, Star World and Star Movies Select), ZEEL (Zee Cafe, Zee Studios), Sony Pictures Networks (PIX, AXN, Sony Le Plex), Viacom18 (Colors Infinity and Comedy Central), Times Television Network (Movies Now, Movies Now2, Romedy Now, MN+) and HBO.
However, if one observes the BARC data, the average time spent per viewer in the English entertainment genre has increased by 2.47 minutes in 2016, while it increased by 3.07 minutes for the movie genre. In order to keep parity of the sample base, the data compared was from Week 41- 44 in 2015 and 2016.
After speaking to players in the market, BestMediaInfo has listed five broad expectations from 2017:
With the inclusion of rural numbers that has about 50 per cent weightage, players in the English television space feel the data is not stabilised enough to be used for business. According to a section of broadcasters, the data shows contraction in viewership, which is not the case.
Saurabh Yagnik, EVP and Business Head, Sony English cluster, said, “The category is experiencing headwinds because of the new measurement system. Inclusion of rural is a big transformation for broadcasters and as we move ahead, I hope BARC will portray correct measurement for the genre. If I look at the English category numbers from BARC and compare it to the theatrical or social media responses, it doesn’t match. BARC depicts contraction of viewership and that the skew is towards South India. However, the other two sources of information say that the category is nowhere close to declining.”
Why then are there so many launches in the genre?
Ashish Sehgal, Chief Operating Officer, Zee Unimedia suggested that it might be because of the long-term plans. “The reason for these launches is possibly the long term perspectives seen by the networks. The numbers churned out by BARC are declining because it is not rightfully represented in the sample size and the representation of metros and one million plus towns has to increase. So, if viewership is still dwindling, trying to find its feet, the newly launched channels will only eat up from the existing channels or each other.”
He also indicated how advertisers are also losing some confidence and moving money to digital. "Only with the new shows coming in get advertiser attention, which are sure to get viewership like House of Cards on Zee Cafe, Sherlock on AXN and others. For last about two months, advertisers are realising the value of content and how the digital viewers, who used to download latest seasons, are coming to TV."
“I hope with more panel homes added to the sample, things would be better in 2017,” he added.
Largely, Phase III is not immediately relevant for the genre, since the main focus is on the metros and one million plus towns, which were already covered in Phase I and II of digitisation. However, broadcasters were hopeful it might help in increasing the genre as it will boost the bandwidth.
Yagnik pointed out that in the long run, digitisation will help. “But there is always a trade-off between the potential of the market and how much can be monetised versus the costs in reaching those. The fact is that metros and one mn plus are quite low, and hence we see a lot of headroom of growth.”
Vivek Srivastava, Senior Vice-President & Head English Entertainment Cluster & Zoom at Times Television Network, pointed out the impact of digitisation on HD.“HD has seen significant amount of growth in the market. Most HD viewership has grown on DTH players. As cable operators start focussing on HD, this segment will grow manifold.”
Another important aspect about the genre that is ought to gain weight is marketing. For a genre that is not yet massy, marketing plays a very vital role. Though social media and targeted marketing have been very rampant on the genre, 2017 is expected to see more innovations.
“More focus on consumer engagement started in 2016 and more breakthrough ideas will come in 2017, as social media is moving beyond FB with a lot of focus on Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and others. It is still viewership that is driving sales, especially movies. Only premieres of known titles get monies based on perception and theatrical performance. Social media is more to do with the buzz around the brand than perception. The buzz element won’t become the unit of transaction for advertising,” clarified Srivastava.
Within the movie genre, the scope of growth is much more as the Hollywood movies have had a good theatrical journey in 2016 in India and it promises to only improve from here. Srivastava pointed out that it is also helping in getting viewership to the television premieres and screenings of the movies. “The English genre is increasingly becoming more involved, the consumers know what to expect and also because of social media and the theatrical releases are doing better.”
He added, “Earlier we used to see that more masala kind of films used to get traction, last year we saw that many story-oriented movies are getting eyeballs. Obviously, there have been a few launches catering to the highbrow English audience. The content on these is all about good stories and this type of story-led refined content will keep growing in 2017.”
OTT has really come a long way in 2016, more than previous years. How it will help English content? Yagnik said, “This platform has been launched and we need to beef it up. It will lead to overall increase in awareness about English content and bring viewership to television.”