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In-depth: Survival mantras for English GECs in the new distribution ecosystem

The English entertainment segment has been struggling with reach for the past few years and now with the implementation of TRAI’s NTO, the segment has seen a massive drop in viewership, putting a question mark on its very survival. spoke to industry experts and broadcasters about the strategies that can be employed to save the segment

For the past few years, the English entertainment segment has been struggling to attract both audience and advertisers due to an unprecedented growth in OTT platforms. As if the challenge from OTT platforms wasn’t enough, the English genre faced yet another hurdle in the form of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) new tariff order.

Ever since the implementation of the new tariff regime, the English entertainment segment has seen a massive drop in its impressions. The viewership of English movie channels and English GECs has dropped tremendously. But industry experts believe that while viewership has dropped, the English channels are watched by an audience that prefers quality.

According to experts, with most content being available on digital and now that consumers have to pay for their preferred channels on television, the future of English entertainment segment is dark and broadcasters will face a huge challenge in retaining viewers and revenue.

Vikram Sakhuja

Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO, Madison Media and OOH, Madison World and IRS Technical Committee Chairman, said, “Earlier the English genre was getting some amount of sampling that people were watching them but it was more of snacking. Not everybody was watching it. Only those understanding English were watching such channels. But after TRAI’s NTO, the people who are opting for them prefer quality. The number will go down and I think overall reach will be affected.”

While the future of English GECs and movie channels is uncertain, spoke to industry experts and broadcasters about the strategies that can be employed to save the segment.

BK Rao

BK Rao, Marketing Head, Parle Products, said that the broadcasters have to invest heavily in the English entertainment channels and offer superior content customised exclusively for the market. “English channels, especially GECs and movies, will have to reinvent their strategy because they were ailing and struggling earlier. Hence one way is to collaborate with OTT platforms for content and offer the best. Earlier, consumers and brands like FMCG were still giving English channels due consideration irrespective of numbers. There was never CPRT consideration while consuming such a genre but now it would definitely have an impact. So, now I would rather put that money elsewhere, on an OTT platform or social or wherever the audience is there but definitely not so much on the English genre,” he said.

Shaurya Mehta

Shaurya Mehta, Head, Premium Channels, ZEEL, said the brands that do a better job of curation stand a better chance of success. He said that their acquisition pipeline is in tune with consumer needs and their channels, Zee Café (All Eyes on New), &flix (destination for Hollywood blockbusters with the most number of premieres), strengthen the idea of what is latest and trending.

“The main peg to this genre is to make the recent most international content available for the Indian audience. We have to keep bringing the best and newest content from the international markets. This is all the more required in this scenario where consumers will choose on the basis of the fresh content on offer,” he said. 

Smart bundling of channel packs

Apart from original content, the bundling of channels in packs and having a distinct set of viewers will play a major role in this scenario.

Vivek Srivastava

Vivek Srivastava EVP & Head, Entertainment Cluster, Times Network, said, “The best thing about Times Network is that we have brands that are very distinct in their identities. Our endeavour is to give the best of stories to the audience and that has been our success mantra as well. Therefore, all our brands have been successful and started making money, primarily because we have a very distinct audience set and by virtue of creating a bouquet of sorts, we have managed to get into the household with the larger offering. Our approach is more on the lines of something for everybody. The proof of our success is that we have very extensive distribution; in terms of viewership our brands have been absolutely stable. The offtake for the network has been fantastic from the viewer standpoint.”

Mehta said English will largely be a top-up purchase and they have curated a pack with five channels — Zee Café, &flix, &PrivéHD, LF and WION to aid this purchase behaviour. He said the adoption of English into the newly formed packs is happening now. ZEEL had launched a purchase-driven awareness campaign, #WhereIsMyChannel, encouraging consumers to becoming more active in making a purchase decision for international entertainment on television.

Content acquisition cost might increase

The acquisition of content is no longer limited on any one platform. In the current scenario, not only movie channels but even digital platforms are eyeing to acquire new movie and show titles. In such a scenario where exclusivity will play a major role in attracting viewers, the acquisition cost of content might go up.

R. Venkatasubramanian, National Head of Investments, Havas Media India said that it is too early to predict but the hike in cost will depend on the deal inked by the broadcasters.

Rao also said that broadcasters will have to invest more to get the best of the content on the channels. “The English audience is highly upwardly mobile and these are the consumers who want to consume video at their whims and fancies. They don't want to have appointment viewing, so video on demand is a big thing for them and they are willing to pay for good content and OTT platforms are fulfilling those requirements. To attract these audiences, English entertainment channels will have to invest more on content. The content price will go up due to an increase in demand,” he said.

Srivastava has an opposing view and feels that the acquisition cost will go down. He said, “Earlier, when we were buying a movie or series title we were asking for complete exclusivity on television, therefore there was nobody else who were taking those titles. Now, even if there is held back in the same title or series which is available on some platform and somebody desire to have it then they have to pay for it and in effect with it the content cost will come down on the broadcast side of things. For the last three years, we haven’t seen any escalation happening”

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