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‘Brand Colors will give a freshness to the regional channels’
Even as Viacom Inc is waiting for the approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to pick up 50 per cent stake in the regional ‘ETV’ entertainment channels, the change is already on the anvil.
On Sunday 22 March, TV18 Group’s Marathi entertainment channel shed the old ETV brand and rebranded as Colors Marathi. Next month, the Gujarati channel will undergo the same exercise, so will other three channels.
TelevisionPost.com’s Gaurav Laghate caught up with Anuj Poddar, business head, ETV Marathi and ETV Gujarati, to talk about the growth plans for the two channels.
Q. On Sunday 22 March, ETV Marathi was converted into Colors Marathi. Will there be a dramatic change in programming as well?
We changed our brand from Sunday 6.30 pm with MICTA (Marathi International Cinema and Theatre Awards). I am not expecting an overnight jump due to rebranding, but I think the change in brand name will help us carry on the journey. We have been working on content for some time now. We have grown in the genre, even though Zee Marathi is far ahead and quite a strong competitor.
Q. What was lacking in the ETV brand that you think Colors will fill in?
ETV had its legacy value and brand connect. In recent times, though, its popularity among the younger generation has waned. Colors, on the other hand, has a strong connect with all age groups because as a brand, it is youthful and vibrant, and boasts a solid female viewer base. I think the brand will grow over time with its audience.
Q. Will the shows reflect new ideologies?
The ideology is something we had kicked in earlier. The brand is a culmination of the whole change in ideology and we believe that the channel has significantly improved over the years. It is not that the brand comes first and then the content. For us in this case, content came first and then brand followed. We believe that the product has earned credibility and status to deserve that brand name.
Q. What kind of marketing initiatives have you taken to promote this change?
Creating awareness about Colors Marathi was the most important thing for us to do. Secondly, creating a certain opportunity for people to try and sample it.
We have done our most expensive marketing ever and this is a complete 360-degree campaign. We have got all media in place for the rebranding, ranging from TV to print to outdoor to radio to BTL activities.
We have done extensive on-ground BTL activities through ‘Colors Marathi Prerna Manch’. Across Mumbai and Pune, we are doing a lot of these in residential societies and grounds highlighting the channel and an activity with local women.
On Saturday and Sunday, we had Gudi Padva parade with Colors Marathi brand procession. In Pune, it was an all-day affair on Saturday. A similar procession travelled through Mumbai’s Marathi areas on Sunday.
We have also done wall paintings across Maharashtra, particularly in rural and LC1 areas.
Q. How is your partnership with MICTA, the event?
MICTA is the Marathi equivalent of the Oscars. Organised by Mahesh Manjrekar, it is in its fifth year. This was the biggest Marathi event that I have ever seen. This time, it was a co-branded property, Colors Marathi MICTA Awards.
It took place in Dubai last month. It was a five-day event culminating with the award show. The entire Marathi industry was present there.
Q. Coming back to content, we haven’t seen a third season of the format show ‘Kon Hoeel Marathi Crorepati’?
This is because the first two seasons came back to back. Besides, the Hindi version just got over in December on Sony Entertainment. It’s good for the property and audience to have a slight break. A big format like this should be seasonal.
Q. Any plans for more big-budget shows?
While nonfiction will continue, fiction will take us forward. We are launching two new fiction shows. I hope they strengthen our fiction line-up.
Nonfiction helps to attract some attention and get people to sample. If you look at reach, we are quite healthy now. With the new brand, the reach of the channel will only go up.
Q. These two new fiction shows ‘Majha Hoshil Ka?’ and ‘Sakhi’ are placed in the Monday–Thursday band unlike Mon–Tuesday format for 9.30–10.30 pm band on other channels. Any specific reason?
All the Marathi regional channels have 6.30–9.30 pm Monday–Saturday, while at 9.30 pm, they air shows in 2+2+2 format. We want to innovate on that so we have done a 4+2 where we will have four days of fiction and two days of comedy and nonfiction.
Q. When is Colors Gujarati happening?
We have not announced the date yet but we are looking at end April.
Q. You recently revamped your positioning with the tagline ‘Dilthi Gujarati’. How has been the response?
That has worked well. Our time spent has gone up, though reach has not because of some distribution issues, which are getting fixed in April.
Q. You run the only Gujarati GEC. What issues did you face with the distribution?
Digitisation has had negative value for us. All the EPG are mainly genre driven and as ETV Gujarati is a popular channel, all the popular channels would come in the start in the first 20 channels in a non-digital or analogue situation.
Now in DAS (digital addressable system), the Gujarati channel has gone under the regional channels under Gujarati. So after Hindi GECs (general entertainment channels), you have music, kids, news, sports.
As we are the only Gujarati GEC, we were placed with other regional channels and ended up at a disadvantage because of the EPG system.
Here what happens is that Gujarati news channels are placed under news channels and not as regional. So even those channels are not sitting with us and we are sitting in a solo category.
Q: Gujarat is a very small TV market. Do you think there is a need for more players to grow the category collectively, or would one channel be enough?
This market will see a slow but steady growth over the next 2–3 years as any new market. Unlike other places, the viewer here has plenty of content. Thus, what I am giving them is not something that they have been missing.
Economically, I can’t do big stuff that pulls in more people on the first day. I can’t do a ‘KBC’ (‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’) as it is not viable. The market has to earn itself.
Q. What is the size of this market?
The regional advertising market is large in Gujarat, almost Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion). This is majorly a print ad market. TV is too small. It would be anywhere between Rs 40–60 crore (Rs 400-600 million), which include us, and Gujarati news channels, including TV9, ETV News, and some smaller channels.
Q: After ‘Dilthi Gujarati’, most of the shows on ETV Gujarati are focusing on comic genre. Will you continue with that?
Gujarat is a market where we will try new things. We don’t know what will work and what not, since nobody has done much there. There is no data to support. We are bringing in two non-comic shows with the new launch to give a wider flavour to audiences. So, these will be more regular dramas. Let the audiences decide what they want.
Q. How much has the time spent per viewer increased?
Our time spent has grown from less than 40 minutes earlier to over 50 minutes now. Our reach is in low double digits, close to 15–20 per cent. However, all this will change as we move to the BARC era.