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‘We will work with local filmmakers and institutes to make high scale content’
In an interview with Televisionpost.com’s Ashwin Pinto, Fox Networks Group business head, India Swati Mohan talks about the rebranding exercise, the pillars of Fox Networks Group India and the drive to scale up local content.
Q. With ‘Further’ how will National Geographic be boosted going forward?
A. ‘Further’ translated into four aspects for us. First is the look and feel. The new packaging and the look and feel is sophisticated, it’s premium and also aligns with the programming strategy, which also will be moving in that direction.
Second is the content and programming. It will be cementing our position in the market as leaders in world class storytelling. The content depth will reach a different scale and purpose altogether.
We will experiment in terms of formats and styles and we will also be taking a leap into scripted content. If you notice ‘Mars’, it is an example that we have really gone further in terms of the topic, the style of storytelling and the kind of talent that we have managed to get on board like Brian Grazer and Ron Howard – academy award winning directors and filmmakers who have really come forward to make this spectacular show.
The third aspect is our access to talent. Earlier this year, we had on-air talent that was recently seen like Morgan Freeman or even Leonardo DiCaprio for ‘Before The Flood’; we also have behind the scene talent like Darren Arronofsky, Sebastian Hunger, Ridley Scott and more. They will be making a lot of content for us.
Lastly, it is the depth of content and purpose: content that is here to drive awareness in the world around us, bring to light some of the issues that we should be looking into very seriously and also celebrating some of the innovations that have happened around us – again underlining this whole aspect of ‘Further’.
Q. How long did the rebranding process of National Geographic take?
A. ‘Further’ defines the notion of One National Geographic. The rebranding process has been in progress for almost a year. There was the resounding notion that there is no better line that will better embrace the spirit or ethos of the brand than ‘Further’. While there was a need to underline our premium positioning, there was also a need for packaging and the look and feel to reflect that – which it does. The reason for dropping the name ‘Channel’ was synergy and to behave like One National Geographic.
‘We will never shy away from putting global content out there. It is resonating well and is here to stay and is only going to get better. That same strategy will find its local legs in India and we will work with local filmmakers and institutes to make deeper, high scale content that you will see in the coming year’
Q. Could you give me an example of synergy that is now happening?
A. The cover of the magazine in November was the same as ‘Mars’ and, thus, an integrated asset was being showcased. There is also a book on Mars which is a big, big change compared to the past.
The aim is to have different assets interact with each other with the same branding, same logo and look. This process has started and is something that has never happened before. Execution of our priorities will cut across assets. Last year 21st Century Fox and National Geographic came together to create one unified vision where we took other assets like digital products, the travel business. It was important to bring about that notion of One National Geographic. So we created a logo, a brand and a tagline that unified us together. ‘Further’ really is bringing along and embracing the spirit of the brand that has always championed the cause of a deeper and better understanding of the world around us. The brand and the channel across its assets has always embraced this vision. It brings together all the assets. It brings together the brand purpose and continues to satiate the curiosity gene that has always been in all of us, to really explore new frontiers and scratch the surface beyond the purpose for new answers.
Q. What is the difference in the channel’s personality now compared to earlier when the focus was on Smart TV?
A. In terms of the content mix Smart entertainment is not going to go away. This is always going to lead the way when it comes to the content mix. Smart entertainment will now be balanced with a new level and scale of content that it has never had before. The rebranding is both a brand and an emotional need for stakeholders, employees. It brings together the business purpose of being One National Geographic.
Q. How much scripted content will there be?
A. It is a genre that is definitely here to stay. The content on the channel will be well balanced between scripted and unscripted in the years to come. A head for scripted was hired in Los Angeles to work on scripted content that airs globally.
Q. Will local productions include some scripted content?
A. The aim is to create deeper, high scale content in this regard and could also include local fiction content. We are working on how to take things forward. It is a work in progress.
Q. Could you talk about Fox Networks Group India’s re-organisation into three pillars?
A. We had done a re-organisation of our product team. It is under three pillars – on-air look and creative, the brand strategy that makes sure we are programming, communicating and resonating with our consumers across media and the third obviously, is the piece about local Indian content. We have made great strides in ensuring that we have top quality content which is actually airing across the world in a lot of National Geographic markets across all our platforms and we have aligned our teams with this strategy going forward. The focus has been on consolidating the network under one collective team and really carving out the basis of the strategy in the coming year.
Q. Could you talk about the importance of content that resonates?
A. In terms of the content play while it might seem that it is international, an interesting data point is that ‘Before the Flood’ saw 12% of viewership come from India. We have always been a global brand and it is absolutely important to define that and to keep embracing that. We will never shy away from putting global content out there. It is resonating well and is here to stay and is only going to get better. That same strategy will find its local legs in India and we will work with local filmmakers and institutes to make deeper, high scale content that you will see in the coming year.
The content creation process should resonate not just with consumers but also with the brand. It should resonate across platforms and with ‘Before the Flood’ we saw that it actually does.
‘The opportunity to unlock businesses like travel, consumer products, digital is something that we are really looking forward to. Some of these business verticals are not there in India but we see the potential of converting them into profitable businesses. You will see activity in the next couple of years’
Q. How is the infotainment genre faring?
A. If one were to go by TAM and then BARC, the infotainment genre is here to stay. Overall as a category, infotainment has really grown in the last four years while we have seen other genres shrink at an absolute share level, and this has largely been led by Nat Geo viewership. Whatever we have been putting out there has resonated well with viewers. The new step of going further into high-scale, deeper content, better access to talent and the drive for change will take this mission and brand to a different level altogether.
Q. Are you looking to rebrand the other channels like Fox Life and Nat Geo Wild?
A. At the moment there are no plans to rebrand other channels. The focus right now is to embrace the core channel and the assets along with it. This does not mean that action or focus will not be seen on the other channels which are important ratings and advertiser drivers.
Q. What is the benefit for the India business from 21st Century Fox enhancing its relationship with National Geographic by taking a majority stake?
A. Last year 21st Century Fox enhanced its relationship with National Geographic by taking a majority stake. The entity is now called National Geographic Partners. The two companies coming together means that some things are enhanced, but at the same time some things don’t change. Some things don’t change for us – our commitment and purpose to National Geographic Society and what they stand for will not change. Our commitment to giving 27 per cent of the proceeds from what we make globally including India will not change. What will work beautifully is that now with all assets coming under one roof, we will be able to make integrated properties and unlock the potential of the brand that has so much to say and do in a country like India. So far we have only had the channel and the magazine.
Now the opportunity to unlock businesses like travel, consumer products, digital is something that we are really looking forward to. Some of these business verticals are not there in India but we see the potential of converting them into profitable businesses. You will see activity in the next couple of years.