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Behind Subhash Chandra’s ‘Living’ brand of factual entertainment channels

MUMBAI: Media mogul Subhash Chandra’s ambitions know no bounds. After setting up a huge media empire spanning broadcast networks, TV distribution platforms, newspaper and digital products, Chandra is now gearing up to find space in the factual entertainment space along with the biggies like NGC, Discovery Communications and History Channel.

LF logoChandra’s Essel Group is all set to enter into the factual entertainment space through ‘Living’ brand. The first in the series of launches is a food and lifestyle channel called Living Foodz. The channel is housed under a subsidiary, Living Entertainment.

The company plans to launch another three channels in the next 18 months. These include Living Rootz, Living Travelz and Living Homez. Zee Living, a wellness and lifestyle channel that is already available in many countries including the US, will also be launched in India.

So why has Chandra suddenly turned his attention to factual entertainment? The first reason is the desire to showcase Indian history and culture to the world through an Indian lens. Secondly, the company wants to tap into the Rs 1 lakh crore factual entertainment business globally.

Living Rootz, which Chandra described as a work still in progress, will showcase Indian history.

Citing the example of how Indian history is dominated by the Western narrative, Chandra said that his grand-daughter was searching for Lokmanya Tilak on Google for her project. One of the search results that Google threw up described Tilak as a militant Hindu leader. This upset Chandra.

“Lokmanya Tilak was a social reformer but never a militant. But that’s what they have written and that’s what the world believes,” he averred.

Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman, ZEEL and Essel Group Living FoodzAccording to Chandra, Living Rootz will provide an alternative view of Indian history. “We felt that we should launch a product like Living Rootz, which will also have other perspective than Western perspective,” he noted.

He also pointed out that Mahabharata and Ramayan are still considered mythologies by Western historians. “Even in our country we used to believe that Mahabharata and Ramayan were mythologies but today science has proved that those were historical events. It will still take some time for the Western world to consider Ramayan and Mahabharata as myth,” he asserted.

Chandra said that these are the few examples of how Essel’s upcoming products will be different.

He also said that whatever Essel will do will be on a global scale and global quality of content creation.

Zee Living, he stated, showcased 5,000 years of Indian history of healthy living like Ayurveda and Yoga.

Chandra also believes that factual entertainment is a huge market globally that needs to be tapped. Viewership of lifestyle and factual entertainment globally is 12–13 per cent of the total television being consumed, whereas its share of revenue is 18–20 per cent. The total market size is Rs 1 lakh crore.

He also said that the launch of ‘Living’ brand in India is 2.0 version of Essel’s media business, which largely comprises entertainment and news.

“In factual and lifestyle entertainment, there are very few companies in the world like Discovery, NGC, History, and Scripps Network. There is no single Asian company that has ventured into this kind of programming. We are the first Asian Indian company which is going into cognitive entertainment space,” Chandra said while unveiling Living Foodz channel.

The new brand will be under Essel and not ZEEL. “You have seen various products under the Zee brand umbrella. Then you have witnessed the &brand under the same company. But what we are exposing today is not from ZEEL; it is from the Essel family,” he added.

He also revealed that ZEEL is 10 million away from realising its dream of reaching 1 billion viewers across 170 countries.

Having achieved phenomenal growth, Chandra was faced with the question of how to make Zee a global brand in 2008–09.

While the obvious choice in conventional thinking would have been to compete with the large media companies of the West, Chandra decided to adopt a less risky path.

“Two things came to my mind. First and foremost, the existing content library of Zee we should segregate and dub them into local languages and give that as offering to mainstream population in different parts of the world,” he said.

That is how the local channels in markets like Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Africa and Russia came about.

He also felt that rather than taking on big players in the US, it was better to launch a product that showcased 5,000-year-old civilisation.

“That is when we launched Zee Living as lifestyle and health channel in America. We expanded that into some other English-speaking territories except Russia where we have launched Zee Living in the Russian language,” he said.

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