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Epic channel to launch on 19 Nov; IndiaCast to handle distribution

MUMBAI: Epic—India’s first genre-specific, high-definition Hindi entertainment channel—is finally set for launch on 19 November.

The channel will be distributed by IndiaCast, which also will look after the syndication of Epic’s content in other languages and international markets. IndiaCast is currently finalising deals with direct-to-home (DTH) and digital cable platforms.

Incidentally, Mukesh Ambani, who is one of the investors in Epic, is also the promoter of TV18, which has 75 per cent effective stake in IndiaCast (TV18 and Viacom18 own 50 per cent each in IndiaCast).

While Ambani and Anand Mahindra each hold 25.8 per cent stake in Epic, Mahesh Samat has the remaining 48.5 per cent.

Business model

As the channel has a segmented approach, its business model will depend on three revenue streams.

Mahesh Samat

Epic Television Networks founder and MD Mahesh Samat told TelevisionPost.com,  “For some time, the main revenue stream will be advertising till distribution revenues start kicking in. We are only focusing on urban India, which more or less is under digital addressable systems, so we are not looking at analogue cable.”

Last month, the channel had announced that Helios Media will take care of its revenue monetisation duties.

Another major revenue stream will be content syndication. “We believe our content will have enough pull in not just diaspora but also beyond diaspora and in non-conventional markets. We will take our content internationally,” Samat said.

However, the channel may not launch international feed. “In today’s age, consumption patterns are changing and I don’t see a need to launch a linear channel in the international markets. It’s better to syndicate content to other platforms.”

Incidentally, the company showcased its content at the recently held MIPCOM and the response, according to Samat, was quite good.

While the channel is in high definition (HD) with Dolby 5.1 sound quality, it will also be available as a downgraded SD feed.

“We want more people to sample the channel. While it will be a pay channel, we will start charging after around six months,” added Samat. “The price of the channel will be on a par with other HD channels.”

While the RIO rate of Epic HD is kept at Rs 55, the SD channel cost is Rs 10.5.

Content plan

SIYASAT OPEN SEQ 1646Focused on urban India, Epic will launch with two and a half hours of original programming. It will have finite series of 20–26 episodes mostly, which will air weekly. On Saturdays and Sundays, the channel will be airing repeats and historical/mythological movies.

“We will have a mix of fiction and non-fiction weeklies. On weekends, we will repeat the shows so that viewers can come and sample our content. We have also hand-picked movies like ‘Jodha Akbar’, ‘Mangal Pande’ and more, which suit our segmented philosophy and which we will be airing on Sundays,” Samat informed.

While initially it will launch with around 15 weekly shows, the channel already has banked enough content to last three to four months.

The content is from mythological, folklore and historical genres. The fiction shows will include ‘DharamaKshetra’ (mythological drama of 26 episodes, 60 minutes each), ‘Dariba Diaries’ (crime drama, 20 episodes, 60 minutes each), ‘Siyasat’ (historical political drama based on Indu Sundaresan’s Taj Mahal Triology, 42 episodes, 60 minutes each), and ‘Daanav Hunters’ (supernatural, 20 episodes, 60 minutes each).

ADRESHYA OPNE SEQ 1609The non-fiction shows include, ‘Adrishya: True Stories of Indian Spies’ (narrative non-fiction, 13 episodes), ‘Ekaant: Echoes of History’ (narrative non-fiction, 26 episodes, 30 mins each), ‘Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyaan’ (narrative of royal food from India, 11 episodes, 60 minutes each) and ‘Kahi Suni: The myths and Legends of India’ (27 episodes, 30 minutes).

The channel will also have a comedy show, ‘Once More by Javed Jaffery’, where Jafferry will give his take on the cinemas of the ’70s and ’80s (30 minute).

Samat said that while the shows are based on mythology or history, the lens is of entertainment in a modern context. “We are trying to provide history in an interesting way,” he quipped.

Marketing push

DHARMSHETRA OPEN SEQ 1223Samat said that the channel promos are already a hit on the internet with over a million hits on YouTube. “We will mainly focus on digital and social marketing. In the later stage, near the launch of the channel, we will have conventional media plan including spots on other channels, print campaign, etc.

He stated that while the investors (Ambani, Anand Mahindra and Rohit Khattar) have shown full support in the product, the team also has shown full faith and has remained with the company despite a delay of over a year. The channel was first announced in May 2012, and was slated to launch in 2013. However, it did not get the licence from the then UPA government.

But Samat doesn’t want to look back. “There is no point thinking about the delay. It might work in our favour as all our shows are finite in nature and in the last couple of years, other channels have tried finite shows and the idea is not alien to the viewer,” he added.

Samat’s team includes YRF TV’s former head Ravina Kohli as head of content; Big CBS’ former business head Aparna Pandey as head of business, Niharika Kotwal as head of production and Manish Thukral as CFO.