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History TV18 focusing on sub-genres for growth
MUMBAI: This year, infotainment broadcaster History TV18 is focusing on subgenres like ‘artifactual’ and ‘gearheads’. The former concerns showcasing the buying and selling of collectibles and artefacts, which continues to remain the channel’s top-performing sub-genre.
Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, A+E Networks|TV18 VP – head of marketing Sangeetha Aiyer said, “I think to grow our audience more, the next logical step would be localisation of content. This is relevant especially for an inward-looking, diverse country like India and the factual entertainment genre is already beginning to make a mark in this area. With History TV18 now available in five languages, it is also essential to increase sampling and drive viewership through regional campaigns where the idea is to establish a local identity for the channel.
“Another route to drive growth this year was through the launch of blockbuster tentpoles. We are sure this will help us draw more eyeballs. A number of the new shows we are premiering this quarter are mini-series with fantastic production values. On digital, we are unveiling the next thrust of innovation across platforms, but we won’t be able to share more details at the moment.”
In terms of genres that have grown in viewership, she noted that ‘artifactual’ shows continue to remain its best performing sub-genre. “At the same time, the genre is seeing a growth in local content that focuses on India. What’s more, the genre has also seen the launch of new channels, particularly in the food and history space.”
Snacking: She added that the factual space is essentially a snacking genre where an average viewer tunes into the channel for a few minutes. “While our channel does aim to build appointment viewing during the 8–11 pm band, we do promote our shows in various other time slots by creating relevant umbrella bands like ‘Food@2’ during the afternoon slot and airing core history shows on weekends.”
Upcoming properties: Aiyer went on to add that the broadcaster has reached a stage where most performing shows are long-term series with multiple seasons. “This strategy works best because it gives you time to establish the format and characters, as well as build a loyal viewership in a genre that generally lacks appointment viewing. However, a lot of the new shows we are premiering this quarter are one-off mega mini-movie events with fantastic production values. The whole idea is to celebrate with the best entertaining shows this festive season.”
The channel’s upcoming content is a mix of high-profile scripted series featuring award-winning talent and new series under sub-genres that work on the channel like ‘artifactual’ and ‘gearheads’. “While the former have a proven track record, when it comes to the latter, we are experimenting with a few new shows such as ‘Four Rooms’ and ‘Leepu And Pitbull’. We think viewers will enjoy watching a new format within our established ‘artifactual’ space.”
BARC: On the ratings front, she noted that these are early days. “We will be able to take a call on the efficacy of the new system once it rolls out completely. However, greater transparency and a larger sample by default should help better represent the genre. We would like to take a wait-and-watch approach until teething issues, complete rollout across the country, etc. have been addressed.”
Continued reliance on ad revenue: While subscription revenues are on the rise, a large percentage is siphoned back into increasing distribution thrust. Therefore, Aiyer said that ad revenue still comprises a major portion of the topline.
The carriage fee challenge: With regard to the carriage fee, she said that there has always a demand and supply issue where over 800 channels are jostling for the same space. “Carriage fee will continue to be a challenge with an upswing in distribution thrust, but with the third phase of digitisation, it should gradually reduce.”
The impact of more factual, lifestyle channels: She noted that the market is huge and continues to grow, which is why there is enough room for every type of player.
“I think factual entertainment channels are not really niche. In fact, the genre commands a much larger viewership share than other genres like English movies (0.7%), English news (0.1%), Hindi business news (0.1%) and English GECs (0.2%). Most of the players in India are present internationally and in most major markets, History is No. 1.” Globally, she said, factual as a percentage of total entertainment is far higher than in India.
Therefore, she is optimistic that the entry of more channels in this space will definitely lead to growth of the genre. “It will raise the standards and give the viewer more variety to choose from,” she explained.
The History TV18 story, she said, should be seen with some perspective. “When we launched, the brand had a lot of legacy issues, the genre was undersold. These four years have seen some major transitions and upheavals in the industry, with digitisation setting in, the change in currency from TAM to BARC, etc. Despite these issues, our channel has consistently seen a positive growth trajectory and we’ve been growing at a very healthy rate year on year.”
She maintained that the channel’s story is a parable on how a great product will work despite all odds. “With the impetus provided by the festive season and on the back of a slew of exciting new content being launched this quarter, we are optimistic about closing the year on a high. Besides, it is worth noting that we are one of the few channels that have been able to maintain a healthy and stable ER over the years.”