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History TV18’s localisation strategy in 2014

MUMBAI: In its attempt to grow viewership and compete for better revenue, infotainment broadcaster History TV18 is looking at localisation and new media.

HistoryTV18 logoThe plan this year is to focus more on local productions and adaptations of popular shows abroad. This will be in addition to acquiring international content.

An Indian version of ‘The People Speak’, an American documentary that used popular celebrities to perform dramatic and musical recitals of letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, is being planned.

“Among the local productions, we are planning an Indian version of ‘The People Speak’. The initiative was a medium for social change throughout US history and we want to do the same for Indian history,” A+E Networks TV18 VP, head of marketing Sangeetha Aiyer said.

Sangeetha Aiyer,Another show History TV18 is developing is ‘India Stats’, following the format of ‘United Stats of America’. The show that airs on History in the US explores the stories behind the statistics that shaped the history of America.

In terms of international shows that will air in India, Aiyer mentions ‘Vikings’ which will air on History TV18 at the end of this month.

Artifactual shows work

Offering perspective on the importance of localisation, Aiyer noted that while shows like ‘The Greatest Indian’ and ‘Bollywood@100’ have worked well, the big surprise of all was the success of international shows belonging to the ‘Artifactual’ subgenre.

“This deals with the buying and selling of ‘artifacts’ and the drama it entails. Shows like ‘Pawn Stars’, ‘Counting Cars’ and ‘Baggage Battles’ have taken the entire genre by storm. They comprise a majority of our primetime band and they have been so successful that competition is taking note and bringing in similar programming.”

Edgy content is important

Pawn StarsLike other players, History TV18 also travels to content marketplaces globally. “We are always on the lookout for edgy, novel content that has not been experienced before by audiences in India. MipTV (currently going on in Cannes, France) will be no different.

Due to the phenomenal success of artifactual shows like ‘Pawn Stars’ and ‘Counting Cars’, about 80% of our content is from the A+E network bouquet,” said Aiyer.

Improvement in viewership

History TV18 claims to be the No. 1 viewership channel in the genre or a close second in most demographics and market clusters. “We are doing great. As digitisation kicks in to the LC1 markets, we will see another great churn in the factual entertainment genre in our favour,” averred Aiyer.

Fewer language feeds

One area where the channel has not always seen the desired results has been local languages. It now has five language feeds compared to nine earlier.

The People SpeakAiyer concedes, “We had experimented with language in the past, especially to exploit synergies with our ETV Urdu channel. But we have now gone slow in this area as the cost-benefit analysis isn’t really working out in our favour. History TV18 is still available in five language feeds—English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali, which is the highest available with any channel in the genre.”

She adds that as a part of its network partnerships, the broadcaster runs shows on ETV so that regional audiences can sample content. “But our ultimate goal is to drive them to our channel.”

Better ad revenue scene

Last year was difficult for the broadcaster due to the economic environment. However, Aiyer notes that going purely by anecdotal evidence, the worst is behind the channel.

“2013 had seen it all, from digitisation and 10+2 to a slowdown in economy. Hopefully, 2014 will see a stable new government, which will get its act together, boosting the economy, which will, in turn, have positive repercussions in the media sector. We see green shoots. Our ad sales revenues are on track and markets are looking better. We also have a sizeable chunk coming in from distribution.”

couting carsFrom a revenue perspective, tent-poles have been important for the channel and will continue to be. “We have always tried to create big tent-poles because they drive buzz and help to leverage network synergies. They also aid in driving sales, which enables us to rake in the moolah.”

Subscription revenue to grow

Aiyer expects subscription revenue to start contributing in a serious manner two years down the line. “Subscription revenues already constitute about 10–15 per cent of our top-line and are growing at a fast rate. We believe that in two years, as the industry evolves, it will form a substantial chunk of our revenues.”

Going mobile

One of the aims this year is to ensure that people can view the channel on any device, anywhere. “With the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, content today has become medium agnostic. Our aim is to make History TV18 available across such mobile platforms since the audience consumes content on-the-go.”

On the ground

Like its rivals, History TV18 also focuses on bringing talent down to India to give a touch-and-feel experience. Aiyer offers the example of two shows where the hosts visited the country.

“With ‘Pawn Stars in India’, we brought the Pawn Stars father-son duo, Rick and Corey Harrison, to India since the show has performed extremely well here and is a leader in the primetime band. There was a Twitter Q&A, where fans met and interacted with the Pawn Stars. We also recently held an event for the renowned magician Dynamo in Mumbai. Over 300 fans were left spellbound and they loved the opportunity to see their favourite illusionist perform magic live.”

Talking further about the importance of on the ground events in building buzz for the channel, Aiyer says that audiences love to interact with their favourite onscreen characters and experiential marketing facilitates the same.

“Social media activity went up by 40 per cent with #DynamoinIndia trending All India on the day of the performance. He interacted personally with his fans at the event and also on a Twitter Q&A. I really think such events help to build brand loyalty and enable our core audience to connect physically with the brand in some way,” she said.