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Viacom18 plans to build a portfolio of channels for Tamil market

MUMBAI: Media conglomerate Viacom18, which is entering the Tamil market with GEC Colors Tamil on 19 February, plans to have a portfolio of channels in the Tamil market. The company sees movies, and kids as potential genres for expanding the portfolio. It also sees an opportunity in launching a second GEC.

Speaking to Televisionpost.com, Viacom18 head regional entertainment Ravish Kumar said that the market offers whitespaces in different genres like GEC, movies, and kids.

“Down the road having a kids channel and a movie channel makes absolute sense. Kids genre is a huge opportunity in Tamil Nadu. I am not ruling out a second GEC option in Tamil Nadu which is what we did with Kannada,” Kumar said while adding that it will be premature to talk about the future plans.

Kumar also said that the company constantly evaluates opportunities in regional markets where it is not present including Telugu and Malayalam markets.

However, the first priority for Viacom18 is building Colors Tamil before looking at the whitespaces. Once the brand is established it will be extended further. The Kannada market is a classic example where Viacom18 has launched a second GEC Colors Super since Colors Kannada is in the leadership position.

“Our strategy is about achieving strength and leadership in a market first. When you have leadership you can then extend your brand further. That is very similar to what we did in the Kannada market. Once Colors Kannada was a leader that is when we launched Colors Super. It makes sense to establish leadership in a market first as by then you would have known a market well enough,” Kumar noted.

Talking about the strategy for Colors Tamil, Kumar said that the GEC will be built on the back of fiction and non-fiction content. The GEC will not have movie content. Colors Tamil will air 22 hours of weekly original content which includes a mix of fiction and non-fiction content.

“We believe that our content is powerful enough. We would rather invest our money in our fiction shows, programming and in doing select events. Colors Kannada became number one without relying on movies,” Kumar stated.

In terms of time-bands, Colors Tamil will focus on the prime-time band. It is not looking at original content during the morning and afternoon slots. Rather, it will increase the number of hours of original content on weekdays from 3.5 hours to at least 4.5 hours and get in more slots.

“Down the road, we will consider other time bands but not during the phase of launch. Our core viewership is in prime time which is 6-10 pm. We would want to succeed and make a meaningful difference in primetime before extending ourselves to other slots,” Kumar said.

Despite the stranglehold of Sun TV in the Tamil market, Kumar feels that there is a space for another GEC. He is encouraged by the progress made by Star Vijay and Zee Tamil in an otherwise tough market.

Kumar feels that content can only succeed if it’s progressive and meaningful. “More importantly progressive content works really well. Your content has to be more than soaps and dramas. It has to be meaningful and has to have a message. It should be also able to educate and inspire in addition to entertaining,” he added.

Colors Tamil aims to give viewers a new experience which is beyond their expectations. “The moment you do this your content will work in whichever market you go to. Viewers like innovation and originality of themes. They also like stories which are set in familiar environments that they relate to,” he stated.

Kumar said Colors Tamil was in the making for the last two years. Research conducted by the company highlighted that there was a need for progressive content in Tamil. Therefore, Colors Tamil’s programming will have strong protagonists who stand up for what they believe in. The channel will look at issues that are bigger than domestic kitchen politics.

“People are always looking out for role models. TV has a responsibility to educate and inspire. On the channel, women tackle social issues head-on. We want to make women powerful agents of change. We wanted bold protagonists who fight for tradition, culture, and values. We have to give purpose-driven content. I hope that the channel changes how TV content is made in Tamil Nadu. We will identify and nurture talent,” Kumar elucidated.

He is also hopeful that the launch of Colors Tamil will expand the overall viewership pie. Tamil Nadu is one of the biggest consumers of television content.

“In our experience, when you put quality content out, the viewership expands. It can expand in two ways, people watch more or new viewers come in. We see both happening. Half of the ratings come from within. Another half comes through expansion when a new channel launches. We hope to have a similar mix. Colors Tamil celebrates culture, traditions, and aspirations of Tamil Nadu,” he noted.

Asked whether being a late entrant will make the journey more challenging for Colors Tamil, Kumar said that entering a market late also allows one to do things differently. The challenge, though, is that it takes time to get the required talent and infrastructure. Colors Tamil plans to build its own formats.

On the ad front, Kumar said that there is a lot of interest from advertisers. With an estimated base of 1150 advertisers, Tamil Nadu is one of the more lucrative broadcast entertainment markets in India.

Viacom18 Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats said that the company will focus more on making regional movies and go beyond Hindi particularly in regional markets where the company has a presence. He also said that ‘Padmaavat’ went through a trial by fire and has emerged victorious making Rs. 235 crore.

Vats noted that Tamil Nadu is the biggest regional market for television in terms of viewership and monetisation. Dwelling on the importance of regional content, he noted that 59% of people in the country speak in their mother tongue while 60% of movies made are regional.