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2016: More localisation and scripted content in infotainment genre

MUMBAI: 2016 was a year where the infotainment genre saw a bigger push in localisation.

This was also a period of change. Discovery got a new head, Fox Networks Group went through an organisational restructuring, and A+E Networks TV18 JV changed its strategy in favour of local content in Hindi . Broadcasters also started to favour scripted content.


The localisation drive in 2016 was led by the A+E Networks–TV18 JV. It made a sea change and focused on local content. The plan was to have 8–10 of local shows in a year in Hindi.

Sangeetha Aiyer 02Talking about the strategy, A+E Networks TV18 VP and head marketing Sangeetha Aiyer noted, “I think that localisation is the next logical progression in the evolution of any global product. It is more so in a country like India, which is very inward looking and has great potential for great content. English entertainment occupies approximately one per cent of total TV consumption. Therefore, if a channel has to expand, it has to look beyond global content.”

Viewership of local content was double that of acquired content and content cost also rose by 25–30%, Aiyer said.

Over the past couple of years, History TV18 was relatively quiet on the local front. But that changed in 2016. The first show was‘OMG! Yeh Mera India’. The channel did a local version of ‘Ice Road Truckers’.

Aiyer said that while more local shows were in the pipeline, there were senior management changes. So, it took time for things to fall into place and think things through.

FYI-TV18-coverFYI TV18, the network’s new channel, straight away had local content. The plan is to have 40% local content. Local shows are done around relationships, food and home improvement.

For people who have not opted for a Hindi feed, there are subtitles for the local shows. The first two local shows were hosted by author Chetan Bhagat and Chef Vicky Ratnani. Bhagat’s show was ‘Real 2 States Couples’ and followed the travails of a cross-cultural couple in a relationship trying to adjust to each other’s families.

The other show hosted by Ratnani was called ‘Rivals-in-Law’. It featured a cook-off between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. The husband is the judge. Unlike the other show, the couple in this case is well into their marriage. The focus of localisation is on content that travels across geographies.

The plan has been to build each local show into a returning franchise for the two channels. “The big difference between us and the competition is looking at building franchises of shows. We are also looking at going mainstream with this move, so you will see ‘OMG’ seasons three and four. Whenever we develop local content, the idea is to have returning franchises. You have franchises that build audiences, time slots over a period of time,” she explained.

Swati MohanMeanwhile, Fox Networks Group India underwent an organisational revamp of its product group in order to focus more strongly on localisation. The new focus of the restructure is being driven through three main pillars—the channel and brand strategy, on-air communication and original productions. For National Geographic, this means building further on properties like the ‘Mega’ brand. It also means working with world-class local filmmakers along the lines of what is going on in the US.

This goes along with the channel rebranding. The name channel was dropped. The new tagline is ‘Further’.

Fox Networks Group India business head Swati Mohan noted that the objective is to create deeper, high-scale local content, including local fiction content. This is also in line with what is happening abroad when National Geographic’s rebranding started with a fiction show titled ‘Mars’.

Sameer RaoDiscovery South Asia VP, head, real-world products Sameer Rao is looking to grow the scope of the channels under him including the flagship Discovery.

Having large-scale local productions is going to be one of the focus areas. “We also propose to supercharge our flagships with large-scale local productions, refreshes and an amazing show line-up, featuring more local content than ever before. Discovery has seen a lot of action this year (2016), with some of the most gripping documentaries like ‘Jawai: India’s Leopard Hills’, ‘Revealed: Siachen’, ‘India’s Paratroopers: Earning the Badge’, ‘Subhash Chandra Bose: The Mystery’ and more. Our programming has always been curated to focus on our core values of ‘surprise’, ‘amazing stories to tell’ and ‘satisfying curiosity’.”

Scripted is the new factual

Another trend in infotainment is that scripted shows are entering the genre more than ever. The aim is to tell stories with greater depth and skill, and have a balance between scripted and unscripted content. One advantage of scripted content is that it allows greater access to talent and National Geographic is leveraging that. ‘Mars’ was made by Oscar winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

HistoryTV18 logoFor History TV18, ‘Vikings’ is a major property. It remains to be seen if History TV18 and FYI TV18’s local shows enter the scripted realm going forward. At the end of the day, the viewer appeal lies in great storytelling which will never go out of fashion.

“Scripted content is a mainstay for this genre, and History TV18 has always fronted it. Shows such as ‘Vikings’, ‘Roots’ and ‘Barbarians Rising’ have been key perception drivers in our arsenal for a long time now,” said Aiyer.

She added that the broadcaster is looking at scripted local shows. “I think it’s just a matter of time before top-quality scripted factual shows emerge from India, and as always History TV18 will be at the forefront.”

Scripted entertainment will be an important part of the content mix for Discovery, going forward. As Rao said, “‘Harley & the Davidsons’, Discovery’s venture into scripted programming, is based on a true story and centres on how Milwaukee schoolyard pals William (Bill) Harley and Arthur Davidson built—and rode—motorcycles. The series charts the birth of Harley-Davidson during a time of great social and technological change and tells the epic story of how two 19-year-old kids from Milwaukee started a company in their backyard that would go on to become an American legend.”

Need for compelling content

For Rao, this will assume even more importance considereing the competition. “Today’s new-age consumer is highly discerning and is spoilt for choice across platforms. At an overall level, there is increasing fragmentation, less attention span and fiercer competition. The implication of this is that our content will have to be dramatic, compelling and entertaining while retaining the core values associated with the Discovery brand.”

Change in the genre this year was also about overall strategy. As far as Discovery is concerned, it got a new head in Karan Bajaj, who comes from outside the media industry. The thinking is that an outsider might bring in a fresh perspective. It appears that the international management wants India’s contribution to business to grow substantially, which might require some out-of-the-box thinking. Discovery also re-organised its business into two verticals—‘Real World’ and ‘Women & Family’.

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