‘Acquisition costs are a challenge when the planning at the beginning of the year is flawed’

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Founded in 2014, a time when dedicated channels catering to the specific lifestyle needs of their audiences were limited, JOP Network looked to bridge this gap and provide content focused on fitness, health, and recreation for viewers looking to put their personal well-being first.

Today, with over 25 million viewers across 30 countries, JOP produces and curates content for Indian and international markets distributed via own channels as well as leading global television networks like Discovery, FOX Traveler, Airtel DTH, Astro Malaysia, GAIA US and in-flight channels of Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways to name a few.

JOP was among the first few to break away from the free-to-air model and in a strategic move brokered a partnership with Airtel DTH instead – the second largest DTH platform – to launch its own active channel, Fitness Studio (Channel 103) in 2018. Offering expert advice from the likes of Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Mandira Bedi, Vinod Channa, Namrata Purohit, and James Crossley to name a few, the channel answers to the health, wellness and nutrition needs of its viewers.

TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with JOP Network founder, director Urvi Aggarwal. She launched JOP in the age of 23.

Excerpts:

How did the idea of JOP Network come about?

I am a banker turned Media entrepreneur. In 2011 I began my career at E&Y, Delhi as a fresh out of college CA article. After a few months of working in the audit vertical, I made a switch to the Media, tech, and telecom Investment banking division. This was my first exposure to the world of media and tech.

Working on a few deals for broadcasters, I realised that there was a dearth of specialty/niche channels in the Indian landscape. Globally, there were specific channels to one’s everyday lifestyle needs, from fitness to even fishing. Fitness and wellness as a movement was slowly but steadily gaining momentum in the Indian landscape and I felt that the genre could be well represented on TV.

Being a fourth-generation entrepreneur, I had to set up my dream company. In 2014 October, JOP Network was born.

How much seed funding was raised?

I have to mention my family’s backing and relentless support. My parents backed by me even at the ideation stage and helped me at every step of the way. The seed capital of approx. INR 5-7 Cr came from my parents.

What is the business model of JOP Network?

We have a dual business model –

Content sales – At present, our content is viewed by 30+ million viewers in 35 countries globally. We sell our in-house generated wellness and fitness content to TV stations, OTT platform and In-flight entertainment services globally.

Linear channel distribution – Our linear channels run on a subscriber model. A viewer pays on an average Rs. 45-60 per month to subscribe to us. These channels form a part of the DTH VAS offerings.

Which are the broadcast and OTT platforms that JOP Network works with to provide content?

Today, with over 25 million viewers across 30 countries, JOP produces and curates content for Indian and international markets distributed via own channels as well as leading global television networks like Discovery, FOX Traveler, Airtel DTH, Astro Malaysia, GAIA US and inflight channels of Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways to name a few.

We run two VAS channels with Airtel DTH in India namely Fitness Studio (A channel dedicated to 360-degree fitness) and Hollywood Masala (A channel offering International movies dubbed in Hindi). In Australia, we run the channel Lifemantra (A wellness channel dedicated to the mind, body, and soul) on SWIFT Network.

JOP focuses on health, fitness and entertainment content creation. How much research goes into this to ensure that there is enough differentiation given the plethora of content out there?

Research and high quality make for the backbone of our company. Every piece of content that is created or acquired by JOP has to have a specific target and must solve a particular viewer requirement. We conduct monthly research via our call centers to understand the viewer requirement and accordingly tweak our content strategy. Further, we only produce or acquire content which is anchored by a strong talent who has a deep understanding of the subject matter.

How many hours of content and how many shows does JOP Network create each year?

On average, we produce approximately 60 to 70 hours of Fitness and Wellness content in-house in a year. We have a strong network of partners/studios/production houses globally from whom we acquire the remaining.

Is JOP Network profitable and are you looking at further fundraising?

Currently, we are cash flow positive with most of our inflows being directed at launching new channels. We are currently in talks with a few funds for a fundraise to help us grow faster.

When you look at viewer content preferences in the genres that JOP Network operates in how have these evolved over the past five years?

The viewer today is constantly evolving and hence the content that they consume is also changing. Up until early 2017, the viewer wanted hardcore traditional fitness formulas or yoga content and was focused on losing weight and having a fit body. Today, the viewer is seeking fitness and wellness content and is looking to achieve the fitness of not just the body but mind and soul as well.

On the movies side, the viewer earlier was keen on only watching movies from big banners which they had heard off or had been released in the theatres. Today they are keen on watching a variety of movies from different countries. However, Action continues to be their genre of preference.

Is regional content creation a whitespace for JOP Network?

Adaptation to the local needs of a viewer is always the key. Localisation has enabled even global brands like McDonald’s to penetrate into the Indian market and command a higher price. Content dubbed or produced in regional languages help develop brand advocacy amongst the viewer.

What is the whitespace in fitness which led to the launch of Fitness Studio?

Fitness Studio is a product of the growing awareness towards health, fitness and wellness. Fitness content was available on You-tube but that lacked quality and structure and the other source was journals and articles.

Other than the top 4-5 cities in India where there are a variety of fitness classes, gyms, organic stores the remaining market is still untapped. Fitness Studio is the one-stop 360 degree fitness solution for the Indian masses.

Are celebrities and experts key in the success of fitness content?

Celebrities and experts who train celebrities always play a big role in the marketing and promotions of the channel. Viewers are drawn to known faces and find credibility when a celebrity advocates a message to them. With respect to Fitness content, a good mix of celebrities, trainers, good locations and overall aesthetics all play a crucial role.

You also have Hollywood Masala. What growth in appetite is there for dubbed Hollywood movies?
Dubbed Hollywood movies have huge potential. At the box office, International movies dubbed in Hindi and regional Indian languages do much better than in English. With Hindi and regional Indian languages, we are able to target a much larger Indian audience.

Are content acquisition costs a challenge?

Content is the king. To run a good channel, one has to invest in quality content. Acquisition costs vary from distributor to distributor and studio to studio. The challenge is in establishing the right connect with the sales team so that the deal is structured well. Acquisition costs are a challenge when the planning at the beginning of the year is flawed.

Besides Airtel Digital TV are you talking with other platforms for these channels to be carried?
We have already signed for another channel that we are launching in Nov week 1 with of India’s foremost DTH operator and are speaking to two more at the final stages.

JOP Network runs channels on a subscription basis in a country where viewers are reluctant to pay. What is the key for a subscription service to work?

A subscription model comes with its own challenges as does the advertisement model. Viewers are slowly getting accustomed to the subscription model and the only way to keep them as a loyal subscriber is by constantly uplifting the content offering.

What are the other channels and genres that JOP Network is looking at?

At present, our focus is on Fitness and movies driven channels. We are yet to exploit the full potential that the movie market has to offer.

Under the NTO have sharply defined brands become more important?

NTO has affected the cable players more than the DTH ones. DTH players had the band-with to quickly respond the TRAI regulations. However, NTO has given complete power to the viewer. They can choose and discard as per their whim which brings us back to the basics of the running a successful channel.

Content is the King and in today’s scenario the absolute king. As channel operators, we have to work doubly hard on clearly defining our brand and providing content which is true to the essence of the brand proposition.

OTT platforms have mushroomed. How do you see this as an opportunity?

OTT and video on demand is clearly the future. As our country progresses and data connectivity increases, the viewer will prefer watching content in their own time. We have already started our work with 2-4 OTT platforms to run specialty fitness and health windows on their platforms. Our large library of movie titles is also ready for OTT airing.

What challenges does the economic slowdown pose for JOP Network?

We have had to work doubly hard to retain subscribers. Adding new subscribers is also a challenge as the viewer has become more price sensitive. Further, with the latest TRAI regulations, broadcasters, channels as well as viewers are in a state of confusion.

Finally, what is the challenge of being a media entrepreneur?

Media and entertainment is a constantly evolving industry. The addition of Technology has made this industry ever more evolving and it is undergoing a revolution by the year. The biggest challenge for me as an entrepreneur in this field is to constantly adapt to the new world.

We shifted focus from cable to DTT to now OTT platforms in less than five years and as an entrepreneur I had to make sure that we were entering the new spaces but with caution. Finally, managing the resources both in terms of personnel and fund is time-consuming and tedious.


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