Viacom18 to accelerate regional expansion in 2019

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MUMBAI: Having made significant investments in the regional TV broadcasting business in the last few years, Viacom18 will continue to pursue growth opportunities that the regional market presents.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, Viacom18 Group CEO and MD Sudhanshu Vats said that the regional market will continue to be a focus area for the company. Viacom18’s two-pronged strategy for the regional market is to strengthen the existing products and fill in the whitespaces depending on the opportunity.

In the last 12 months, Viacom18 has made bold moves on the regional front. It entered Sun TV Network’s citadel Tamil Nadu by launching Colors Tamil and quickly became a challenger brand. It also filled the gaps in the regional portfolio by launching movie channels Colors Kannada Cinema and Colors Gujarati Cinema. More regional movie channels are on the anvil.

Viacom18’s regional GEC portfolio comprises Colors Kannada, Colors Super (Kannada), Colors Bangla, Colors Marathi, Colors Odia, Colors Tamil, and Colors Gujarati.

“In 2019, we are looking to grow our channel portfolio. We will also focus on deepening our presence in the regional markets. We had launched two movie channels last year and we have plans to launch some more,” Vats said.

As far as the existing channels are concerned, the network will have a special focus on growing Colors Tamil and Colors Bangla. “We will also focus on growing our existing regional channels, particularly Colors Tamil and Colors Bangla. We are looking at driving our growth and increasing our viewership on our existing channels,” he added.

Apart from TV, regional will also be an important piece for the company‘s film production arm Viacom18 Motion Pictures. “We are going to focus on regional films as well. We are going to do a lot more in Marathi. We did the first series of ‘Pu La’ which is the biopic of the author PL Deshpande and it had done very well. We are now launching a biopic on Bal Thackeray in Marathi and Hindi. We continue to grow the overall film portfolio,” Vats noted.

In order to drive growth in the digital space, Viacom18 is beta testing Voot Kids product. “Voot Kids is a behind paywall product. It’s a product that will go well beyond the usual watch piece, that’s the interesting product that we are beta testing,” he stated.

Vats is satisfied with the progress made by video on demand (VoD) platform Voot, which has crossed 40 million gross downloads. Voot, he added, has close to 50 million monthly active users, a watch time of about 50 minutes and close to about 20 million daily views.

Viacom18 is also launching an original fiction show titled ‘Navrangi Re!’ for the first time on its flanking Hindi GEC Rishtey, which was earlier free to air (FTA) and has become pay in the new pricing regime.

The network has partnered Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and BBC Media Action for the show which has an underlying behaviour change message on sanitation. Premiering on 2nd February, the show will telecast on Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 pm on Rishtey.

Queried about the strategy behind the move, Vats said that the idea is to build a better content mix for Rishtey. “Earlier, it was the window for showcasing shows that first aired on Colors. Now, we are looking out for some original content like Navrangi Re!,” he stated.

While Rishtey’s core market was rural HSM, Vats avers that the channel gets a sizable viewership from the urban HSM. He also feels that ‘Navrangi Re!’ as a concept is the best fit for the channel. Launching more original content on Rishtey will also depend on the traction that ‘Navrangi Re!’ receives.

Speaking about the performance of the company, Vats said Viacom18 recorded 25% growth in topline in the third quarter of FY19. The operating profit also registered strong growth despite ongoing investments in new channels like Color Tamil, Colors Kannada Cinema, and Colors Gujarati Cinema. “More importantly, we have doubled our profitability. Overall, the performance has been good,” he stated.


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