Vice India eyeing TV channel launch in H2 2018

MUMBAI: Springtide Infotainment Media, the joint venture (JV) between Times Group and Vice Media, plans to launch the TV channel Viceland in the second half of the calendar year 2018.

The company is awaiting ministry of information and broadcasting’s (MIB) permission to launch the channel. Springtide has applied for two channel licences namely Info Now and Info Now HD in February 2017.

The MIB is not issuing any licences for the last few months since it is in the process of overhauling the uplinking and downlinking guidelines. It had even sought the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations on the new guidelines. The TRAI has also issued its recommendations on the matter.

“We plan to launch the channel later this year. However, we are awaiting government clearance to launch the channel,” Vice India CEO Chanpreet Arora.

She further stated that Vice will launch a prime-time programming block featuring Viceland content across The Times of India portfolio.

“We will be premiering a significant late night prime time television block across the Times of India portfolio – bringing the best of Viceland’s award-winning content to a mass market,” she added.

Viceland is Vice Media’s satellite channel which provides lifestyle-oriented documentary and reality series aimed at millennials. In India, Viceland might launch as Viceland Now or Vice Now.

Vice India, which officially launched last month, is planning to scale up its original content offering to strike a chord with the millennials in India.

Vice India CEO Chanpreet Arora said that the plan is to take the volume of original content to 70% from the current 30%. However, scaling up will take time as Vice India has a staff strength of 50 people.

The platform is ready to launch its first long-form original documentary ‘Kya Bolta Bantai’, which roughly translates to what say, brother. Premiering on 25 May, the documentary will look at the rise of gully rap in Mumbai.

It plans to produce around 10 pieces of video content in the first year across formats like documentaries and web series. The video content will primarily focus on non-fiction.

Vice India will launch its YouTube channel next month. It is also in talks with premium over the top (OTT) service providers to place their content. The platform currently has a presence on the web through Vice India website apart from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Arora said Vice India is targeted at youth in 15-28 age bracket across the country and not just metros. It will raise issues that are often ignored by the mainstream media.

“There is a huge need gap for the youth to talk about issues that matter to them. These issues may be perceived as taboo in society. These include identity, sex, drugs, LGBT, women’s issues, unemployment, politics, and culture. These issues matter to the youth today,” she said.

“We believe that there is a huge need gap to talk about topics which matter to the youth. We will cover those with the object of starting conversations and not with the objective of sensationalisation. Our TG is 15-28 across Urban areas in the country and not limited to Metros only.”

She stressed the fact that regional content will also be very important besides English and Hindi. The focus in creating content will be on the story and not on language. “If a story is best told in Hindi then it will be in Hindi. If it is Marathi then it will be Marathi,” she averred.

Arora added that the content line-up will include video, audio podcasts, and editorial articles. For Vice India text and video content are both important.

Queried as to why it took so long to launch full-fledged operations in India, Arora said, “I was hired last November. We launched in April and this is pretty quick. Five and a half months to launch a full-fledged company and have a multi-platform strategy in a country like India is not easy. It takes time to research, hire the right talent and set up offices. We did not launch with just foreign content. We launched a very strong pipeline of India content.”

Vice India also has an agency business and will also have ad-funded content. It earlier announced a partnership with PepsiCo brand Mountain Dew, a collaboration that will explore the journey of a real-life hero Arjun Vajpai as he attempts to climb Mt. Kangchenjunga – one of the most difficult summits to conquer.

While declining to talk about investments being made she said that Vice India is committed to making India a profitable business and the company is here for the long term. The focus is on sustained growth and sustainability.

In terms of the partnership with the Times Group, she noted that the partnership has been extremely beneficial. “They have been great incubation partners. They helped us understand the landscape very quickly. They helped us set up operations and hire talent. They played a very key role in helping set up offices and systems which are appropriate for the Indian market. Having said that we are completely independent operationally and editorially.”

An ATL campaign will launch in due course and the theme is ‘Raise Your Vice’.

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