Will Discovery Jeet win the bet on Hindi GEC?
Karan Bajaj, senior vice-president and general manager, South Asia, at Discovery Communications India is getting ready to launch a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) Discovery Jeet early next year. He enthusiastically showcases the rushes of the footage for some of the serials that the channel will air. He seems pleased with the results. After all, Discovery moved its headquarters from Delhi to Mumbai for the sake of the new channel considering the programming eco-system in the maximum city is more evolved.
“The centre of gravity for Discovery has shifted because of local production. Creative directors and production houses are all in Mumbai,” he adds. For starters, Discovery Jeet will begin with 3-5 hours of original programming with serials such as Swami Baba Ramdev: The Untold Story, a scripted biopic tracing yoga guru Ramdev’s journey from a life of anonymity to becoming a national icon and a businessman and Saragarhi—the story of 21 Sikhs who fought 10,000 Afghans in the 1850s. Besides, there’s a series exploring the paranormal, among others.
Every story has a singular thesis—that of the underdog winning, made to appeal to the tier 2 and tier 3 town audiences. Bajaj claims watching Jeet you will walk away uplifted, inspired, motivated, and yet completely entertained.
However, setting up a Hindi GEC may be a tall order for Discovery which is known for pure-play infotainment—factual and lifestyle programming. Bajaj doesn’t think so. Jeet will appeal to the GEC audiences in a very “Discovery kind of way”—with programming with a purpose. The content will be differentiated and Jeet will penetrate down to the next 100 million households beyond the top 15-20 million that Discovery currently addresses.
In its planning, the channel has a male skew although Bajaj feels that the whole family will watch it together. Will the Discovery Jeet gamble work? To be sure, its potential cannot be refuted outright since 85% of Indian homes are still single TV households with families that crowd around the idiot box and watch it together. And Jeet aims build on that.
However, viewership growth in the Hindi GEC segment has been slow. If we look at data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India, the Hindi GEC genre between week 41 and 44 of 2015, and week 44 and 47 of 2017, has grown only by 12%.
According to Neel Kamal Sharma, chief operating officer (buying) at Madison Media, the genre hasn’t grown in the last 13 weeks. “It’s remained flat,” he says. Basabdatta Chowdhury, managing partner and head of trading at Publicis Media India, agrees. “Gross Rating Points (GRPs) for Hindi GECs have been constant with a 5-10% fluctuation. Nobody has tried anything new for a while. When Colors came 9 years ago, Hindi GEC expanded as a genre. If GRPs go up marginally, it is not game changing,” she says.
Even the advertising growth rate for the segment has slipped to single digits thanks to demonetization followed by the implementation of the Good and Services Tax (GST). Chowdhury says the FMCG category—comprising 55- 60% of revenue for Hindi GECs—has cut down on advertising spends too. So will Discovery’s purpose-driven programming get eyeballs? While the audience is, to an extent, entrenched in old-style programming, there are enough and more examples of new and fresh formats being accepted by the masses. “If the content quality is good and strikes the right emotions, there is an audience available for it. Most important, therefore, is clarity of thought, which needs to be then executed with excellence,” says the head of a Hindi entertainment channel.
To be sure, there is no first mover advantage in this genre as far as programming is concerned. You can take a pole position in the genre if you can carve out a niche for yourself and not clone existing content. Having said that, last year, Star Plus’s attempt at differentiated content in its limited episode series ‘POW: Bandi Yuddh Ke’ directed by Nikkhil Advani didn’t exactly set the TV ratings on fire. Nor did Hindi GEC EPIC’s critically acclaimed programming help the channel. EPIC is now counted among the infotainment channels under Barc’s genre classification after its rebranding. “The current Barc classification has a broad definition of the top tier which makes measurement of differentiated content difficult. It is ‘massified’ completely,” says Chowdhury.
Besides content and distribution, a channel has to get its positioning and marketing mix right. Hindi GEC requires high intensity perseverance. It is a difficult genre to succeed in as the loyalty levels on the existing channels are high.
Interestingly, Jeet is coming at a time when TV eyeballs may be moving to digital platforms. However, the Hindi GEC head says content is, and will remain king. The platform for content delivery doesn’t matter. If content is good, viewers will find you anywhere. “Besides, the reach of TV is still huge. We are at 180 million homes and there is headroom for another 70 million homes to get added,” he says. True, but unless Discovery Jeet is very different from what’s currently on offer, it may just be another channel. However, Neel Kamal Sharma says Discovery group is known globally for its high quality non-fiction content, hence a new channel from its bouquet appears promising.
Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.
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