Niche is the new mainstream3 min read . Updated: 29 Aug 2010, 09:43 PM IST
Niche is the new mainstream
Niche is the new mainstream
Mumbai: Encouraged by a drop in operating costs and changing audience tastes, Indian television broadcasters are looking to flood the airwaves with an assortment of channels featuring specialized content—from health and lifestyle to the secret lives of serial killers.
Unlike Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) that have dominated Indian television for years with programmes tailored to varied audiences tastes, these niche channels will target specific viewership profiles.
Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor will launch a 24-hour cookery channel in partnership with Malaysian broadcaster Astro All Asia Networks Plc before the end of the year.
Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd, which runs channels such as Times Now and Zoom, is hiring staff for more than one channel in the wellness and lifestyle segment, a media executive said on condition of anonymity.
BBC Worldwide India Ltd, a unit of British Broadcasting Corp., plans to relaunch BBC Entertainment by the end of the year, followed by BBC Knowledge and BBC Lifestyle, a media buyer said, also requesting anonymity.
Sunil Lulla, chief executive and managing director of Times Broadcasting, declined to comment on the planned launches.
Seema Mohapatra, South Asia director at BBC Worldwide, was unavailable for comment.
Anil Ambani’s Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture with the US-based CBS Studios International, will debut with three channels targeting the English-speaking audience—CBS Prime for English general entertainment, BIG CBS Spark for the youth and BIG CBS Love for English-speaking women.
“Once you launch a Hindi GEC, you just get so occupied with content creation, ratings etc. that there is no time to focus on anything else," chief executive Tarun Katial said.
He added that the deal with CBS gave Reliance Broadcast immediate access to premium English entertainment, making it for the channels to launch.
Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager, Discovery Networks (India) Asia-Pacific, cited media reports to say the market share of GECs in urban India was declining and the “popularity of non-fiction content was on an upward trajectory; as consumers were getting more discerning about television content".
Discovery Networks, which already runs Discovery Travel and Living, is awaiting clearance from the information and broadcasting ministry for five more channels. These will include women’s lifestyle channel Discovery Home and Health, Discovery Kids, ID (Investigation Discovery), Military Channel and Discovery 3D.
“Discovery Travel and Living had over 400 brands advertising on the channel in 2009. It has 300 brands active in H1 2010," Johri said, but declined to comment on the new launches as they are awaiting regulatory approval.
Not long ago, all new channels were in the Hindi GEC space—be it Real from Real Global Broadcasting Pvt. Ltd, Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd’s Colors or 9X under INX Media Pvt. Ltd.
Industry experts say the advent of technology such as high-definition television and direct-to-home television is changing the way TV is being consumed.
“The price of technology is decreasing for consumers," said Keertan Adyanthaya, managing director at Fox International Channels India. “This allows us to serve audience niche (channels) at a cost-effective rate."
Anita Nayyar, chief executive of MPG, the media arm of communications group Havas Media, said specialized channels incrementally cost 40-50% less to operate than Hindi GECs of news channels.
“All you need is to bring the foreign content that you play in overseas markets to India. There is no acquisition costs involved," she said.
Nayyar said that like the West, India was also witnessing a change in the kind of programmes audience wants to view. “In India, who would have ever imagined a channel like Turbo, which is for the die-hard automobile lover?"
The fragmentation of audience, with more homes switching from single TV sets to one for every room, is also playing its part.
Nandini Dias, chief operating officer of Lodestar Universal Pvt. Ltd, said direct-to-home subscribers have increased substantially in recent years.
“We now have the bandwidth to cater to niche segments. The subscription model will allow channels to look beyond advertisers," she said.
Annually, less than Rs1,000 crore of advertising goes to specialized channels—which are currently limited to English entertainment—in a Rs6,000 crore television advertising market.
Media buyers say the space is growing at roughly 10% annually.
Some broadcasters are still sceptical. The combined revenue of the top three niche channels would not be more than Rs150 crore, said a broadcast executive, requesting anonymity as his network runs some niche channels too.
“I cannot fathom what their business plan is, because they are evidently seeing something that I am not," he said. “There’s very less money to be made here and this business mostly runs on subscription revenues. It’s a 60:40 split between subscription and advertising money. Running a niche channel (content, carriage fee plus marketing) would be $4.5 million and revenues barely cover operational costs."