Times TV's plans to romp ahead with Romedy

MUMBAI: Indian audiences already have a good list of channels to choose from if they want to turn to English entertainment. Keep switching channels and you will whisk through Star Movies, Movies Now, Star World, Zee Studio, Zee Café, HBO, World Movies, Comedy Central, CBS Spark, CBS Love etc. and what have you. Does there seem to be a dearth that needs to be filled? Is there space for more? According to the Times Television Network (TTN) there is absolutely space for another fighter in the league. With that, it has added a companion Romedy Now to its existing movie channel Movies Now which is expected to be launched in the next 15 days.

Feeling the need to make people happy, the genres Romance and Comedy will be seen on the new channel as both movies and series. A new format is also being experimented with that is being outsourced and is still under process. “We are in talks with foreign distributors to acquire content but we will edit them in a different style,” says Romedy Now business head Harsh Sheth. Going with the tagline ‘Live. Laugh. Love’ it aims to target the urban affluent masses in the major metropolitan cities at first and gradually extend to the one million+ towns, targeting SEC A and B in the age group 15-44.

70 per cent content will be movies and the rest shows. The movies will be contemporary on the lines of Devil Wears Prada, 27 dresses, Bride Wars, The Ugly Truth etc. Its target is to get about 20 million viewers. Enough content is in stock to be utilised for eight months. These include offerings from big studios such as Warner Bros, Fox, Regency, MGM and Sony as well as another 40 small ones from the US and Europe. New shows will have first runs on Romedy Now.

Romedy Now will be available in both HD and SD on cable TV, satellite, DTH and IPTV as a pay TV service. The SD channel will be available in eight metro cities on the launch day at a price of Rs 17.66 while the HD channel called Romedy Now Plus is priced at Rs 149. The content team is common for both the sister channels while the exclusive team consist of 45 people.

Romedy Now will see 10 minutes of advertising while, just one or two minutes of air time has been kept aside for Romedy Now Plus.  The start time of shows and movies will be the same on both the channels while the gap time on the HD channel will be filled with fillers. As of now no advertisers have been approached but plans are to first go to the top 100 starting with those being managed by Group M, Madison etc. The affluent audience is willing to spend and enough advertisers will be willing to target them, is what the management believes.

A grand marketing plan is being chalked out with the support of the whole Times of India Group. A comprehensive rollout will take place closer to launch including print, sister and other channels, radio, mobile, online and emerging markets. “Watch out for the TOI. You will see a new language of love and laughter,” says Sheth.

So what do media planners have to say about the channel? Most of them seem to be optimistic about its success. “The trend of watching English channels online, which normally not seen here is gaining momentum and Romedy Now will make its mark among the urban audience,” says Mindshare Leader South Asia Ravi Rao.

“Segmentation is always a good idea,” says Madison Media Group CEO Gautam Kiyawat giving a thumbs up to the new entrant.

The whole English entertainment genre of advertising and subscription is valued at above Rs 1,200 crore out of which Times Group MD and CEO Sunil Lulla claims Movies Now has a 20 per cent share and he believes that Romedy Now will outpace it.

“English entertainment is growing at a fast pace but it is highly under monetised and undervalued,” says Times Group English Entertainment Channels CEO Ajay Trigunayat.

The economy is at its lowest currently and Lulla is aware of this. “There is a short term panic in the economy and a consumer slowdown so the effort we have put behind it is a little more than Movies Now,” he says. Although he did not mention an estimated time to break even he pointed out that in the current situation three years is the minimum for any channel. “Television business is not about a break even. It’s about an enduring economic progressive journey,” he adds.

As far as the television industry is concerned Lulla is positive that it will keep growing because currently 140 million homes are served, which means another 80 million are left out. Calculating the money, a consumer just pays 50 paise per hour for it. “This is the cheapest social service industry in the world. The price better go northward or else this social service industry will shut down,” he says.

The team’s research showed that there is definitely space for Romedy Now to fit into the existing gargantuan list but whether the viewers will take a liking to it will be seen only after its launch.

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