MUMBAI: It's aiming for the sun. And that too in the tough Rs 1,100-1,200 crore Tamil general entertainment channel market which is dominated by the Kalanithi Maran-run Sun TV. The Rs 100 crore Chennai-based The New Generation Media Corp that runs the successful Tamil magazine and TV news channel both bearing the same name - Puthiya Thalaimurai - is now gearing up to storm the Sun Network bastion. On the anvil is a new Tamil GEC Pudhu Yugam (New Era) with an investment treasure chest of Rs 100 crore.
"We will be deciding the launch date by next month," says The New Generation Media CEO RBU Shyam Kumar. "Our vision is clear for Pudhu Yugam- we want to redefine GEC as general engagement rather than general entertainment."
And he has roped in veteran Tamil TV producer B. Kailasam (son of noted film and TV producer K. Balachander) as the channel head. Kailasam was earlier associated with some of the more successful shows on news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai.
The programming mix is going to be the usual fare: fiction, cinema, gags, blogs and many more. Kailasam has a task on his hands as Shyam Kumar says the shows will be "path-breaking" and that‘s needed because of the stiff competition in this space. "Our shows will have an X-factor like has not been seen by the Tamil TV viewer," he says. "The confidence level and our experience in the news channel space which has made us the leader in Tamil news will come to bear in whatever we choose to do."
|The New Generation Media CEO RBU Shyam Kumar wants to redefine GEC as general engagement rather than general entertainment with Pudhu Yugam|
Of course the dependence on advertising is bound to be there. Although, no names are in the bucket list yet, he is confident of bagging a good inflow of national as well as regional advertisers.
Shyam Kumar agrees that as of now Sun TV is a clear winner and its dominance is daunting for most players in the Tamil TV space, "But Pudhu Yugam will be a strong competitor to all," he says. The channel will not be looking just for domestic audiences, it is also targeting the Indian diaspora. The idea is to further make it available to viewers in the US, Canada, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai etc. which have Tamil-speaking population.
Will the channel manage to gnaw away at Sun TV‘s gargantuan marketshare? Or will it stay dwarfed like several others in the past?
Well, the pedigree is there. The New Generation Media Corp was started by R P Satyanarayanan with just a magazine ‘Pudhiya Thalaimurai‘ which grew rapidly on account of the fact that it focused on factual and "truthful reportage." Ditto with the news channel by the same name.
That could well work in its favour as it has also been able to get into slugfests with the more powerful Sun TV group as it did when it battled with it in front of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on carriage fees late last year. So the David is unafraid of battling with Goliath
It will require the megabucks nonetheless, with about Rs 10-15 crore a month needed to burn on programming, marketing, distribution, just to keep the channel going. Of course, carriage fees are something it will have to deal with. Even though the quantum has been going down nationally, the same cannot be said for Tamil Nadu where Chennai has been immune to the government‘s digitisation mandate.
Then its programming commissioning model as against the slot sale model of Sun TV is likely to prove expensive for it. Where Sun TV will be earning money from producers, Pudhu Yugam will be burning money on them. It will have to work hard to win the media agencies over and rake in the advertising bucks.
Shyam Kumar is more than aware of this and the group is examining financing options and talks are on with banks and investors for raising money to fuel its ambitions.
Shyam Kumar says the focus will be to roll out Pudhu Yugam on cable, DTH and IPTV in Tamil Nadu while restricting it to IPTV and DTH nationally. And of course the idea will be to also engage viewers through social media as well as two way interaction.
Even though the channel has yet to see the light of day (and is currently commissioning producers to make shows), Shyam Kumar is already drawing up plans of having an English news channel next year.
This is one group which is clearly driving in the fast lane.