FTV takes on-ground route for brand take-off

MUMBAI: Fashion TV, that niche channel that has been lying low for a while, is readying for a splash with on-ground line extensions that should see the light of day by March 2005.

The fashion and lifestyle channel, promoted by Paris-based Michel Adam, has been more in the news for opposition to its content by the previous Indian regime, and then, in mid 2003, for its differences with Indian distribution partner, Modi Entertainment Network. While FTV officials now maintain that distribtution is back on track with a reach of 28 million homes after Adam patched his acrimonious differences with the Modis, the real focus is on the action off air.

By March 2005, Fashion TV branded line extensions like its bars and lounges as well as merchandise should be up and running, says creative head Rupal Vaidya. Among the cities identified for the next phase of F Bars and Lounges (the first came up in Bangalore in December 2002, followed by Delhi in August 2003, are Kolkata, Hyderabad (housed in a huge leisure property) Pune, Chennai, Chandigarh and two in Mumbai. The channel is cashing in on the spurt in interest and consumption of lifestyle and leisure products in India, not just in the major metros but also the small towns, says Vaidya.

The channel is developing a line of collaterals, fabric, upholstery for the lounges in India, a range that will be made available internationally, and the F diamond in the channel's logo will be seen prominently everywhere. India figures as one of the key markets for Fashion TV, which is opening 40 such lounges internationally in the near future.

While similar channels threaten to invade its space (Trendz has already made its appearance) Fashion TV is silently building up its properties - the first to start in October this year, and is scheduled as a four to six month activity period, will be the hunt for the perfect international model out of India. Another that should commence just before the autumn-winter season will be a showcase of couture work of Indian designers.

Viewership is growing, avers Vaidya. Fashion students, young designers, older women with an eye for fashion as well as a large cross section with an eye for the eye candy offered on the channel are drawn to it in large numbers, she says, as also those who appreciate the iconic music that the channel offers. "What is not quantifiable, but constitues a vital captive audience is the viewership that is reached through the airing of the channel at establishments like premium hotels, pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, gyms and health clubs, boutiques, salons, etc. This is a segment that proves to be crucial to our client base as well."

Brands like Nokia, Seagram's Blenders Pride, Liberty Shoes, Kingfisher, Intergold, Lee Jeans are hopping onto the channel, and Vaidya says that ad sales on the channel was kickstarted internationally out of India. Until then, the editorial integrity of the channel was maintained by the incluson of commercials that were in keeping with the look and feel of the channel only, she says.

FTV, now available free to air in India and beaming off Asiasat 2, has done away with the window dedicated to Indian fashion in accordance with a new strategy adoped by Fashion TV, but spreads out the India generated programming into shows on similar themes. The format remains the same, with very little commentary, and 30 second to six minute snippets of shows. These formats also allow the channel the flexibility for creating direct brand linkages, which it is doing with clients like Nokia, creating films specially woven around its new models.

The plan is now to move into below the line activities too, by conducting events for clients at the F bars and lounges, and then carrying the events on air. Fashion TV is also getting into co-branded merchandise, by creating products like lipstick cases, products that are funky, sophisticated, and with a distinct FTV mark.

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