Focussed channels: Oh what a life!

MUMBAI: In a cable TV market that is starved for bandwidth, in which even general enetrtainment channels are finding it difficult to keep their heads above water, do niche channels have a future? What kind of a future? And, how do they derive maximum value out of their programming content?



These were some of the questions that the panel on niche channels --- consisting of Turner Entertainment Networks Asia VP ad sales Soumitro Saha, Times Global Broadcasting Co Ltd business head Sunil Lulla, Spatial Access founder Meenakshi Madhvani, and Lodestar Media head Nandini Dias --- tried to get answers to at the India TV Summit here today.

And, the verdict was, well, they have a very good future. Only that they objected to being called niche channels. They prefer being called `focused channels.'

The panel agreed that focused channels are good vehicle to reach. Adding further to this Madhvani adds that Discovery channel touched the rooftop when dubbed in Hindi and language feed does translate into ratings.



Responding to a question on the glut of news channels, Lulla counter-punched , "More news is good news! Eight news channels are around but Times Now will find its space in the cable TV sun as it is being designed to focus at an affluent segment."

Saha added that Cartoon Network very successfully sells itself not based on day parts but on programming specific slots. "We are actually addressing 35 per cent of India's populace which also serves as a very effective targeted vehicle for advertisers."

Both Dias and Madhvani nodded in agreement adding that "channels such as Cartoon and news channels can actually be more expensive in terms of absolute costs, but turn out to be cheaper on account of the clear focused audiences that they deliver. "Our clients know that there are some null GRPs which are delivered but they are willing to invest in the environment and audiences they provide."

Added Lodestar vice president Dias: "General entertainment channels (GEC) share has dipped, on the other hand the channel share of niche channels has been inching northwards. Higher channel share of niche channels means that they can demand a price. "

Lulla added that carriage fees are a reality. "In the retail sector, consumer goods companies pay for shelf space. So why is it a big thing if channels have to pay for space on cable TV networks. Content providers have to understand that like marketing, advertising, content creation costs, even carriage fees have to be factored in to business plans."

He pointed out that focused channels are going to benefit from the increase in peoplemeters that TAM is expected to put in place by next year. "It is going to show us in better light, it can only benefit us. " He added that industry should stop its TAM-bashing as it is the currency and the only barometer that they have currently.

According to the panelists, the various windows of distribution - whether it is DTH or cable or broadband - are only going to enhance revenues for the niche channels.

On the point of localization in terms of languages, the entire panel was unanimous that it has only helped channels such as Cartoon Network and Discovery, as cartoons and educational programmes led to new viewers as cartoons are language neutral - as are educational programmes.

Madhvani pointed out that Discovery channel's ratings touched the rooftop when it launched a Hindi feed.

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