Television

'It is in the interest of the Indian content makers if Glow TV works':KAGISO MEDIA ED AND KAGISO BROADCASTING CEO OMAR ESSACK

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With six radio stations - East Coast Radio, Jarcaranda FM, Heart 104.9, iGagasi, Ofm and Kaya fm - already in its kitty, the South Africa based Kagiso Media Broadcast has ventured into television with the launch of its first free-to-air (FTA) channel, Glow TV, which calls itself ‘eastern inspired’ and has Indian content accumulated from across the globe. Glow TV, a partnership between Kagiso Broadcast and Nolava Television that mainly works as content source provider, is just about a month old and is looking at creating original content in phase two.

Kagiso Media ED and Kagiso Broadcasting CEO Omar Essack was in India recently to acquire content for Glow TV, which already boasts of shows such as season one and two of chat show Koffee with Karan and fiction show Bade Achhe Lagte Hain.

Essack, who is of Gujarati descent, believes Glow TV will appeal not just to Indians but everyone in South Africa. In a conversation with indiantelevision.com’s Vishaka Chakrapani, Essack speaks about Glow TV’s uniqueness, appeal of Indian content in South Africa, Kagiso Media’s future plans and his expectations from the TV and digital mediums after a successful run in radio.

Excerpts from the interview...

What was the purpose of your India visit?

This trip is about building relationships. All the big players in India don't know who we are and we want to let them know our ambitions. Glow TV is our first channel but the intention is to grow and have more such channels. South Africa's population is 50 million, out of which there are 1.5 million Indians, but our vision is a cross over. We are cherry-picking Indian content, packaging it and presenting what we think is a uniquely South African proposition - content where Indians make an appearance. This trip was to acquire programming and increase our rights. Helped by our JV with Microsoft; we want to do digital content for online and mobile as well.

What kind of content are you looking at from India?

As of now, we have about six hours of content repeated four times a day. We are also scouting good programming in Tamil and Telugu. The first question is whether it will work with black and white audiences; maybe a film like Cocktail would. Our target audience is females between 25 and 35 years and our primary relation for movies in India is Eros Entertainment.

What are the shows that you currently have?

We have a telenovela from Brazil called India - a love story that has Brazilian actors and is set in India, Rio de Janeiro and Dubai. Going forward, we are looking at more content from South Africans featuring India. The heart of our channel is to allow people with different cultural experiences to enjoy this eastern experience, which is accessible to them. We have spoken to Star, Zee and a production company that does unique content for YouTube as well as unique content in English that isn't available on mainstream TV in India in the English language. This will help us connect with our audiences.

What is the viewership of Glow TV and what marketing initiatives do you have in place for it?

Glow TV currently has about 5000 STBs through Open View HD that cost about $89 (each). We are looking to find opportunities on digital platforms as well. There's DSTV that is a big pay TV provider, which has FTA channels only at entry level. The reason we launched now is that in South Africa, it is Christmas, and people have got their bonuses on 13 December. We are assuming if we do a lot of marketing, people will buy more of the boxes.  About $9-10 million is going into marketing for Open View HD, and Glow TV is putting in $ 1.4 million, using its radio stations and websites to advertise. Our stations Jarcaranda and East Coast Radio have two million listeners each. Our primary audience is not Indians, which is why we are stretching the channel so hard.

Soaps such as Kya Hua Tera Vada and Bade Achhe Lagte Hain are quite popular in India

Was it easy to convince your board of directors to venture into TV?

That was our biggest challenge since we are very successful and profitable in radio, when we thought of venturing into TV, our board was nervous. Glow TV is a proof of consent. They told us to show them we could work and bring in revenue and if we could, they would give us more money for Glow and more channels. We don't have too much for movies but enough for shows but they are older ones that have been seen behind pay walls, which will now be FTA.

Did you undertake any research before you stepped into TV media?

An AC-Nielsen survey showed that when a Bollywood movie was shown on our version of Doordarshan i.e. South Africa Broadcast Corporation (SABC), a million people saw it at 2 in the afternoon, out of which 700,000 were blacks. This research convinced us that Glow could work across different ethnicities. They won’t pay to go see it at a movie theatre or for subscription but if it's free, they will watch it.

What is your budget for Glow?

We are working on a lean budget but I am glad that a lot of the content makers here like Sony, Eros, Zee, Star and BBC understand we are a start-up and that we are working on a tight budget. So it is in their interest if this channel succeeds because if we are successful, we can be a big customer tomorrow. By 30 June next year, we will know if we have touched the targets that the board set for us. If we can’t prove ourselves by then, the whole deal is off.



We are cherry-picking Indian content, packaging it and presenting what we think is a uniquely South African proposition - content where Indians make an appearance.

What kind of advertisers do you have?

We are currently looking at increasing viewership but are also offering advertisers a proposition. We are selling ad slots at low rates but we are also giving them our ecosystem to reach out to a large audience. Through radio, TV, digital and Glow TV put together, we are giving a 30 sec slot at a couple of hundred dollars. On our radio stations, the morning show slot is $2500. So, we are giving a radio station at a lower rate. We call this ‘glow watt bundles’. The only disadvantage of launching in October is that most advertisers are already committed. So whoever we spoke to, said they can only commit to us in January. First, National Bank and Nedbank are close to signing but they want exclusive deals from January. A soda company is going to sponsor Kaun Banega Crorepati.

What are your plans for pay TV?

Yes, we do not want to restrict ourselves to FTA and are looking at pay TV channels in the future. The licence we are applying for is not specifically for digital, terrestrial or satellite TV. It's called a technology-neutral licence. We can apply that licence for any technology in the future. We may say the digital, terrestrial space is too crowded, or the pay TV satellite space is too crowded. Some of the future technology we don't even know yet. A licence is not a guarantee. We then need to apply for spectrum. Any media company needs to be on both free and pay. If we prove ourselves, we can try our limits not just for channels but for future things like VOD.

What kind of local content are you looking at getting from Urban Brew Studios, your own production house?

Urban brew will get local content for our channels. We have a group in the company that harvests data and helps us know about consumer consumption patterns. One interesting finding is that we don't have a lot of sitcoms coming out of South Africa but the US has a lot that are popular here as well. Also, there isn't a soap opera channel with South Africans made in the country. So these are some ideas.

Sanjeev Kapoor's cookery skills is set to charm South African audiences

Your company has also delisted itself from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. What led to this decision?

The company has delisted, we bought out 49 per cent and have made the final payment to shareholders. The main motivation is that we want to invest in new areas and our shareholder (Kagiso Tiso holdings), which bought us out is committed to investing for expansion across Africa and they have the appetite to do that.  Most of our shareholders that owned our stock owned it because we are a productive dividend payer and so, twice a year, they would surely get dividends. Going forward, if we require investment to do the things we are looking to, we may not pay dividends on a regular basis because we are looking at investing as we expand into Africa. And that may not have suited some share holders.

What was the price paid to shareholders?

It was a premium of 30 per cent of the price that was listing at that time. There were some who resisted it but in the end, it was an attractive price.

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