Television

'We want to become the GEC for young India' : Zarina Metha - Bindass CEO

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 She waits with baited breath, jittery to unlock her next treasure. Bindass CEO Zarina Mehta is bubbling with energy as she talks about her second baby Bindass. This time round, Mehta is casting her magic wand over the Indian youth segment, but with a mammoth approach as she navigates across multiple media platforms to capture her target audience. Some question whether she will rewrite the Hungama TV story and the impact it had on the Indian kid's space. However, in this case she looking to unveil a quartette of four Bindass television channels by April 2008.

With the backing of Malaysia based media company Astro, she seems geared up to take on competition with other broadcasters also foraying into the youth general entertainment segment. As this television space is heating up, Mehta is leaving no stone unturned to capture what she calls the "sweet spot." In an exclusive t?te-?-t?te with Indiantelevision.com's Renelle Snelleksz, Zarina Mehta exudes the excitement and the anxiety before she breathes life into her next creation.

Excerpts:

Why have you decided to change your TG positioning by extending the demographic beyond the 15-24 year olds even before launching Bindass?

When we initally conceived the channnel, we were looking at the 15 - 24 year olds, but further research urged us to redefine our target audience as 15-34 year olds. The median age for India has dropped by two years to 24 years since the 2001 census.

But how do you manage to make one brand appeal to this wide audience? It is all about targeting what we call our "sweet spot" or the 17 -21 year olds. We realized that if we target our sweet spot, then we will automatically attract the larger segment of 15 - 34. This is because the 15 year olds long to belong, while the 34 year olds just do not want to grow up. This 'down aging' phenomena is a sensational find because if I get my 17 - 21 year olds correct (which I pray I do, she laughs), then I will capture this larger segment as well.

What opportunities does this segment offer?

Between the 15 - 34 age group we have got 379 million Indians (All India) and in the C&S homes 95 million Indians. But who is currently engaging this audience? Star One did it in its old avatar, Sab is making a good attempt, there are also one off shows from GECs and some niche channels. But there is definitely a gap.

The 15 -34 year olds comprise 42 per cent of all TV viewing. This is a fantastic opportunity for us. The viewership patterns from 2005 till now are also changing, which shows the decline of the GECs as viewers are moving away from their traditional consumption and trying new things. There is thus a gap in the general entertainment space on television and we want to cater to this segment. We want to become the GEC for young India.

The concept behind Bindass has largely been supported by research. Are there any significant findings that have helped give shape to your upcoming channel?

We did three and a half months of solid research, we have a proprietary name test which we had done for Hungama TV, Ceria and for Bindass. Secondly, we did an ethnographic qualitative study, followed by a quantitative study based on attitudes conducted by Synovate across six Indian cities and 2500 samples. Our research is invaluable and the key finding stated that our sweet spot (core TG 17- 21 year olds) have a 'duality' but are very comfortable with having a traditional heart with a cool exterior. This forms the core brand value of Bindass.

The 'Bindass' name is imbued with certain brand properties that resonate with factors like chilled out, edgy, sexy and young. But as the creators of brand Bindass these values were not sufficient to create a 360 degree long term brand. So we added values that will further energize the brand and came up with the following propositions. If you are not "yo dude" and you are not "saas bahu" then you are Bindass. We are the reality of young India that consists of the four F's - Fun, Frank, Fearless and Freedom.

Our logo has been designed by BDA and is exactly what we represent, completely Indian with a cool exterior, that is what we believe will work.

On the programming front, what's your strategy?

The channel will have no music, no soaps, no gadget shows, no lifestyle shows and no VJ's. So what are we left with? It is going to have a lot of comedy. We will have action thrillers, Hollywood blockbusters and the best of local and International shows, accompanied by late night horror, International movies and extreme sports.

Our daily driver primetime shows include a stand up comedy Lagegi that is shot 24 to 48 hours prior to telecast from Monday to Thursday. We will have seven BIA's - Bindass Intellegent Agents from the top cities giving us reports on what is happening across India. Then there is Shakira, a dark angel fighting for justice, every man's fantasy, while another daily comedy is Sun Yaar Chill Maar. We also have a street magician show by Ugesh Sarcar.

Our programming is tailored to fit our research findings which show that the 15 -24 age group watches two and half hours of TV a week and movie channels are consumed for six hours a week by this TG.

In the highly cluttered TV environment, have you identified what your primetime is going to be?

Our primetime is definitely going to be the normal primetime 7.30 - 11.30 pm. But what is interesting is that this audience will be consuming TV across the day, so we will be discovering new primetimes. There will probably be the regular primetime and two other primetimes, which we have also identified and we are pushing your programmes at that time as well. This will be a learning curve for us.

But won't this interfere with GEC primetime, especially in the reality of a single TV household?

Yes, we will, thus, be discovering our own primetime. Is our TG going to be able to snatch the remote or not? We believe that within this primetime they will snatch the remote. But basically there are two time slots within primetime that we are gunning for. Apart from that, we do believe there will emerge other primetimes which will be a morning and afternoon one. We are looking to garner ratings right through the day.

'We will be discovering our own primetime, but there are two slots within 7.30 - 11.30 pm that we are gunning for'

You are also looking to have a strong movie line up on Bindass?

We have top of the line Hollywood blockbusters that we will dub, along with Japanese and Chinese films as well. It is important that the movie is 'bindass.' Even if I know a movie will rate well but if it does not qualify as a bindass film, then I won't put it on the channel.

We are not going to have Hindi movies on our channel, for the same reason that we are not having music, because it is 'undifferentiated viewing.' The way Hindi movies are bought in bulk, you are not allowed to pick and choose, thus you cannot build your brand, but in case of international films you can do this.

Will this mean that you will not have any films from the UTV stable?

We may have them eventually, but only if it's a Bindass movie. It also depends on whether we can afford it. At the moment, I am only looking at international movies from Asia and the West.

What is your movie strategy for the channel?

Primetime movies will be for the weekends, but we will also showcase two movies a day largely off primetime.

What about animated content on the channel?

I personally love animation but unfortunately in India animation is perceived as being for kids. I can't afford to have that on Bindass when we launch. Maybe after the brand has settled and people have realized that it's a 15+ brand, then I can put it on. But this will definitely not happen in the first year.

Are all the Bindass shows produced in-house?

Two have been produced in house i.e. Shakira and Sun Yaar Chill Maar but Lagegi has been done by the production house Encompass. However, all the concept ideas have come from us.

How many locally produced shows will be on the channel?

At the moment we have three shows. But we will have six original hours of content per day which includes a mix of locally produced shows, dubbed acquired content and movies.

Will the mix be largely skewed towards local content? What is the proportion of local versus acquired content?

We will just have to wait and watch although I believe local content is very vital. Our primetime will be completely local. But we have also learnt from our experience with the kid's channel Hungama TV that acquired content can also do very well.

Local programming will consist of 45 per cent and acquired 55 per cent. But we have to first see what works and then decide eventually.

What are the plans to introduce other Bindass channels in India?

By April 2008 we will have four channels which will be variations of Bindass. We are currently exploring what those will be and are even exploring whether it will be a regional channel or maybe even another genre within this youth audience space. We have, however, decided to launch a movie channel called Bindass Movies by early October. We have acquired a huge library consisting of about 150 movies to start with.

'By April 2008 we will have 4 channels which will be variations of Bindass'

Will this new channel also have only international movies dubbed in Hindi or are you also looking to infuse some Bollywood content?

Not when we launch, but eventually we may consider infusing some Hindi movies into the channel. What was an eye opener for us was that our analysis of over a year's ratings indicated that a dubbed Hollywood movie gets three times the ratings of the non-dubbed version of the same movie, while a Bollywood film gets only double of that. So as a cost benefit analysis, this is the way to go.

Will this also be a pay channel like Bindass?

Yes, I only believe in the pay channel model. All our channels will be pay from day one.

What will Bindass across the mobile and online platform be like?

For our mobile platform we have tied up with all the telecom operators in India and our own short code is 5995 to showcase both Bindass and acquired content. There are two kinds of content we are working on. One is popular content which accounts for 95 per cent of revenues. The other five per cent is high-end content which people rarely use but is the future. Popular content consists of wallpapers, ring tones, gaming and contests. We are going to prepare ourselves for what we believe is going to come on mobile, the high technology stuff which includes mobisodes, television clippings, online chat and blogs for which we are talking to people.

All this is an opportunity to get the content of my brand across all touch points. We don't see it as competition to TV, we see online and mobile as fantastic opportunities to communicate with our audience. So by taking our content across platforms we will kick off with Lagegi.com an online comedy portal having Lagegi content and other content including user generated content and clips not aired on the show. We will also have Bindass.com which will showcase the brand and the shows.

Are the retail and merchandising plans for Bindass already underway?

I am going to start focusing on our retail ventures post the launch of the channel. I have given myself 12 months before I launch two cafés in Mumbai and Delhi. These will be brand extensions of Bindass to create a touch and feel of our brand. We are still in the process of conducting research to arrive at the right representations of the brand. But we have zeroed in on gaming consoles, web zones and merchandising counters that will be a part of the ambience along with some other big ideas. These café's will be unique to an entertainment brand.

With the first two café's, I would like to see how these concepts click with our TG and then we will roll out completely. I don't want to push it.

Are you considering roping in a partner for this initiative? The investments for this are outside the Rs two billion that was declared earlier. So what are the investments for this?

No, not at the moment I am not considering a partner. Maybe I will kick off on my own and get a partner later.

Yes, the investments are outside the JV and are very high. The investments from the JV alone are Rs 2.7 billion which will be largely dedicated to the four channels.

What is the marketing push that you have planned to get Bindass off the ground?

For the media plan, we will start with a big push for Lagegi on TV and with the website in August. This will be followed by Space Yatra which is a contest that will kick off in September giving seven Bindass people across the country the opportunity to go into space.

With several players now eyeing the youth demographic, how do you see the television space shaping up this year?

We love competition, without competition we are dead. I am so happy that many people have announced their plans to enter this space. You don't want to be alone, you want competition to grow the space, to come up with better ideas, you keep going one up and the space grows. I know this sector is going to hot up, in fact it already has. In the Rs 65 billion market there is Rs 18 billion targeting our "sweet spot" - the college going kids. The opportunity is huge as 72 per cent of India is below the age of 34 years.

What about your plans to take a prototype of the channel overseas (Southeast Asia) like you did with Hungama TV in Malaysia?

Absolutely, but first it is important to make the mother brand successful at home and then duplicate it. We are looking to extend the brand not only to Southeast Asia but also to take it to the Middle East and East Asia by late 2008 or early 2009.

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