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Infotainment & lifestyle genre in a new wave of evolution

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The infotainment and lifestyle genre is going through a new wave of evolution as more entrants, channel launches and regional-language feeds marked the whole of 2011. While challenges dogged the year, digitisation threw open opportunities. With the four metros having a sunset date of 30 June 2011, channels are looking at sprucing up their content and preparing for differentiated offerings to tap into audience segmentation as about one-fourth of their viewership comes from there.

Clearly, defined brands will hold the edge and distribution revenues will have to look up for the genre to grow. The overall ad revenue market for infotainment and lifestyle is estimated to be around Rs 3 billion and with so many channels in the fray, the pie is not large enough for all of them to dig into.

The focus in 2011 was on increasing investments in content and expanding reach and time spent on all the networks. Said Discovery South Asia senior VP, GM Rahul Johri, ?We made ingenious innovations on all fronts: programming, language offerings, availability and marketing.?

Discovery upped the ante launching over 100 series across its seven channels with the aim to offer Indian audiences multiple new hosts and entertaining formats. ?We brought brand defining programmes like ?Curiosity? on Discovery Channel, ?Oh My Gold? on TLC and ?Taking on Tyson? on Animal Planet. We introduced a number of interesting new formats and engaging hosts,? said Johri.

The result was telling. While feeling the heat from competition, Discovery maintained its lead among the infotainment channels. According to Tam data (C&S 15+, All India), it had a share of 53 per cent in 2011, though it fell to 49 per cent in the second half of the year from 57 per cent in the first half. In 2010, Discovery had a share of 57 per cent.

Arch-rival NGC is behind with a share of 25 per cent, slightly up from 23 per cent in the earlier year, while Animal Planet?s share has gone down from 18 per cent to 15 per cent. New entrant History TV18 has an average share of 9.9 per cent ever since it launched in October 2011.

Discovery has a monopoly on the top 10 shows, both in 2011 and in 2010. Episodes of ?Man Vs Wild? were the top shows in both years. Other shows that rated include ?Destroyed In Seconds? and the special ?Death of Bin Laden?.

National Geographic Channel went through a global rebranding. Said National Geographic Network, Fox International Channels India MD Keertan Adyanthaya, ?2011 has been a very important year for National Geographic Channel. We have completely changed the way we look and are perceived by our audience. The ?This is who we are? campaign, launched in December, showcased the range of experiences, passion and adventure that lies within the channel. NGC has always been dynamic, experimentative and larger than life and this campaign helped articulate this appropriately; it gave us a sharp spike in viewership.?

Maintaining the genre share remains a huge task in the wake of increased competition. Said Adyanthaya, ? Our mix of diverse series, a new theme every month and having best-rated shows will ensure that our viewer base remains unshaken.?

The preference is to have daily striped programming. Said Adyanthaya, ?If viewers like a show, then they are more comfortable if that series is made available to them as a daily stripe rather than being showcased once a week. As a result, we have striped the popular promotable series on our grid, and we?re seeing daily sampling for these shows recording higher numbers than previously when they were available just once a week.?

The Regional Language Push: 2011 was a year when players in this genre tried to boost viewership by launching regional-language feeds. Discovery, for instance, increased the reach of the channels on both digital and analogue platforms, launching the Bangla and Telugu language feeds and expanding lifestyle channel TLC?s Hindi feed. ?Supplementing our regional strategy, we launched a dedicated 24-hour regional channel ? Discovery Channel Tamil catering to Tamil speaking viewers,? averred Johri.

NGC launched channel feeds in Tamil, Telugu and Bengali. ?We feel that our content is universal in its appeal and, hence, language should not be a barrier to viewership. We have seen very strong results with these feeds. The introduction of regional feeds has seen the channel penetration and reach numbers improve significantly in these states,? said Adyanthaya.

New entrant History TV18, launched last year as a JV between AETN and TV18, has taken the lead in regional languages by being present in as many as seven languages. ?We launched with six languages and we have just added Gujarati to our portfolio. Going regional does two things ? it helps us to penetrate geographies and SECs, thus helping us aggregate audiences; it will also help us monetise the GRPs.?

Incidentally, Fox History and Entertainment had exited the space last year and became a lifestyle channel, thus making it easier for a new player to come in. History TV18 aims to change people?s perception of history by making it contemporary; it also shows action and adventure.

A+E Networks TV18 JV GM marketing Sangeetha Aiyer believes the Indian market is ripe for alternative formats. ?That is one of the reasons for the Network18 group to foray into the factual entertainment space. Factual entertainment as a genre competes with general entertainment or fiction-based entertainment and unscripted formats in evolved markets like the US. It is also emerging as the new preferred choice across other markets in Europe and South east Asia. We believe that the trend will continue and the genre has the potential to become a relatively mainstream option for entertainment in India as well.?

History hopes to break-even in three years and has invested close to Rs 150 million in 2011. ?Going forward, we will be looking at creating innovative clutter-breaking marketing concepts, along with exploiting synergies within the network,? said Aiyer.

The Lifestyle Genre: Activity intensified in the lifestyle space as well. Fox History and Entertainment rebranded as Fox Traveller, learning from the experience that travel shows were performing well.

?2011 was about rediscovery and revamping. Since the travel shows were doing well for us, we started a dedicated Traveller band in January 2011; the shows were well received by our viewers as the band witnessed a significant increase in ratings. In May 2011, Fox History and Traveller was reborn with increased focus on travel-based programming and local productions. The channel was renamed Fox Traveller in October 2011,? said Adyanthaya.

According to Tam data (C&S4+ All India), TLC leads with a 35 per cent share in 2011. Fox Traveller enjoys a share of 28.7 per cent share while NDTV Good Times has 28.7 per cent. Travel XP follows with a share of 7.6 per cent. The top shows for 2011 are well distributed among the players.

Lifestyle is an evolving genre. Said Johri, ?TLC brought lifestyle programming in India, offering a wide variety of series in the travel and cuisine genre. It later added new genres like makeover, grooming, health, fashion and home. It further created new trends in India by its brand defining programmes on subjects like tattoo and yoga.?

TL went a step further last year by adding another layer with programming under the jewellery and high-life genre. Most noted amongst them was ?Oh My Gold!? with model and actress Lisa Ray.

?The channel?s success in lifestyle is due to its ability to identify the global and India trends and present entertaining programmes,? said Johri.

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