Infotainment, lifestyle genre gets sprightly
By Ashwin Pinto
The year 2012 saw increased focus on localisation in the infotainment and lifestyle genre to attract more viewers – both in terms of local content and providing Indian language audio feeds. Digitisation also prompted broadcasters to launch expansion strategies with audience segmentation and fragmentation in mind. Another visible trend is the focus on sub genres as competition intensified in the infotainment or lifestyle space.
Fox International Channels (Fic) entered the lifestyle genre by re-branding Fox History and Entertainment as Fox Traveller. Armed with two strong brands in the portfolio, the aim was to build strong identities for National Geographic and Fox. Explains Fic India managing director Keertan Adyanthaya, "National Geographic is building on its brand values of knowledge, education and research to focus on Infotainment. Fox, on the other hand, is the lead brand in the lifestyle space. Lifestyle is the dark horse of TV and has immense potential.”
Asked if the ad pie was the reason to move into lifestyle, Adyanthaya counters saying that audience was the main reason. “We see a large segment of the audience who‘s interested in lifestyle and we have global strengths in lifestyle that we can leverage to provide content to this audience.”
Fox Traveller has brought a certain zest and energy to the lifestyle space. The channel’s aim is to whip up a whole host of experiences- not just in places that haven’t been seen or experienced before, but even in the most mundane of the destinations. “The channel is insightful about what the young traveler in India seeks, and presents it with an air of aspiration,” says Adyanthaya.
Localisation is an important strategy for Fox Traveller. About 35 per cent of the channel‘s content is Indian compared to just 20 per cent on NGC. Some of the local shows include ‘It Happens Only in India’ which travels to some unvisited places; ‘Twist of Taste with Vineet Bhatia’ which sees the Michelin star chef in a very unexpected way; and ‘What’s with Indian Men’, hosted by two women presenting the flavour of towns through one of its most important aspect- its men.
Interestingly, the channel launched a Bangle feed before going into other languages like Hindi. Adyanthaya explains that the Bangla team was better prepared and had got into a good rhythm of versioning and they were able to deliver to an earlier timeline than planned. It also celebrated the anniversary with an HD feed.
Seeking to fortify its position in India, archrival TLC’s focus also rested on doing a mix of international and local shows. In an attempt to ward off competition, the channel identified genres within the lifestyle space. Says Discovery South Asia senior VP, GM Rahul Johri, "We, for instance, identified the grooming genre as a popular mix for the Indian audiences. ‘Be Blunt With Adhuna Akhtar’ is one such show. We also relied on signature international shows like ’No Reservations’ and ‘Project Runway’ to offer a complete viewing experience. "
NDTV Good Times continued to adopt a 360 degree approach to reach the viewer. “We have increased our touch-points and frequency of connecting directly with the viewer - be it through on-ground, in-person interaction between the viewer and our anchors / experts, or virtually via the Internet," says NDTV Lifestyle CEO Smeeta Chakrabarti.
NDTV Good Times is hyper active on social media and stresses on building a loyal community on its website. "Instead of simply showcasing the programme schedule and the other obvious constituents of a typical TV channel website, we have created a platform for like-minded people to discuss their interests with each other and interact one-on-one with our anchors," avers Chakrabarti.
Having Indian origins, NDTV Good Times feels it is uniquely. "Nearly all our content is tailor-made for the Indian lifestyle viewer. This edge that NDTV Good Times has remains unmatched till date,” adds Chakrabarti.
History TV18, the joint venture between A+E Networks and TV18, tried to shake up the market with its spread across regional languages. Having launched History TV18, it is looking at three channels to give it a bouquet.
History TV18, aiming to show history in a contemporary way, launched in eight languages and added one more, making it the first of its kind. Another first was roping in Salman Khan who is normally associated with Bollywood and Hindi GECs.
History TV18 GM marketing Sangeetha Aiyer notes that while progress has been made, there is a long way to go to achieve what it has done in the US. "History is a leader in the US and other key markets of the world. We are yet to achieve that in the India market," she says.
In terms of the way forward, she says that the first key step to consolidate ratings is to strengthen the distribution footprint. Expansion in 1mn+ town class, therefore, will be important. The channel is also pinning its hopes on digitisation as the factual genre gets significant contribution to viewership from digital cable and DTH platforms. "So we are ensuring that we focus on our presence and availability through these broadcast platforms," she avers.
Along with focussing on connectivity and availability to be optimal and accelerated, the broadcaster is also working on the programming strategy and content mix. "A few subgenres within the factual entertainment genre have shown traction for us," says Aiyer.
She elaborates that the sub genres that will be focussed on going forward are 1) Action/ adventure/ thrills; 2) informative programming packaged in an entertaining way like The Works, Food Tech, etc that are character driven; and 3) India centric content. The aim is to continue to strengthen this sub genre. Another type of content that is working is topical stuff which will be more like a tactical strategy to get the much needed spikes, she points out.
Localisation will be key going forward. For instance it has a show about Australians looking to get a break in Bollywood. The aim of language feeds is to reach out to markets like Gujarat where in past infotainment has not had much impact due to the lack of availability of content in that language.
Johri points to a serious push being given to secondary channels like Discovery Science. The first step was to establish its unique proposition and gain traction. “On the back of an encouraging response, we launched the Hindi feed of Discovery Science. The discerning Indian viewer wants to be informed and entertained about the various advancements from around the world.”
On the content side, Discovery across its channels looked to continue presenting topical and event led programming. “Throughout the year, Discovery Channel continued to bring topical programmes like One Giant Leap: A Neil Armstrong Tribute, Inside Indian Television, Titanic: The Aftermath, Revealed: The Making of Ra.One and many more,” says Johri.
The male targeted Discovery Turbo aims at being a trendsetter. One highlight was the show Khardung- La – Race Car Extreme along with Red Bull to coincide with the F1 race in Delhi.
Animal Planet looked to grow the overall brand experience with initiatives such as ‘Where Tigers Rule’, a month long programming initiative dedicated to the cause of tiger conservation and ‘Yeh Mera India’, a celebration of the country’s wildlife.
As far as archrival Fic’s flagship channel NGC is concerned, the focus has been on placing the channel better as well as being on more feeds. Shows that have gotten traction include ‘Taboo’, ‘Banged Up Abroad‘ and ‘India @ 10‘.
Offering his take on the progress that infotainment made this year, Adyanthaya is positive noting that there was significant growth in the infotainment genre this year, first with the entry of History and then with the resurgence of National Geographic. “Also the smaller channels like Discovery Turbo and Nat Geo Wild continued to grow and make inroads into the genre.”
He says that Nat Geo Wild is now carried across all DTH platforms and will also be available on most multi-system operator (MSO) platforms as soon as digitisation takes place.
The Challenge: Infotainment, though, has its set of challenges. Adyanthaya explains that in infotainment, there is no single content formula like the GECs have. “Our audience is made up of people who are curious and want to know more about the world around them and, hence, we create a large variety of shows which cater to the need.”
Managing costs is another challenge. It is expensive to produce shows for infotainment because of the amount of research and due diligence that needs to be done. In fact, it is due to costs that Fic is not looking at more languages for now.
"The cost-benefit ratio far outweighs business sense in doing any additional languages," says Adyanthaya.
The Ad Scene: The ad pie of the lifestyle and infotainment genre is estimated at Rs 4 billion and is expected to show double digit growth.
The genre draws in maximum ad support from the FMCG category. Aiyer says th challenge is to change that established rule. "We have tried and have succeeded in bringing on board other categories actively like banking, telecom and consumer durables.”
Chakrabarti, however, notes that things have been tough for the lifestyle genre. "Genres that are not considered mass – such as lifestyle – are particularly worse hit during periods of economic slowdown. At such times, not only does the ad pie shrink (or, at best, exhibit lower growth) but advertisers also prefer to play safe and allocate a greater share to mass genres such as GECs."
So will NDTV Good Times show revenue growth this year? “We are focussed on keeping old clients while adding new ones. We expect to grow revenues over last year, “ says Chakrabarti.
The impact of digitisation: Digitisation is expected to be especially beneficial for the infotainment and lifestyle genre. But it will need a change in the mindset of how players operate and think.
Adyanthaya explains that until now, subscription was a B2B led vertical. “We will now need to re-calibrate our thinking to it being a B2C vertical. Earlier channel communication was strongly dependent on show-led marketing in order to grow viewership. This will need to change to a marketing strategy where we ask people to subscribe to the channel. Co-marketing with MSO / DTH platforms will gain even more importance.”
Elaborating on the strategy in a digital world Adyanthaya says that the company is re-looking at its communication plans and are also in discussion with platforms on collaborative partnerships to push the subscribers into opting for its channels.
But there are challenges. Adyanthaya admits that unfortunately, there are some parties who are more interested in continuing with the status quo. “Some of them haven’t recognised the opportunity and some have their own shallow, short term interests in mind,” he says.
The big question is when the ratio between advertising and subscription tilts in favour of the latter. The split for Fic, according to Adyanthaya, is about 70:30 in favour of advertising. He does not expect any earth shattering hikes in subscription revenue in the short term. "There will be a gradual growth in this stream once declaration of subscriber numbers grow. The growth will come mainly from real subscriber numbers and not from any hikes in channel rates," he explains.
For Johri, the expectation is that the digitisation process will amplify the progress of unique content channels. “We believe that Animal Planet would be a key beneficiary of this trend and would attract true value for its content and brand reputation.”