ETV Marathi: Changing the rules of the game : Anuj Poddar EVP Viacom18 and Business Head, Marathi

ETV Marathi has been one of the pioneers in regional entertainment and to our credit, we've been visionaries.

The way I see it there have been three phases of content. The first was the evolution of content. ETV Marathi, when it started out, was not on par with national TV channels but it was locally unique and culturally closer. The next phase was when Star Pravah came into being, and the quality and nature of programming took a leap. The third phase is what ETV Marathi has done since Viacom 18 came into the picture. We've taken the current entertainment to its next phase.

KHMC gets a lot more visibility and helps signify that change at multiple levels such as scale of programming, quality, production values or benchmark impacts the kind of audiences we draw.

Kon Hoyil Marathi Crorepati (KHMC) was one of the first steps to signify that. The kind of shows we were doing before and after KHMC signify the extent of change in the genre.

KHMC gets a lot more visibility and helps signify that change at multiple levels such as scale of programming, quality, production values or benchmark impacts the kind of audiences we draw.

The kind of programming that we have lined up is going to bring in more audiences from outside the genre. These are audiences that were not watching much of our Marathi programming but because of the quality and diversity, they would be looking at it. These are the younger audiences or more contemporary and educated in English or Hindi medium schools and therefore, are not watching regional Marathi entertainment. So it has to be the language and content that has to appeal to them. The content more than the emotional attachment to their language should pull them in.

ETV Marathi's legacy is very strong but we were stuck in the past where it pulled in a certain kind of audience. We are now bringing in content that is far more vibrant, younger, contemporary and fresh in order to pull in a whole new segment of audiences to Marathi GEC.

We had to change our FPC (Fixed Point Chart) but we didn't have the luxury to create content and wait because it was a running channel. We started replacing shows in a certain priority. We started by replacing some fiction shows. We brought contemporary drama on the channel. We created a completely original show called Vivah Bandhan while another was a remake of the popular show Uttaran called Asawa Sundar Swapnache Bandhan. We thought of taking something that worked nationally and serving it in a regional language with a setting that's closer home.

Post that, we worked on the fiction vs. nonfiction mix. Previously, E TV Marathi had nonfiction during a late night time band post 9:30 pm or 10:00 pm, which we pulled to the 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm band. We launched three shows; one was Natya Rang, another was Comedy Expressthat we reworked on and third was another popular ETV Marathi show called Crime Diary that we brought back in a new avatar.

E TV's legacy is very strong but we were stuck in the past where it pulled in a certain kind of audience. 

Traditionally, ETV Marathi was not known for marketing. Now we have changed that and there is cross-channel marketing; outdoor, print, ground activities-pretty much 360 degree. We used KHMC to amplify our marketing because in a GEC space, a channel is never marketed, the show is. We did many on-ground activities for KHMC. We had vans going from city to town and organising a game play on the 'hot seat'. So people in a small town would gather and get an opportunity to answer five questions and get the feel of it. So we did a lot of these things that may not ultimately give an ROI on a specific show but will help to create a lot of buzz for the channel. KHMC did manage to shake people up as it came as a disrupter.

Incidentally, KHMC is just about 20 per cent of our ratings while the rest comes from our other shows.

We've not only started doing a lot of marketing but we started just letting people know that ETV Marathi was undergoing a change.

The consumer would take time to realise a change was happening. After carrying out some changes till March, we launched KHMC in May as our flagship program. That brought us a lot more visibility. What we have noticed is that every new show's launch has beaten the record of the previous show's launch. We brought on board better quality and differentiated nonfiction programs this year. The channel now has something for everybody.

As a channel, for us, it is important to know what is happening in every age group. We track that by age or by SEC. Every single age group is showing growth in reach and time spent on ETV Marathi . We want to make sure that a lot of our old and loyal audiences have reason to stay on the channel as well as the younger audiences come back to the channel because our audiences don't sit in Mumbai and Pune. So we target the rest of Maharashtra in both ground activities and print.

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