Television

Channels aim at lifestyle programming pie

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Feeding off a booming economy, India?s "Dil Mange More" generation is growing by leaps and bounds. A growing consumerist culture and two income families mean that the urban upscale Indian is not afraid to work hard and party harder (to use a clich?). With "Young and Happening" being the buzz word, along with the money to buy the lifestyle they want; Indians are becoming increasingly savvy to leading a way of life that enhances his/her experience at any given point; be it entertainment, lifestyle or shopping. Globetrotting Indians want to live it up with style, as they plan their vacation to virgin beaches across the world, shop for hi-tech gizmos and designer wear, and aspire for that latest cool car that has been launched in the market.

As market experts put it, "with lifestyle taking a centre-stage in the entertainment economy, it?s all about aspiration across industry segments." In psychographic terms, it is this segment that television channels are targeting for niche viewing, by creating and customizing lifestyle programming. Not necessarily drawn by appointment viewing, it is these young turks with active interests in ?funk and style?; craving a peek into their favourite celebrity?s wardrobe and Page 3 gossip that channels targeting the lifestyle space are chasing.

As Rohit Bhandari, SET?s assistant V-P marketing, aptly puts it, "Lifestyle is all about what you believe in and living your life with style. So, lifestyle programming could span across adventure sports, or it could be normal cricket on streets or about wild destinations across the world."

Commenting on the shows Hot & Wild, and Who Dares Win on AXN, he adds, "We are looking at AXN as a lifestyle brand. And watching a lifestyle show has to be an experience for the viewer, who should feel a part of the show at the end of the day. There is a very niche audience, young upwardly mobile, with a different mindset for this kind of programming."

Though channels realized the potential of this segment, not many were interested in putting in the monies to develop the segment. So, a few years ago one saw cable and satellite viewers were just fed on small doses of lifestyle programming over the weekends; as channels just dabbled with a bit of cookery show, travel show, a home d?cor show or just an interview based celeb show. Remember the The Good Home Show or the Simi Garewal one that was earlier on Star Plus. The idea was to blend in these programmes (mostly targeted at the SEC A B) with the rest of the C & S population in the channels? viewership matrix. But in recent times, many have taken a conscious decision to spruce up lifestyle programming. A fresh look at the lifestyle genre, newer concepts, good packaging has resulted in compelling viewing.

A look at the various shows across the channels reveal that channels are trying to evolve the genre as per their target audience and of course in the Indian context. So, Channel [V] has had its share of lifestyle programming with Cool Stop, Get Gorgeous shots, [V] Style Junkie. MTV has a show called Style Check, Desi RaJ and the Page 3 Style Awards. NDTV India has Night out, a late night show positioned for the upper class showcasing all the celeb parties happening around the country. For AXN, which now calls itself a a action and adventure and lifestyle channel the line up has been Who Dares Wins, The Amazing Race and Are You Hot.

Recently, Zee?s fashion channel Trendz has launched its fashion and lifestyle show Diabolical. The show anchored by ex-Grasim Mr India Vivan Bathena is a guide to the best hangouts in cities all over the country. They showcase food, fashion, d?cor, music, celeb clientele with a hope to capture the pulse of urban nightlife. Then there are other channels who haven?t tried lifestyle programming but are now aiming to go full throttle with it. Sahara Manoranjan now rechristened SaharaOne will also have a host of lifestyle shows.

Market experts predict that the fight earlier restricted to other genres will now slowly move on to the Lifestyle genre. With the recently launched Zoom from the Times Group banner, being positioned as an entertainment and lifestyle channel and the soon to be launched Discovery Networks? Travel and Living; Lifestyle seems to be the flavour of the season.

Research conducted by the Discovery channel reveals that there is a fundamental shift in the consumption pattern of the Indian consumer. There are today 10 million credit card holders; disposable income in the country has risen over 270 per cent since 1990; dual income families are now a widespread urban phenomenon. Dawn L McCall, president of Discovery Networks International, has gone on record to say, "With this emerging middle class the time has come for this type of a channel in India."

But then there are others who believe the launch of these channels is based on a hypothesis that will be tested over a period of a few years. Marketers also feel the genre would really be for a very small niche audience which could still take years to pick up. So, will the gambit work?

Says Initiative Media associate vice-president Manas Mishra "We have seen that lifestyle as a brand has worked in the print medium, so what has worked in print will also work in TV and there?s a market for it."

It?s a demand thing really. Many believe that in the given scenario, advertising of lifestyle brands does not reach out to the target audience due to lack of focused programming. Going by that logic, the splash in the lifestyle genre is what is expected to provide that dynamic media vehicle to reach a well targeted and defined viewership profile.

Putting the whole thing in perspective, Starcom Worldwide general manager Investment and New Initiatives Manish Porwal, says, "Right now the total adspend on lifestyle programming across print and Television is less than even 10 per cent of the total advertising pie."

Reveals, Madan Mohapatra, media director, The Media Edge, "As of now, the estimated advertising across the Media (TV and Print) of lifestyle brands is not more than 2 billion. This genre will be commanding a very niche share of viewership. Also, how much advertising revenue these channels will garner and how much viewership they will get remains to be seen. But I feel the market has still to evolve."

As of now, many believe that most of the channels are testing the waters with a minimum of risk. So, you have a Zoom who call themselves an entertainment and lifestyle channel. Then there are those like StarOne that would be targeting the same set of people, with more of fiction and a bit of lifestyle programming.

The kind of content generated and the treatment of the show is what will really determine the target audience, is what some believe. Explains, Vice-President, TAM Media Research Atul Phadnis, "A lot of it would depend on what you call a lifestyle show. Most of it is targeted at the upscale audience; but then if it?s an automobile show then you?re talking to the upscale male audience. A travel show across the globe, then you?re talking to an upscale 30+ audience. So, it?s the kind of content that is being offered that will decide the viewership and in turn advertising. But lifestyle channels will attract specific categories of lifestyle brands. Let?s say adventure sports, then products like watches, sports wear, or style and fashion items, would fit the bill."

Referring to a study conducted by TAM India, Phadnis adds, "There is definitely a increase in the viewership contribution of SEC A B in the time slots that had lifestyle programming."

Channel offerings:Zoom

The channel has a whole line-up of celebrity anchors and offers a peek into the lives of the celeb crowd. Currently it has, The Manish Malhotra show, Simone Singh and Sunita Menon doing The Kosmic Chat, Not Just Page 3, Dance Divas and a mix of international E! True Hollywood Stories, E! Celebrity Homes. Some of the other celebrities who have been roped in to add the Page 3 element are Vir Das, Dipannita Sharma, Kamal Sidhu, Rohit Roy and the Indian cricket wizard Navjyot Singh Sidhu who has a show of his own.

Sights are firmly fixed on the metro markets, the Times Group is targeting aspirational brands such as auto, lifestyle, MNCs, fast moving goods, etc.

Discovery Travel and Living:

A new channel for the upper-middle class audience, Discovery Networks Travel and Living will start beaming officially by the end of the month. As reported earlier by indiantelevision.com, India would be the first country where the idea of Discovery?s lifestyle portfolio would be incubated for replication in other global markets in 2005.

Some of the programmes that are likely to be seen on the new channel include Celebrity Travelogues, Globetrekker, Floyd?s India, Cooking for Love (a blind date show blended with cookery), Date Patrol, Biker Build-Off, He?s Gotta Have It, Great Vacation Homes, Superhomes, Other Peoples? Homes, While You Were Out, The Chris Lowell Show, Tim Brooke-Taylor?s Golf Clubs and World Poker Tour.

The channel is being targeted at the upscale and young adults with active interests in the age group of 18-45. Discovery aims to attract advertisers who have traditionally been advertising in the print medium, and will aim to provide a focused platform for TV advertisers. The treatment of the channel would be aspirational, glamorous and smart.

StarOne:

Though not a pure lifestyle channel but targeted at the aspirational young urban professionals (SEC A-B, 25 to 34-year-olds). StarOne defines itself primarily as high-end fiction but the difference being its five lifestyle shows on Sundays. The lifestyle band on Sunday late mornings will have five shows : Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai (all about good homes), Mind, Body and Soul, Exotica(travel show), Cook na Kaho(tips for men who can?t cook) and Men Mange More(latest gadgets, trends).

E! Entertainment:

Though nothing has been officially announced, we may well see the Indian launch of the US headquartered E! Networks, which operates E! Entertainment, the channel dedicated to the world of entertainment and style. While E! officials say an India launch is in the offing, they are unwilling to put a date to E!?s entry into the country. The first half of 2005 is a distinct possibility.

Conclusion

The splash of lifestyle programming is only indicative of the times to come. With a dynamic TV market and entertainment industry; an emerging affluent class, opening of the economy and above all where English is the language of the urban viewer; India seems to be among the most significant markets for lifestyle channels.

The launch of these channels should mean an ideal vehicle for advertisers of upmarket products and a threat to niche channels targeting the young and the affluent. Viewers would generally be in the age group 18 to 39 with a higher disposable income, educated and early adopters of new trends. A very attractive demographic audience for advertisers provided the international channels localize their content through language and local programming.

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