Colors Infinity's formula for success

MUMBAI: There’s infinite merriment at Viacom18 as executives at the network celebrate its English general entertainment channel Colors Infinity’s first birthday. And they have a century of reasons to rejoice: beginning with eight advertisers the channel today boasts 100-plus brands that are using it to connect with consumers through their TVCs. Its ad growth rate has been a scorching 30 per cent, and this has enabled it to improve the effective rate it offers to advertisers.

Now the channel headed by Ferzad Palia is stepping into its second year with more might behind local productions with a determination to continue the good work and offer advertising partners even more co-branding opportunities.

“Advertisers have been happy to pay us a premium. They don’t buy us on basis of the ratings but for various other reasons. They have realised it’s not only about viewership but also about the audiences in India. The core audiences’ consuming this do not want people meters in their homes. With 250 million people comfortable with the English language, the measurement remains as a challenge,” says Palia.

This year, the team plans to increase its focus on local English content as well as bring in newer seasons of the channel’s popular shows. Amongst the properties that are going to continue to get a leg up include: Infinity-On-Demand and instant premieres. “Most people do about four to five instant premieres but we have done upward of 50 premieres,” says Palia.

He adds: “Local production is our focus going ahead. It is not about number of hours of production. Currently we are cracking various concepts and will develop them well. Our show, The Stage is 25-30 hours of programming but it has a strong recall value. We are focusing not on quantity but quality. We came in quite late in the genre so disruption and differentiated content was the need of the hour. The brands can be integrated and incorporated heavily in local productions.”

Reaching out to a 200 million audience, the channel has managed to capture 60 per cent viewership from the aspirational, neo-urban consumers in the country. On the whole its English channel cluster (VH1, Comedy Central and Colors Infinity) holds a rather dominating 53 per cent market share of its genre, claims the company. And it has tapped into even smaller towns and markets nationally.

According to a recent report, Colors Infinity has a major stake in the Chennai region with 51 per cent reach whereas Star World’s figure is at 48 per cent. AXN, Comedy Central, Zee Café, FX have a reach of 36 per cent, 33 per cent, 29 and 19 per cent respectively. It also is in the top five channel list when it comes to metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and non-metros. Clearly, the channel has been distributed well by its partner Indiacast.

“We had insights that suggested the consumers wanted to watch content at their comfort level or else they illegally downloaded it. So we further leveraged binge watching on our channel by showcasing 3 back-to-back episodes of globally acclaimed shows such as Arrow, Fargo, The Big C, The Last Ship, Chasing Life,” explains Palia. The channel also initiated live binging of all-new seasons of Mad Dogs and Orange is The New Black, at the same time as its US telecast.

“It was a victory for us,” he exclaims.

It plans to further amplify the Colors Infinity’s international offering with launches of new shows such as Nashville, and Law and Order; as well as new seasons and instant premieres of Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, iZombie and Shades of Blue. The viewers’ favorite reality shows: So You Think You Can Dance and My Kitchen Rules are also slated to return with the latest season.

So, how has the channel benefitted the network? Palia is of the opinion that “Our network has spread out well into the regional space and has expanded well in youth and kids. One of the areas where there was a need gap was the English entertainment space. We have seen tremendous expansion in this genre from the past three to four years. Now, we are in a position to derive 50 per cent share from our English cluster.”

Palia points out with pride to the fact that in October 2015, the channel, under his leadership pioneered India’s first-ever home-grown English language music TV show - The Stage. Season 2 of The Stage will hit TV screens in September.

Then it roped in Grey Goose to partner it for the show Born Stylish – a celeb chat show. It showcased Bollywood style icons such as Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, and Anil Kapoor, as well as international fashion pioneers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Anna Zegna, Massimiliano Giornetti of Salvatore Ferragamo and many more, who interacted with host Pria Kataria Puri and spilled the beans on the evolution of their style quotient.

A media planner points out that she would like to see Colors Infinity step up the game and introduce more daring and engaging domestically produced shows – which would appeal to English speaking audiences in the metros and second rung towns.

“Doing one or two shows and shouting about making them work is laudable and appreciation worthy,” says she. “But Palia and team should realize they are operating in the English language which has myriad opportunities for anyone. Yes viewers are very demanding; they would like the same quality in the domestic series like they see in the international ones. And this is where the opportunities lie; experimentation with domestic scripted and unscripted formats in the English language. I’d like to see more full flowing action from the folks at Colors Infinity rather than these solitary strokes. I’d like the team to believe in the genre it says it leads.”

Be that as it may, that advice can be kept aside for another day. Right now it’s time to bring out the bubbly for team Colors Infinity.

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