Life OK revamp: From being alternate to primary

MUMBAI: It’s a channel that had promised to be different and has stayed true to its word till date. Exactly two and half years ago, on the launch day, it had organised an eight-hour-long Mahadev Rockathon at a Mumbai hotel, which could be viewed online, as numerous rock bands, including Parikrama, Agnee, Euphoria and Shaa'ir and Func, strummed songs.


Done by none other earlier, Life OK, the sister channel of Star Plus, broke the conventional shackles to free the views of the usual saas-bahu dailies. Growing steadily in terms of viewership ever since its launch in December 2011, the channel has carved a distinct identity for itself on the back of its immensely popular shows like Mahadev, Saubhagyavati Bhava, Savdhaan India and now Laut Aao Trisha, all focusing on different social issues.


Once known as a re-packaged replacement for Star One, which had failed to generate eyeballs, Life OK started off with 2 per cent market share, now enjoying a good 14 per cent market share.


Taking a step further towards differentiation, the channel is set to give a new avatar to it by re-vamping. Come November, viewers will be introduced to a new look and feel of the channel.


“Now we are confident of success,” says Life OK EVP and general manager Ajit Thakur. He states three reasons behind the channel’s continuous success.


Number one, viewers have noticed the channel. “We are among that one success story which is very well entrenched. You go and talk to any community, viewers, trade, or advertisers.”


Thakur feels that everybody needs numbers, and are important in terms of market share and the channel has done it at lower investment than others.


Second point he highlights that it’s a matter of pride for the entire Star network  to have done it differently, as promised.


Thakur recalls that when the channel started out, it had promised two differences. One, the channel will target the family - men and kids will also have as much to watch as the women in the family. Second, it would be built around a promise of no or a very few saas-bahu soaps. “Can we create a channel that the whole family can watch? Today there is one channel for women, one for men and one for youth. But in the house there is mostly one TV, so could we have created a destination for family where everybody has something to watch?”


He says that confidently, no other channel has the kind of variety of programming which Life OK delivers. “One can switch any particular channel and expect the same genre from it year after year. For instance, one channel only focuses on comedy while other only on soaps. So, today we have a channel showing just one genre which is skewed towards one demographic in the house. We have changed the pattern.”


Thakur states that the channel has had a very different viewing pattern focusing on genres like mythology, thriller, love story, social issues and crime.


“It is of course risky,” reveals Thakur and adds, “Because what we are expecting is women to come in first, then the whole family to join in for mythology and men to keep glued on post 10 pm.”


“We will not grow by being similar; we will grow by being different. One of the problems of not doing soaps is the longevity of the shows as our channel’s shelf life is smaller and we agree to it.”


Similarly, the channel has different content during weekends. When other channels are filled with reality shows and extended soaps, Life OK has a different story to tell. “Who has a show on GEC targeting kids? Followed by a big ticket reality show and then crime,” asks Thakur.


Thirdly, Thakur highlights that along with the viewers, it has managed to hold on to its advertisers and cable operators.  “We have a fare share of FMCG brands because they have all the big GECs, but we have a fair share of male centric clients because they don’t have that option.”


The next big change...


Thakur does not wish to be an alternative platform anymore. This Diwali, the channel aims to be a primary destination. “What is important is what we have built as an alternative proof, now in the next three months we want to tell them this is your primary destination, everything else is alternative. This Diwali, there is no bigger entertainment destination than Life OK.”


The channel is adding seven properties to its kitty. Come 7 October, in the lines of Saubhagyavati Bhava, viewers will be introduced to a women’s journey towards independence by Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms, titled  Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh at 9:30 pm.


Planning to tap into the comedy genre for a very long time, it is set to review the definition of fun and laughter with Comedy Classes at 10 pm from 7 October. Breaking away from the usual practice of airing comedy on weekends, the channel is launching a daily sitcom with the popular TV comedy stars.


Next up, for the first-time ever the channel will telecast the world television premier of the movie, 2 States. “I deeply believe that the film has a strong social topic. Divide on basis of caste, religion is just artificial and love prevails over it,” says Thakur.


On the occasion of Diwali, viewers will be treated with a grand event with big Bollywood stars. This will be followed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah's action-thriller show staring the youth icon Ranvijay Singh, which will hit the television screens in the first week of November replacing the on-going reality show Dare 2 Dance. One more big name to the channel’s stable is Sooraj Barjatya’s new love story.


Taking mythology to the next level, it plans to launch a big mythology in the month of December.


“From October to mid December, seven big properties all put together in the span of 10 weeks, which normally takes a year to do. We are establishing the channel’s identity of differentiated content,” says Thakur.


To tell the world about its revamp, the channel is putting full marketing muscle behind it. Every week, one will see promotions on 50 TV channels along with live sports, outdoors, malls and buses. Moreover, the channel for the first-time ever has done cinema hall branding and promos, which will go on till December. Even digital, radio and print will not be spared.


Not only TV advertising, but the channel is focusing strongly on cable advertising as well. “We have always dependent on the reach of television, but this time we are going beyond. We are doing cinema integrations and cable activations which is new.”


“We want to be the foremost GEC”


Ad rates have been rising steadily as has the number of advertisers, from 30, in the beginning, to 200 in the last quarter. Of the initial lot, Shakti Bhog, the lead sponsor for Mahadev, and Idea have stayed with the channel right through.


For a show like Mahadev, last year a 10-sec slot was Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000. Currently, it ranges anywhere between Rs 90,000 – Rs 1,10,000, sources from the industry estimate.


Is the move in order to attract the advertising spends in this festive season? “The advertising for this season is already done and we are full. It is not about advertising revenue but telling the market our intent and ambition. We want to grow aggressively on the back of a strong platform that we have built over last two and half years. We haven’t talked too much, we have done it quietly, but now  we will let everyone know.”


The channel has advertisers from all categories right from bikes to mobiles. “In terms of male targeting we have all the FMCGs. Compared to a GEC, we have a very different mix,” says Thakur and states the example of Kapoor’s show. “Usually a fiction show doesn’t get sponsors on-board before the telecast. But in this case, very different sponsors like Venus and Basmati Rice have come on-board,” he adds.


Though advertisers are taking note of the channel, media planners unanimously believe that the channel’s growth is phenomenonal. However, they are apprehensive about it being counted in the top three as of now. “It will take some more time for the channel to become a 'primary destination for the viewers,” says a media analyst.

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