WorldWide Media pushes into TV content creation

MUMBAI: In August 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL) aka The Times of India group bought out the remaining 50 per cent of World Wide Media (WWM) from BBC Worldwide, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of arguably India’s largest media company.

WWM had started off as a joint venture between the two firms to publish speciality niche magazines. Titles such such as Femina and Filmfare and licensed titles like Lonely Planet, Top Gear, Grazia, Hello! and Good Homes came under its umbrella. Most of them these have grown courtesy a loyal reader base and are adding substantial revenues to WWM’s topline.

Deepak Lamba - who was earlier the president of Bennett Coleman - was roped in to spearhead it in January 2015 and fine tune its strategy. The idea: take it beyond traditional print publishing. And Lamba's focus has been to transform it into a complete lifestyle and entertainment outfit. A special internal projects team has been created, which works on providing holistic branding and marketing solutions to clients, including content for the TV and digital space. Amongst the brands it is looking to extend onto digital and TV include: Top Gear, Good Homes, Lonely Planet, Hello, and Femina.

“Digital is seen as the medium of the future but television is already here. Therefore, we are looking at that how our brands can be put across television platforms,” says WWM CEO Deepak Lamba. “We have signed a deal with Maruti Suzuki for the travel show where five celebrities from different walks of life and their biggest fan will take a fanatistic journey in the auto maker’s vehicles from India to Bangkok on the Asian expressway. The seven part series is slated to launch in November. Hello has an upcoming luxury show on ET Now and Romedy Now which is slated to go live two months from now. Good Homes will talk about how you can beautify your home on a finite budget. We also want to do the GEC version of our Filmfare talk show which is in the pipeline.”

It is also expanding the Filmfare Awards franchise in August 2016 to cover north Indian cinema with the Britannia Filmfare Awards Punjab.

“It’s been 63 years now for the Filmfare Awards. The Hindi cinema awards are telecast on Sony Entertainment Television,” explains Lamba. “The South India awards are in their sixtieth year and are telecast on Star channels; the East Indian awards on Star Jalsa, even as the Marathi awards are on Colors Marathi. We are also launching three music awards with regional GECs in the South and with local partners in Punjab.”

Short filmmakers will also be eligible to take a stab at winning the lovely black Filmfare statuette with the launch of an award for digital movies, discloses Lamba. “The short films have to be of 15 minutes and we will have a prominent jury just like we have for our main awards and the main gratification is that winners will receive the award on the same stage.”

WWM is likely to reach out to other production houses to partner it on some of its brand extensions into video, especially those targeting broadcasters. For its digital initiatives, it has put together a full-fledged in-house team which is working closely with its editorial team to roll out its properties. On the anvil is a fun-filled 15 minute celebrity chat show with Filmfare editor in chief Jitesh Pillai as its host. The pilot is being shot with the official launch expected to happen in the next two to three months. Lamba says the move into digital has come because advertisers have been asking for it. “There was also an internal need as being a part of BCCL, scale does matter a lot. In the magazine space we are already the number one. Also if you listen to your consumers and advertisers you will not go wrong.”

OTT and VOD players have come knocking on WWM’s doors and conversations are on with them too.

A foray into fiction is planned under the Femina brand. “The show is about a fantastic girl who is a little plump. A Gujju girl whose boyfriend dumps her for a skinny girl,” points out Lamba. “The show will track what she decides to do with her life and how she comes out on top of the world. ”

Will the strategy of stretching existing print titles to video work? Media observers believe it will.

“Titles such as Top Gear, Filmfare, Good Homes have a pretty loyal following both from advertisers and consumers,” says a media expert. “The WWM team will have to do something really wrong or screw up to fail at this extension strategy. I am betting that they will do well.”

And that is something Lamba is banking on too.

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