"Bindass is platform-agnostic; a relaunch is on the cards:" Nikhil Gandhi

Youth are a fickle audience. Especially considering that today’s young are a mobile first generation, and it is difficult to nail them down and make them watch simple telly.

No one understands this more than Star India’s Channel [V] which brought the curtains down on youth programming and reinvented itself as a music channel recently.

And of course no one understands this more than Disney India Media channels VP and head of revenue Nikhil Gandhi. He has the responsibility of running the mousehouse’s channel’s in India comprising of youth channels – Bindass and Bindass Play and kids channels - Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and Hungama TV, and  movie channels - UTV Movies and UTV Action.

What’s grabbing his attention these days is Bindass. Launched as  a youth channel in 2007 under the UTV umbrella, it aired cult shows such as as Yeh Hai Aashiqui, Love by Chance, and  Emotional Atyachaar which got it  into the top 3 slot in the youth channel genre.  But that was in the pre-smart phone era, when video consumption on hand held devices was not that ubiquitous.

Over the past few months, Gandhi and his Bindass team, have been working on reinventing the channel into one which is relevant for today’s mobile and Internet data guzzling youth. Among the first steps it took was to release a series first online on its Facebook page. Called Girl In The City it caught the youth’s imagination. caught up with Gandhi to know what else is on the cards for Bindass viewers in an exclusive tete a tete.:


What’s in store for Bindass?

Bindass started out in 2007 and we have completed nine years. And this is going to be the 10th year of its existence. We are planning something very exciting. We have changed the way that content is getting developed on the channel. We are not looking at channel content only but platform agnostic content. We started off with the journey of this thought process three months back with a show called as Girl in the City (GITC) which has now come up to become the second most viewed show as a web series in India for which we partnered with Facebook. The way we did it was that we launched the show on the social media platform every Thursday which went on to the channel on Friday and then subsequently on YouTube by Saturday. 30 million views, the second most viewed web series in India. And we  are working with the best talent, right from Anand Tiwari to writer Sanyuka Chawla Shaikh. We worked with the best talent, directors and writers for the show. The talent that we worked with is exceptional which we plan to continue with going forward.

The good part is that the content marketing was phenomenon which was earlier called as branded content or AFP is becoming a new buzzword for marketers. Everybody wants to get into the content space. And so we are pioneering that effort along with a lot of other guys who are in the same space. Next year, starting October you will see new shows launching on the Bindass interactive platforms (Bindass, Bindass Play, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, etc) . It is not necessary to have a 22 minuter on Facebook, I can also choose to have five  minuter there. Or a six second Vine video. Marketers and advertisers are loving this because we are providing them this holistic engagement. The views and the numbers are just phenomenal.

So, we are saying about 30 minutes of what?. How much does a normal Bindass show get in terms of the audience?

I can’t compare it completely like that because there we have different metrics like TVR TVT or DVR. The truth is Bindass reaches out to 90 million homes, so the reach is there. So the reach is there but the engagement has to move up to a level where I can at least say that even if we are getting million views a week, in 15 weeks I will be providing 15 million views. The number is not small, it is quite staggering and there is lot of repeat value and of library value.

The best part of this is it also gives me an advantage to expand into different territories. Now, I have syndicated this show in Pakistan, I have syndicated this show on inflight. So my eco-system of revenue generation is different all together. First of all, I have got great brand partners. The partners for GITC – sponsor Castrol and powered by partner ebay, saw the power in storytelling and then we integrated them seamlessly into the show; it was not overtly in your face branding. We found a very good talent in the young YouTuber Mithila Palkar. She is extremely talented and now the entire world wants to work with her.

We did a lot of exciting stuff not just from the web series point of view but also from the ancillary programming around it and around her. She did something called as Facebook live interactions with the audience through which we got a lot of on the spot feedback about the show, about the length, the quality of the show. Everyone did a great job. So, this is now going to become the mantra of Bindass going forward.

And what else is going to happen?

We are revamping the entire look and feel of Bindass in the month of October. You will see a whole new avatar of the channel. The micro content that we are going to create around it is going to be phenomenal. That also leaves a space for us to probably move into the events space which we have stayed away from a long time. Anything interesting from the ground perspective, we may want to partner with.

Our main  stay  is going to be platform agnostic content. The good part is we own the IP and the library is for life. Given our global presence now, GITC is travelling as a format to Indonesia. So, the Maker Studios team in South East Asia in Singapore is now taking up this concept and creating a show for either the Philippines or the Indonesian market which for us is a phenomenal way forward.

So, likewise, our next show is going to launch either in end of October or first week of November. I think the way forward clearly for us is to get into this space for largely digital content,  separate content for on-air. The sky's the limit as far as the creativity is concerned.

What happens to Bindass Play? Does it continue?

Bindass Play continues. It is a very sweet music channel. It is a highly profitable business. We are looking at creating ancillary content around Bindass Play that we did last year through Bollywood Republic. This entailed us moving into smaller towns, checking out the talent , recreating and rehashing Bollywood songs. It did very well for us. If you put both Bindass and BindassPlay together as a network, we stand tall as the number one youth network on television. And if I add the digital elements to it which is Facebook, YouTube and everything else our digital initiatives on YouTube, we are a very strong healthy leading youth network in the country. Which gives you a holistic view of two youth channels leading the space on TV, the entire digital play, and most importantly the content creative capability that we have right now is what is driving us.

But you have reduced your presence on YouTube?

But if I put my video up on YouTube, I get that many amount of views. All my old library content is still there. Any new exciting stuff, unless its made for YouTube, I don’t put on YouTube. GITC was made for digital, so the third leg of it went on to YouTube. But specifically If I am making a show for television, I don’t need to necessary put it on YouTube. So that’s the change that’s coming about in our thought process.

So are you working with all partners?

We are open to working with all partners, everyone is talking to us. We are working with people who share the same vision. Our thought of owning IP is very clear. We are working with very good talent from the face perspective.  So that’s the vision we have taken on for Bindass. We are here for the long run.

You will see a lot of this action starting from October from our perspective and we will be announcing many of these initiatives very soon. I think the kind of advertisers who are getting attracted to this and the kind of support that we are getting from brands is phenomenal. They have seen what we have done with GITC, with other shows. The last 10 years have created a mega library of sorts.

So Bindass will continue with its edginess and brand ethos?

Bindass has its own brand ethos. It does not necessarily mean edginess. That era is over now. If you look at GITC, it’s a rom-com web  - there’s romance, there’s love, there’s emotion; there’s a lot of empowerment, achievement, confidence building. Bindass from that sense if you look at the way the brand has evolved, you will see that we have through a lot of iterations with the brand. And today if you look at the real meaning of Bindass, it actually means confidence.

Bindass is a term and we are the only TV channel in the country with a brand that has got meaning in the country. Every other channel today has just a television name. Bindass is an attitude and that is our inherent advantage. It means fearless, fun, free, frank, etc which are all attributes of confidence. We have realised this through our on-going research that for the last so many years is that the parentage have become cooler. Today the children can talk to their parents because they are equally young.

The father is not anymore saying that you have to wear a saree or salwar kameez at home, he understands his daughter or son. He is not saying my way or the highway - that you have to become a doctor or an engineer. Today, we have got DJs, gliders, etc who are making careers out of things that you have never ever imagined before and the parents are supporting them. So a lot of that confidence is coming from parents and family. The second part is coming from the youth’s aspirations. They all want to make it big in life. Their attitude is not of rebellion at all but of let's make it happen.The manifestation of all of this is Bindass. Every show you see will have this element of Bindass coming about extremely strongly.

Our vision is to empower the youth of the country. We want to stand tall as this figure, supporting you guys. Go out make it happen. Need So it is not enough for you to become an engineer or doctor. You have to have that Bindass attitude which is a very confident attitude.

What happens to getting advertisers on board? Do you see them coming?

As the brand specifically, I think the advertisers, the clients, who have been with us for so many years have now realized now that this is the way forward.  It is not enough for you to just put it out there. We have several channels in the youth space trying to be something. I won’t take names but just putting up a show on your channel and getting a few GRPs is not the way this business works. You need to have that element of understanding the youth. You need to understand what is driving their thought process, how are they  looking at making this thing work. And that is what we call the new Bindass millennial.

What is driving their attitude and confidence in them. Pillar of support is their circle, their dreams. And the drive to succeed is their attitude and actions. What is their circle of support? I can talk to my parents, I can talk to my friends if I am in a situation; I know that I have a backup which is driving me that's my confidence. In earlier times, my confidence was also restricted, because I could not speak to my father. My dad wanted me to become a chartered accountants and I did not want to. That was the cause, the reason for rebelling at that time. Now there is no need because the parents understand their children and want them to go for it. They have become supportive- that is the element of confidence. As this is the pillar of support, follow your dreams,  break the barriers and receive abundance freedom, sky is the limit.

I don't want to think small, I just want to make it big. I don’t want to work, I won’t. I'll do whatever I feel. I have seen so many people in my own friend and relative circles. I could never imagine in my dreams that my father would allow me to become a wildlife photographer. It is all about having the will to succeed. Instant gratification. I want it now. This is all getting into the fact that there is a lot of exposure happening, because this millennial is a digital native. You talk to them about Donald Trump, they will give you their opinions; you talk to them about what's happening in the world with the whole ISIS crisis, they will give their opinions. You talk to them about Michael Phelps world record, they will give you their opinion. Their universe is driving around their phones, their IPads, their tablets.

And the reason we have taken this platform-agnostic content approach. Just to give you a brand personality manifestation, we are looking at at Alia Bhatt. That is our brand personality - versatile, good looking, urban, sexy, smart, trendy, confident. My elements of Bindass is this.

We have always been 2D in our packaging. We are looking, for the first time,  at going 3D. So the whole coming of Bindass is going to be new look and feel, this new brand philosophy, the manifestation of this great content.

What about traditional television distribution?

We are looking at increasing our digital reach on television through all that’s happening on digitization. Hopefully in the next six months from here or maybe in the next one year from here, India will be completely digitized. So if I am talking 100 million or 150 million homes digitized reach on television with just two brands- Bindass and Bindass Play.  Right now, I’m talking about 250 million homes that my brands will reach out to with all my digital platforms which is a huge massive brand to reckon with going forward.

What is the number of audience we are looking for out of 150 million audience category? It is not everyone in the universe who will consume this data.

15 to 21 is my demographic. Even if you go to Hohsiarpur, everyone is on Google, and on facebook. Just look at the kind of interactivity they get, it’s mind boggling. I travel the length and breadth of the country into many towns, I have observed that everybody has access to the internet and that is what is enabling this whole philosophy of being a digital native and us getting the confidence of driving that.

What is the number? Is it 20 million or 15 million or 10 million people the young people out there?   People who could possibly be the key target audience of Bindass?

It’s far more than that. First of all you know the great number of 65-70 per cent of India being in the age of 15-40.  That is my number. Whether they are engaging with me on television or on my Facebook or YouTube or Instagram or Vine, I am getting them wherever they are.

But Facebook is about 150 million to 200 million users….

My own Facebook page has 10 million fans in two brands.  When I do a show on Facebook, they pump it out to their universe and then if I am syndicating the same show to various people, I am going through a huge massive turnover of sorts in terms  of  numbers. So, I have got the platforms, the audience and the brand. I got the look and feel and I have also got the entire pedigree of the Bindass out there. What I am focusing now is content creation capability which is what is driving and propelling this entire engine and creating the modernisation on top of it.

Will you build the same structure and tap into these possibilities?

Absolutely. After I have a team which is already there, we are going out to tap various possibilities. The beauty of it is brands which never thought of coming onto the channel before have suddenly latched onto this.Now they are saying Boss, let’s make it happen.

How are you putting this in your executive producers in the network? How are you integrating this entire brand  philosophy with them?

They have already been with us so everybody is in the understanding of the coming age of Bindass and what we stand for. They are part of our focus group discussions and research. When I give the vision of what we want to do, the first click was let’s stop thinking as a 42 minute episode. I urge them to come up with a 10 second spot or 10 second video which makes sense to me. We will blow it up.

So, content today cannot have a duration cut. It is to have a creative cut and to see what work well exceptionally for it. I think that we have also gone into a philosophy wherein we don't think that I have to create 22 minute episode showing long scenes. We can’t do that as the audience is a digital native. They are consuming maximum amounts of videos on WhatsApp. I need 100  of my videos to be on Vine, Instagram and WhatsApp and SnapChat. .

Like Snapchat with a 10 sec video with or without giving link to television…

Exactly. It’s like a 30 second promo. You watch a promo, you get a synopsis of what you gonna see in the half an hour or one hour program. A guy who is spending one hour a day on mobile constantly checking his apps, give him a sense over there by creating a 10 or 20 second video. Most importantly the virality has to be out there. That guy, who  gets video, needs to have the ability or the push that I need to send this to my group and that is the success of content.

Are you going to raise ad rates?

We have already raised our ad rates. We are the highest in the market from an FCT perspective. What we are now raising is the premium in terms of content. So when we go out to brands, we actually sell the story first. We have stopped selling and have started telling. No selling shows, start telling stories. That is the shift in the revenue teams is to stop selling and start telling. And that has created great success. We have 10 brands lined up for our next shows confirmed already.

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