MUMBAI: They were late entrants into a market that was dominated by the Marans’ Sun group. Nearing three years into its foray in broadcast television media space with a News channel ‘Puthiya Thalaimurai TV’ (PT), besides running the successful Tamil magazine of the same name, the New Generation Media Corporation owned by the Sri Ramaswamy Memorial (SRM) group had launched a general entertainment channel (GEC) Puthu Yugum (PY) on 23 October 2013.
Targeting the Tamil youth during prime time, Puthu Yugum has brought in south Korean shows to its programming mix. On offer are dubbed versions of south Korean dramas acquired from broadcasters MBC and KBS such as Boys over Flowers (KBS2), The Greatest Love (MBC), Playful Kiss (MBC), Moon Embracing the Sun (MBC), Iris (KBS2), Pasta (MBC)and A Hundred Year Legacy (MBC).The shows originally broadcast in south Korea from 2009 onwards, are aired between 7 pm to 8 pm Monday to Thursday with repeats at 10:30 pm, along with a marathon run on Saturday at 9 pm on Puthu Yugam. Show rights are with the channel for approximately one to three years.
“Since Puthu Yugam is from the SRM group that also runs the SRM University, our president Dr Sathyanaranan had an opportunity to observe the trend of the students. He noted that they are obsessed with Korean (K) series. He suggested us to bring them to Puthu Yugam. K series has brought lot of young blood into the channel,” says New Gen Media Corporation CEO RBU Shyam Kumar.
PY is also in talks with channels in Turkey, UK and US to acquire some of their shows. Shyam says that the culture, storytelling as well as sentiments which seem to match with those in Tamil culture, is appealing to the audience they cater to. This apart, he adds that several Tamil directors are inspired from Korean films and series.
Nearly 25 fresh dubbing artists are being employed to lend their voices to the Korean characters. A specialist Sanjay Mohan, who has worked for Star Vijay and NGC, and is well versed with both Tamil and Korean languages, has been roped in to monitor the content translation.
Advertisers such as Poomex, Head & Shoulders, White Tone, Harpic, Lizol 10X, Vodafone, Wheat naturals and Prestige have been brought onboard for the Korean shows. The channel refuses to declare the acquisition cost but says that although it differs from channel to channel, it is equivalent to acquiring a “mega show from a Hindi GEC for Tamil dubbing.”
The two channel group also considers the digital space important. New Gen Media Corp convergence head K Manikandaboopathi says, “Digital is all about convenience. Smartphones/apps are the way people seek information these days and the audience growth is unlimited. It’s an untapped market with unlimited potential. Positioning our brand via handsets and tabs is the way forward for us and has more option for audience engagement.”
Manikandaboopathi says that rather than invest in advertising the app, cross promotion is done via Facebook, TV and the website. 74 per cent of app downloads are from India itself. The PT app has had 240,000 downloads on Android since its launch in November 2013 with about 1.25 lakh downloads happening during the recently concluded elections. The group has invested Rs 50 lakh on the PT live, PPY live, PT VOD, PY VOD and PT Tickr apps. Two of the group’s shows have special apps- Chinna Chinna Cinema (Puthu Yugam) and Nerpada Pesu (Puthiya Thalaimurai). Some of the apps are free while some are paid.
However, the Korean dramas are not available on the apps, since the channel has not acquired the digital rights for them. The apps are the group’s way to reach out to younger audiences in India, between the age group of 18 to 40, specifically.
The company says that the PT application seems to have become quite popular, while, on the PY front, more work needs to be done as yet. It has had 30,000 downloads in six months. “We need to focus on increasing the visibility as this is mostly demanded by the non-resident Tamil diaspora. We have witnessed that the audience prefers catch-up TV via the app. So, a new and free video on demand app has just been launched last week on iOS and will soon launch on Android,” informs Manikandaboopathi.
While the News channel has made a mark among Tamilians with its claims of having overtaken Sun News and Jaya News within 60 days of launch in August 2011, the GEC is yet to firm up against the big guns that rule the Tamil TV GEC roost - Sun TV, Star Vijay, Jaya TV and Kalaignar. The Sun Network and Jaya Networks are connected to the political heavyweights in the country - the DMK and AIADMK families respectively, while the Star Network has a major stake in Star Vijay. While PT claims to be the only News channel without any political affiliation, SRM Group founder TR Pachamuthu had contested the recent Lok Sabha elections under a BJP ticket, but lost to the AIADMK’s RP Marutharajaa.