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Viacom18 ditches FTA in UK, now entirely pay

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MUMBAI: With the launch of its two channels, MTV Beats and Colors Rishtey, on Virgin Media Viacom18 has transitioned from free-to-air (FTA) to entirely paid platform. Viacom18’s channels will now only be available with a subscription on Sky and Virgin Media.

Talking about leaving the Freeview platform, IndiaCast Media Distribution group CEO Anuj Gandhi says, "We are currently steering our business in a new direction in Europe and have decided to go pay and as a result, current channels will no longer be available on any free to air mode but will continue to be available on paid platforms.”

The company gained significant viewership via Freeview, which reaches 11 million homes untapped by pay TV. Freeview contributed to 10 percent of its eyeballs in the UK. Rishtey and Colors at times received as high as 41 percent viewership contribution from it.

Viacom18 channels on Virgin Media are in the mix pack which reaches to over 2.7 million subscribers. The growth is expected to be in line with Virgin’s growth forecasts.

Viacom18 has a mix content strategy for its UK consumers. Curated programmes from India make up the bulk of its content while a tiny part is local programming. “Viacom18 is exploring further investments in local programming which will happen in the next fiscal, " he reveals.

On the advertising front, 90 percent comes from UK based companies. It has three sets of distinct advertisers. First - the local ethnic home-grown businesses, second - the mainstream multinationals and third is Indian companies that export to NRI audiences.

Advertisers are clamoring to get airtime especially during Big Boss. "As a matter of fact, all our channels currently are utilising 100 percent of the available inventory and we are not even in our peak season, he adds.

The buzz-creating idea of Viacom18 is to make sense to three categories of people living in UK – the first generation, their children/youth who have less exposure of content being produced in India as they have a variety of options to choose from and last one being people who have moved here in last few years as an intra company transfer or project based.

While keeping the three categories in mind, Gandhi says that sometimes even small trade or local event associations give a higher ROI as compared to a high profile above-the-line campaign.

Selecting the right marketing mix is crucial when you are in a niche market. That said, even the language used for communication will ensure success or failure.

Viacom 18 partnered with Virgin Media in April 2011 to launch its General Entertainment Channel, Colors, on the cable platform. Colors has been available on Sky since January 2010. When launched, Colors was included in Virgin Media's new Asian Mela bundle which comprised 11 TV channels, including ARY Digital, B4U Movies, B4U Music, SET Asia, MAX, Star Plus, Star News, Zee Cinema, Zee Punjabi, Zee TV and Colors TV, along with popular Asian radio station Sunrise Radio and priced at £11 a month.

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