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Viacom18 bullish on English entertainment; launches Colors Infinity

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MUMBAI: The English general entertainment channel (GEC) bouquet is set to get bigger with the launch of Viacom18's Colors Infinity. The channel is in keeping with the network’s philosophy of growing and deepening its presence in the genres it is present in. 

The to be launched channel will have both standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) feeds. With the addition of the new channel, Viacom18’s English entertainment channel bouquet will now have four offerings namely VH1, Comedy Central, Colors Infinity and Colors Infinity HD. 

Even before its launch Colors Infinity has acquired 2000 hours of original content from across studios, including the likes of NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Television, Twentieth Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, BBC, Endemol Shine and a host of other independent and small studios. “These are all multiyear deals,” said Viacom18 EVP head – English Entertainment Ferzad Palia. 

Additionally, the new English GEC, which has spent close to a year and a half in curating content, will have shows from across genres like drama, comedy, super heroes, talent, lifestyle, action, mini-series and live events. 

The channel, which aims to target approximately 30 million consumers countrywide, at the time of launch, is using a phase wise marketing strategy. The first of this is informing consumers about the channel by using the well entrenched ‘Colors’ brand name. 

“Colors by far is perceived as a successful media brand. It is also known for its disruptive and progressive programming and that is what Colors Infinity is about. The idea behind using the name Colors Infinity is to build a broader base of people,” informed Palia. 

For Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu Vats, using the brand Colors is part of the network’s GEC approach. “If you look at our Hindi or regional channels, it is under the ‘Colors’ brand. So from a strategic perspective it fits well. Also Colors is a very urban and inspirational brand. It will have a lot of resonance and appeal with the right set of people that we want to reach out to,” said Vats. 

The channel has roped in director-producer Karan Johar and actor Alia Bhatt as co-curators. The duo has worked closely with the channel on picking shows and giving insights on the programming. “Together the two of them have over 10 million Twitter followers and through them we plan to build relevance with a greater audience. They will be integrally involved with the marketing campaign as well,” said Palia. 

Colors Infinity will not charge premium subscription for the channel and will work on the advertisement and subscription model. “The Indian market has so far not grown enough for channels to make money with just subscription. In the future, may be after cable starts billing and there is addressability, it may start generating revenue,” opined Vats. 

Targeting viewers in the age group of 15 - 50 years, Colors Infinity is looking at a distinctive scheduling strategy. “It will be disruptive and something which has never been done in India before. We are mapping it the way a consumer would want to watch it,” informed Palia, adding that the content will comprise Indian television premieres. 

While the network already has highly targeted channels in VH1, which is a pure music and lifestyle channel and Comedy Central, a comedy channel, both Vats and Palia feel that the viewership will not get cannibalized. “We are not here to eat from a small pie, we are here to grow the pie. In fact with time, we will have more switchers from competition channels than our own cluster,” asserted Palia.

According to Vats, all the channels will co-exist. “Colors Infinity is a GEC, while the others are sharply targeted channels. This is how it is worldwide,” added Vats.  

The growing English entertainment genre 

According to Palia, this is the ‘Golden age of television.’ “The production of TV series in the US and UK was up 400 per cent in the past five years. This can be attributed to the growth of cable, over the top services and the aggressive nature of networks in the US and UK,” he opined. 

Talking from an Indian market perspective, Palia said that English entertainment in India was now becoming main stream. “Close to 250 million Indians now are English literates, whereas 10 years ago, it was close to 25-30 million. It is the second language to most now,” he pointed out. 

English entertainment genre currently reaches to 200 million consumers. “We have added 20 per cent viewers in the genre post DAS and our advertising revenue over the past five years has grown by 60 per cent. Not just this, close to 60 per cent of English entertainment consumption is coming from non-metros,” informed Palia. 

Palia is of the opinion that from an advertiser's perspective, the genre is lucrative as English entertainment consumers have 35 per cent higher disposable income. 

Addressing the issue of ‘torent’ing, Palia said that the habit has been inculcated by broadcasters themselves. “We have forced consumers to go and download. Research shows that people do not download just because they want to watch content immediately after the US launch. The real reason is that they aren’t getting enough content that they should be. There is plethora of content that is not even brought to the country,” he said.

While the shows are first aired in the US in September and go on till May, Palia points out that in India viewers have to wait for the first episode till May. “There is a huge time gap and through our new offering, we will be taking care of this aspect,” he informed. 

According to Palia, the English entertainment genre has never really invited a much larger base of people who understand the language and are watching the content in their personal space and not on TV. “We want to be that channel, which takes the category to a larger audience. We are not going mass, but since English is now main stream, we are reaching out to a wider base,” concluded Palia.

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