Television

Our content will cross borders, says Mahesh Samat

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MUMBAI: After a wait for almost an year, Mahesh Samat’s Epic will finally see the light of day on 19 November.



The news of the former Disney executive launching Epic Television Network first broke in 2012 and was supposed to launch the channel by August 2013. However, due to the delay in getting the licence from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the venture backed by Anand Mahindra , Mukesh Ambani and Rohit Khattar, focusing on Indian history, folklore and mythology, had to wait a long time to entertain the audiences.



As per media reports, Mahindra and Ambani each have a 25.8 per cent stake in the company and together have financial control. Also, there is an initial commitment of Rs 100 crore from the group of ‘angel investors’. Samat has a 48.5 per cent stake in the venture, as per the company’s filing with the Registrar of Companies (RoC).



The HD pay channel, also available in down-scaled SD version, aims to change the way entertainment is being categorised today. “We are not what people think and call ‘general entertainment’. We are a brand that stands for something which Indian television industry doesn’t have,” says Samat while adding that Indian history has numerous stories to tell and that’s what the channel will do.



Someone who has keen interest in history, Samat believes there are enough people in urban India who want to watch mythology and know about the historical aspects of the country. The channel, though slightly male skewed, while conventional GECs are heavily female skewed, wants to entertain the whole family.



With months of research gone into creating the fictional shows like DharamaKshetra, Dariba Diaries as well as non-fictional shows like Adrishya, Raja, Rasoi aur anya Kahaniyaan have been shot in HD and sound recording is on 5.1 Dolby. “Technology is changing the way we tell stories today,” says Samat and highlights how it has also collaborated with Mumbai University and other institutions to help with the facts.



The channel is working with a new-breed of producers like Bolt Media, Green Light Production, Pride Rock Television among many others, who are willing to take a contemporary take on age-old stories. The research was done by the production houses with the channel’s help. “We got enough creative freedom from the channel,” says a producer of a show soon to be aired on the channel and adds, “The cost of production is higher than that of a show on other channels, but one needs to know how to utilise and make the best of the resources available.” As per industry sources, the cost of production of a show could range from anything between Rs 12 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per episode.



The shows are finite with most of the shows comprising 20+ episodes and will also see filmmakers like Pankaj Prashar creating content for the channel. “Today a lot of filmmakers want to enter the big world of the small screen. However, most of them don’t have time for infinite shows. Here we are giving them an opportunity to tell stories in a short period of time,” says Samat.



“And depending on the response and love we get from the audiences we will look at bringing back the show through various seasons,” he adds. Samat believes in changing the way industry works today. “We don’t want to stretch story lines. Everywhere else in the world, seasons work. It’s time we did too.”



That’s not all; he believes that the content will be so rich and unique that it can be sold to the world. “International syndication is important to me and I want to take our stories to the world,” says Samat. The channel has already got a good response from buyers at MipCom where it showcased the content and Samat believes that before the next edition, the content will have enough takers. “We will not just focus on conventional markets but non-conventional markets as well,” he adds while highlighting that as a pioneer he and his team of 40 have to take risks and go an extra mile to stand out of the crowd. YRF TV’s former head Ravina Kohli is the development head and Aparna Pandey is the business head who also takes marketing decisions.



The channel will go on air with 13 to 15 shows which will be weekly with the primetime being from 8:30 pm to 11 pm. The morning and afternoon slot currently will show repeats. The channel plans to acquire historic films and programmes as well, which will be aired mostly on the weekends. “As our library grows, the FPC will change too,” he pin points.



So far, the channel has got no advertiser on board; however, talks are on. “We want to give a week or two for brands to see the content and how they can relate with our philosophy,” says a confident Samat, who feels many will come on board soon. “We are not an AFP driven channel,” he says.



Media planners too believe that brands will want to watch the content. “No one wants to take a risk,” says a media planner. He adds, “Lifestyle brands will hop on board. However, Reliance and Mahindra brands are always there.” However, several feel that the channel will take time to create a niche of its own as viewers still want to see daily soap operas.



With a pan-India approach, the channel will be distributed and syndicated by IndiaCast. “Talks are on with all the major DTH players as well as cable operators in DAS area,” says IndiaCast group COO Gaurav Gandhi.



Subscription rate for the HD channel is Rs 55 while SD will be available at Rs 10.5.



Beamed off Intelsat 20, the channel will soon start the marketing regime. General entertainment channels (GECs), news as well as other genres will be targeted along with major dailies in the metros. Major hoarding sights will be targeted as well with a lot of focus on digital. Currently, on Youtube, the channel has 1530 subscribers and the first look of the channel has got more than 1.2 million views.



“Our content will be available online, but will come at a cost,” informs Samat.



Madison is the media agency while Jack in the Box is the digital agency. Dynamite is the creative agency, though a lot of creatives are done in-house as well.

The channel has entrusted revenue monetisation to Helios Media which has emabrked on seeding the channel in advertiser market. "Everything about Epic is unique. And those with futuristic view will be on board soon," says the agency's MD Divya Radhakrishnan.

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