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TV18's Avinash Kaul on bringing the local Indian flavour to infotainment genre

Kaul expects to see more factual entertainment content on OTT.

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MUMBAI: Capturing viewers’ interest with shows on issues of contemporary, local significance like surgical strikes, national elections, Ganesha festivals, marvels and mysteries of India – that’s how History TV 18 aims to stand out in the niche segment of infotainment channels in India. 

The channel has traversed the length and breadth of the country to bring season seven of its stand-out show, OMG! Yeh Mera India. Showcasing everything from bizarre foods and strange rituals to unexplained phenomena and rare talents that make this country Incredible India, the show has made a mark on audiences; and the new season is shaping up to be just as fascinating, featuring some more curious and extraordinary true stories from every corner of the nation.

In freewheeling chat with indiantelevision.com’s Shikha Singh A+E Networks | TV18 MD & Network18 CEO Avinash Kaul shared the success story of OMG! Yeh Mera India, cracking the Indian infotainment space, viewers’ tastes, advertiser interest, and more.

On what sets OMG! Yeh Mera India season 7 apart.

The very fact that this is the seventh season, itself narrates its success story. It was a year-long process to shoot OMG! Yeh Mera India. We have travelled across India to curate stories. There is not one state that we have not done a story out of. From a standpoint of a viewer, it is our flagship property which has always delivered good ratings. Over the past five years, 18 crore people have watched this show. The digital impressions are 550 crores, with 84 crore views on digital platforms. These kinds of motivating stories remain on social media all throughout the year. They are regular people who are creating history every day and that is what HistoryTV18 stands for. I believe this is what has made it popular amongst viewers and advertisers.

On how big the audience for factual entertainment in India is.

Till about the NTO came in, HistoryTV18 would reach more than 100 million households. Basically this was the footprint that was available on distribution. As measured by BARC, we have 18 crore people who have watched this show on our channel. It is equivalent to what number one or two Hindi news channels would be. Those are the kind of numbers that factual entertainment typically delivers. Of course, the numbers have suffered after the implementation of NTO. But it also lends to the power of subscription, people would need to pay for watching this kind of content. I believe that is where business models eventually will pivot. While you may find a lot of English entertainment on OTT, you won’t find a lot of factual entertainment content. Hence, there is a bigger audience for India originals.

On audience preferences evolving.

In today’s time, viewers are exposed to a plethora of content. They have a finite amount of time, and just because 100 channels will be launched does not mean people would spend 100 minutes extra on television. They have a choice of OTT, linear television, social media and more such platforms. As and where our audiences go, we would like to make our content available to them. We are constantly working towards creating India originals and that is what has made us beat our own competition in this space.

On growth in terms of revenue.

The year 2020 has been challenging, in terms of revenue. Businesses across the globe have suffered. Ad-volumes have de-grown massively. Especially during the first and the second quarter, there was a huge drop in volumes. Things have started picking up from the third quarter onwards.

On ad-rates for documentaries of such nature.

For India originals, there are premiums rates associated with all the shows. So, it doesn’t operate at a normal rate because obviously it is produced locally in India. Our sponsors have supported us with that, and this year was no different, we do have a substantially higher premium than usual for India’s originals.

BYJU’S is the title sponsor, HAVELLS is the co-presenting sponsor and LIC is the associate sponsor. Advertisersare always very keen to associate with the positive narrative that we as a channel are bringing to the table.

On competition in this space.

We compete in a genre where there are quite a few players, we don’t necessarily have survival content in our programming. Our emphasis has always been strategically on India content and we are continuously doing India-based content for the last seven years. Unfortunately, our competitors who have been in the country for more than 30 years haven’t really concentrated on local India production. It would be great having such shows across competition as proper franchises.

On plans to licence OMG! Yeh Mera India and other originals to OTTs.

So, far we have been conscious enough to put it out on our own platforms and work with that but going forward we are fairly open to the idea of licensing our shows on other platforms. The challenge is that on streaming platforms the focus is not yet on factual content, it is still on crime, thriller, horror or something which is bold in nature. OTT in India is still in infancy. But if we see international platforms in developed countries, there is a deeper wave of engagement where people look out for this kind of content. I believe in the next few years we will see the maturity of that industry coming in. With the new regulations also in place, we will see more of factual entertainment content as well on OTT. It would be a very welcome move.

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