Television

How Dangal TV is ruling the heartland

Dangal TV has emerged as the undisputed market leader in GEC.

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MUMBAI: Nearly a decade after it was launched, Dangal TV has emerged as one of the most-watched channels in India across genres, thanks to a well-thought-out strategy of curating selective old shows and producing originals on Indian history and mythology, apart from the usual soap-operas.

The Hindi GEC Channel Dangal TV, part of Enterr10 TV Network, has consistently topped the weekly list across genres of channels in 2019 (Source: BARC) and is a delight for media agencies and advertisers the media plan.

Dangal has emerged as an undisputed leader in the rural Hindi-speaking market (HSM), while maintaining a decent hold in urban areas as well.

Joy Chakraborthy, CEO, Enterr10tv, says, "It’s not just by luck that we have consistently topped the list of most popular channel in India."

To what extent has the FTA model helped Dangal?

Dangal was launched as a free-to-air (FTA) channel in 2009. However, since TRAI’s 2019 new tariff order (NTO) that mandates that customers select the channels and bouquets they want to subscribe and broadcasters announce the MRP of the same, Dangal has emerged as the undisputed leader in all genres of channels.

KPMG India partner and head, media and entertainment Girish Menon says: “The top FTA GEC channels, especially on the DD Freedish platform, have commanded a high viewership share post the NTO regime, especially in the rural markets. The primary reason for the same has been the flanking channels of the top 4 broadcasters turning pay after the transition to the NTO regime, and the removal of these channels from the DD Freedish platform; which in itself has access to 30 million HHs.”

Industry experts say that Dangal has an edge over its competitors as it is an FTA channel, a great advantage in a price sensitive market like India. Interestingly, Dangal is often the only FTA channel in the weekly BARC list of Top 10 channels by viewership. 

Chakraborthy, however, is dismissive of those who credit Dangal’s success solely to its FTA strategy.

“Look, after the NTO order, every media network had the option to remain in FTA space or to become paid channel. If FTA is our only mantra for success, tell me why Dangal is often the only FTA channel in the list of top 10 channels. Dangal is not the No.1 free channel. It’s the top channel across genres,” quips Chakraborthy, showing us the viewership chart for Dangal TV in 2019.

Chakraborthy, who joined Enterr10 TV Network in March and has over 25 years of experience in M&E industry, working with Times Group, Star India, Zee, Network18 and TV Today Network, is also clear that he wants Dangal to remain free of cost: “I have no intention to convert Dangal to a paid channel. We will remain FTA channel.”

How is Dangal making money without subscription revenue?

Chakraborthy, who calls himself an all-in-all revenue guy, says advertising is its only source of revenue. “ROI is at the heart of all our operations. Before we commission a new show or syndicate one, we do a detailed research and check on advertising potential.”

He points out that while advertisers have multiple options to reach consumers in metro cities, like, TV, print, OTT, etc...Dangal provides companies access to millions of consumers in the Hindi heartland where these other mediums are comparatively weak or not cost effective. It is this market where Dangal TV simply cannot be ignored and this brings advertisers.

But, has not ad revenue declined with the GDP falling to a six-year low of 5% in August 2019?

Chakraborthy says that while ad revenue in some mediums may have shown a decline, TV has remained mostly unaffected. On GECs, FMCG goods are the primary source of revenue and their demand has not dampened despite slowing economy. “FMCG advertisers are our bread and butter and they are doing well and pumping in monies on television. Up to 80 per cent of our ad revenue is coming from FMCG firms. Dangal’s objective is to get all potential advertisers on board without compromising in rates and values.”

The strategy behind mythological/historical fiction shows

Industry experts believe Dangal is successful as it has carved out a niche space for itself in the crowded Indian broadcast market. The channel has been able to maintain its distinct identity by carefully curating old shows and producing originals in the genre of Indian history, spirituality and mythology; Mahima Shanidev Ki, Ramayan, Dwarkadheesh Bhagwaan Shree Krishna, Sikandar vs porus, Chandragupta Maurya, Veer Shivaji, to name just a few.

Dangal TV is clear about its identity and upfront about its strategy. Its website clearly defines its endeavour as an attempt to meet the “demand(s) of entertainment and information to make audience feel connected to our (Indian) ancient history and mythology.”

The key to success for the top FTA GECs is to focus on fresh programming, with a judicious mix of shows across genres such as daily soaps, mythological and socially relevant programming, Menon says.

That Dangal’s success is in large part owing to the unique programming line-up of mythological entertainment shows is clear from the fact that in week 19 of 2019, when Dangal TV topped the list for most popular channel across genres, its most popular show was Mahima Shanidev Ki, followed by Ramayana.

Dangal’s brilliance lies in the fact that it was the first to realise and move in the space for a Hindi entertainment channel, focusing primarily on shows about Indian history and mythology, apart from the usual run-of-the-mill crime thriller, horror shows and family dramas.

This space was consistently ignored by programming heads for nearly three decades despite the success of shows like Ramayana and Mahabaratha in the late eighties.

Chakraborthy agrees: “Mythological shows are sure-shot winners. Metro cities are often oblivious to the fact that India is a deeply religious country. In addition, mythological shows can be watched with families. TV watching in India is still a family experience and parents would rather have their children watch Ramayana than Narcos or Breaking Bad.”

Strategy behind acquiring old shows

Dangal ratings, undoubtedly, have also been helped by successfully monetising already aired shows. Shows like Chandragupta Maurya, Bhagwaan Shree Krishna ran on Imagine TV before the channel shut abruptly in April 2012 and already aired titles like Bandini, Ramayana, Mahima Shanidev Ki, have done exceptionally well on Dangal.

“We go through a lot of historical data before acquiring the license for any show. There are many reasons behind the success of any show. We look at shows that did not do well and analyse why it happened. Perhaps, it was a good show on a bad distribution landscape, or had too tough a competitor, or was probably on the wrong channel. We analyse such shows, acquire them at a fraction of cost, and then re-telecast them at a strategic time-slot to maximise ROI. Results are for all to see.”

While Chakraborthy is honest in giving credit to these old shows for Dangal success, he is also quick to point out that Dangal is not just airing old shows.

“At Dangal, I see my greatest challenge to bust the perception that we are only airing old shows. We produced Nagin, which is doing exceptionally well, Darr ki Dastak, a horror show and ‘CIF’, a crime investigation show. We have also commissioned other shows which are ready for telecast, but our current shows are doing so well that we have no time slot left for running these new shows,” Chakraborthy clarifies.

Going forward

Chakraborthy has a clear road map for Dangal’s future growth. While there is a rush in TV channels to tie-up with OTT platforms, Dangal’s first priority is to consolidate, maintain and further strengthen its leadership position on television which directly helps in monetisation through advertising.

“The OTT and web plans are part of the strategy and will be shared in due course.”

Enterr10 network is fortunate to have a visionary promoter in Manish Singhal, who has identified the right mix of people.

In the last few months, the network has recruited Priyanka Datta as business head, Amartya Ray as head - revenue planning, sales strategy, research and operations, and Neeta Thakre.

The Hindi GEC is a Rs 9000 crore market. If Dangal can maintain its dominant hold in this segment, like it has done so far in 2019, then surely, it will have the biggest pie of this crucial market.  

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