JOP Network’s journey from curating content to running 3 pay channels

Started in 2014, it intends to launch 3 more pay channels in 2020

MUMBAI: It is often assumed that the TV broadcast market in India has reached a saturation point and is dominated by big media networks with deep pockets like Sony, Zee, Times Network, Disney-owned Star India (earlier owned by Rupert Murdoch) or Mukesh Ambani-owned Network18, leaving no room for start-ups to grow and establish themselves in this cluttered media space.
However, JOP Network, a Delhi-based five-year-old content startup, has proved both these notions wrong. Not only has the startup that began its journey in 2014 as a content curator in the niche-segment of health and wellness grown by leaps and bounds in last five years, JOP Network currently runs three pay channels in India and Australia and plans to launch three more (1 GEC, 1 sports and 1 lifestyle) in the coming year.

Owned by banker-turned-media entrepreneur Urvi Agarwal, JOP now produces and curates content for Indian and international markets and distributes via its own channels (Fitness Studio, Hollywood Masala, Life Mantra) as well as via global television networks such as Discovery, FOX Traveller, Airtel DTH, Tata Sky, Astro Malaysia and in-flight channels of Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways to name a few.

JOP’s success demonstrates that even in a crowded and cluttered Indian broadcast TV market, it is possible to carve out a distinct space by curating and producing high-quality content and finding right market for your content.

The beginning: 2014

Talking about launching JOP Network in 2014, Agarwal says she realised at a very early stage that there was a dearth of speciality and niche channels in the Indian media landscape.

“Globally, there were specific channels for one’s everyday lifestyle needs, from fitness to even fishing, but there was nothing that focussed on Indian masses.”
 JOP provided content to other channels for the first two years before getting its big break in 2016 when it signed a deal with SWIFT Network in Australia for spiritual lifestyle channel LifeMantra.

The channel telecast content related to the philosophies of Ayurveda, yoga and balance and has been viewed by approximately one million viewers so far.

Indian TV broadcast entry: 2018

In 2018, JOP finally broke into Indian broadcast market by signing a Value Added Service (VAS) channel deal with Airtel DTH. Its first channel in India, Fitness Studio, was launched in January 2018 and featured celebs like Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Mandira Bedi, Vinod Channa, Namrata Purohit, and James Crossley amongst others.

“On average, we produce approximately 60 to 70 hours of fitness and wellness content in-house in a year. We also have a strong network of partners globally from whom we acquire the remaining,” she says.

Agarwal firmly believes that Fitness Studio (one of India’s industry-first pay channel in fitness genre) can contribute hugely in making India a sporting nation and in making fitness a social movement.

“Television, even today, is the best medium to reach the Indian consumer in every part of the country and of all ages. Fitness of body and mind are essential if one wants to develop a sporting body and spirit. Even beyond sporting, a fit nation is a healthy nation and TV can play an important role in it,” she explains.

Hollywood Masala

Then in November 2018, JOP launched another channel, Hollywood Masala, which broadcast international blockbuster movies in Hindi.

Agarwal says: “Hollywood Masala came into being after we observed a need gap in this segment. Most Indian audiences are comfortable in consuming content in Hindi or in regional Indian languages. The huge success of international movies such as Avengers, Bohemian Rhapsody can be attributed to them being released in theatres in Indian languages.”

While JOP has hitherto focused on procuring already dubbed international movies, the startup is also investing in creating its own dubbing facility.

“Mostly we try and procure movies which are already dubbed and censored. Currently, however, we are dubbing approximately 100 titles in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu and the average cost of dubbing and censoring a single title is Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.2 lakh.”

For 2020, Hollywood Masala has already acquired a huge catalogue distributed via PVR and some big titles from Paramount Pictures.

NTO and Pay TV model

JOP has launched both these channels (Fitness Studio, Hollywood Masala) as pay channels in 2018. Thus, they were well prepared for the February 2019 New Tariff Order (NTO) disruption that forced DTH, LCO and MSOs to move to a new tariff regime.

Consequently, unlike other media networks, JOP has seen steady viewership growth in 2019 in the post-NTO era.

“On average, we have seen a month on month increment of 5000 subscribers on both these channels,” she says, adding “celebrity content and big movies surge up the subscription even further.”

Agarwal is also quick to underline that both these channels are also completely advertisement free. “That is the main USP of these two channels. We generate revenue via subscription.”

However, have not JOP’s expansion plans suffered on account of not having distribution deals with local cable operators (LCOs) and multiple system operators (MSOs)?

“We run these channels in collaboration with DTH operators as they are pioneers in the VAS field and have teams which focus on growing the business. MSOs and LCOs do not focus or specialise on VAS. Hathway runs a few VAS but prices them very low,” she says, adding that LCOs should think about adding robust VAS especially in the post-NTO environment when consumers are more receptive to the idea of paying for premium content.

Content sales

Apart from linear channel distribution, JOP’s other prominent stream of business is content sales.

JOP has signed content sales deals with over 30 in-flight entertainment services across the world, including top airlines such as Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Alitalia, United Airlines, and Qantas.

“We work with a French distributor for all our in-flight entertainment deals,” Agarwal says. The rates, however, vary from deal to deal, she adds.

While JOP has sold content to OTT players from the very beginning, Agarwal is in no hurry to launch her own OTT platform. “We do not plan to launch our own OTT as of now. However, we have already started collaborating with various Indian and international OTT platforms for launching our content on them,” she says.

The company is also in talks to raise funds to grow the company further and aims to invest this money in ramping up its own in-house production.
2020 will be an interesting and challenging year for the five-year-old content startup. Not only does it plan to launch three new channels but also hopes to build its own dubbing and production capabilities.

The success of three new planned channels in the cluttered Indian broadcast market and how soon JOP turns profitable remains to be seen. However, undoubtedly, JOP’s journey will serve as a testament on how to build a media network in crowded Indian broadcast media space. 

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