Shemaroo to achieve break even on the two channels, will focus on new content creation: Hiren Gada

The company expects the COVID situation will normalise and the advertisers will return back.

MUMBAI: In 2020, Shemaroo Entertainment entered into the broadcast space. It has launched two channels in the free-to-air (FTA) space- a Marathi movie channel Shemaroo MarathiBana and a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) Shemaroo TV. The company is hopeful that with the COVID situation normalising and the advertisers returning back to invest in ads, the two channels will achieve break even point (BEP) in growth this fiscal. It launched its third Shemaroo Umang in 2022, which is focused on women.

On growth of two channels

Speaking to recently, Shemaroo Entertainment CEO Hiren Gada said that their aim is to achieve ‘break even’ for the two channels. “We are hoping that in the middle of this financial year, we should achieve break even on the two channels. We are looking forward to the industry’s bounce back in a big way. The expectation is that TV advertising will get back to pre-Covid levels and FTA will also get back. Of course, there is the economic challenge going on in terms of inflation & interest rates going up. Raw material inflation is a challenge that some clients are grappling with. Tech startups funding is slowing down. We hope that in the second half of the fiscal year, the ad spends will go back to normal.”

He added that a total of Rs 50 crore is being invested this fiscal into the newer businesses  and segments that are growing. For example, broadcast, digital and the devices segment are expected to witness potential growth.

He noted that Shemaroo Umang has performed satisfactorily in terms of ratings. “On the channels, we should be able to launch a few shows of our own. The female audience is at the centre of content. So we have different genres like dramas. Soaps is an important part of it but even within a soap you can have family or female oriented shows. Shemaroo MarathiBana has been doing better in the last few weeks. We changed a lot of programming and found good responses. A combination of films, shows and devotional content has worked well,” he added.

Family-oriented shows on focus

“On Shemaroo TV the ratings had dipped but the team worked very hard to do a deeper dive on what the consumer is liking, and seeing. There is a devotional space as well as a kids space. There is a crime slot. Primetime is for the family. So there are mythological shows, historical, and costume dramas. The aim is to be family friendly. It is the overall family-oriented offering that has worked for Shemaroo TV. A lot of work is happening on all the three channels. Our ultimate ambition is to be a network. We want to establish ourselves deeply into the consumer’s mind.”

He noted that ‘Crime World’ was the first original for Shemaroo TV. The shooting of Jurm Aur Jazbaat was affected due to COVID. “Waah Bhai Waah is our next show and will be hosted by Shailesh Lodha.” In terms of learning from operating TV channels, he said the consumer is the king. “The consumer decides what works and what does not. He/she should be at the centre of everything that you do or think. You have to be a strong default option for the consumer.The COVID period taught us that we have to be totally nimble and flexible. When ad spends shrunk, we had to ensure that we could still sustain with the costs.”

In the context of having additional TV channels, Gada said that launches will be looked at but it will be spaced out. The pace of launch will be gradual. “There are quite a few whitespaces in FTA. We have identified four to five whitespaces (it refers to spectrum allocated for broadcasting services but which remains unutilised) in FTA. Multiple opportunities exist. Right now, we want to stabilise the three channels.” 

When asked about the possibility of starting a movie channel, he noted that the space is crowded. “Being a Bollywood content house film is a natural progression for us. Currently, the film space is already quite crowded. We look at two things. The first is whether there is a scalable opportunity or not. The second is do we have a right to win. This is what decides whether or not we enter this space. In terms of a film channel, yes, we have the right to win but we have to see if it is scalable or not.”

On FTA and its audience

In terms of the potential of FTA, he said that there is a large audience that consumes free TV. “There is a large TV dark population even now,” he explains. “We expect mapping the reasons that it could be electricity, not enough penetration of TV hardware, income levels, etc. FTA is a good entry level for people getting into the TV consuming population for the first time. New media exposure is happening and this is attractive to many advertising categories. Not all but many. There is no other way to reach those audiences. The media journey for those audiences should be Free TV to pay TV and then onto digital.”

Growth in digital business and OTT 

In terms of the digital side of the business, he noted that over 50 per cent of revenue comes from Youtube content that the company puts on the platform and content will be added. “Youtube of course is growing significantly with the overall growth in digital media. We are putting up a lot of fresh content. Our ambition is to grow faster than the platform or the industry.”

As far as our OTT platform ShemarooMe is concerned, “we are one of the large players in the Gujarati side. This is our key consumer proposition. We offer movies, web series and plays. At some point of time, once our Gujarati content moves to the next level, then we will focus on the segment that we want to work with. We are keenly evaluating a couple of segments. We are confident that within this fiscal we should be able to go forward with that. India is a large heterogeneous market,” he added. He mentioned the focus of ShemarooMe, which is subscription video on demand (SVOD). “What we have seen is that consumers are willing to pay for premium and exclusive content,” he said and pointed out that Gujaratis across India & abroad especially in the US the audiences consume it avidly.

Shemaroo needs to develop six of its IPs into different types of content. It could take the form of movies, web series, a sequel and prequel. It will partner with various platforms to be able to take this journey forward. “Quite a few things are moving forward. A lot of conversations are taking place with partners,” he added at lenght.

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