Bindass way to go!
When it was launched in 2008, there was some scepticism in the trade about how it would work. The music channels with their strong pedigree were doing their bit for the youth with some shows.
Less than five years hence and part of the Walt Disney Company’s bouquet of channels in India, Bindass has firmly established the Youth Entertainment Channel genre.
Big sister Channel V may be the leader of the pack in ratings, but with costs kept under control, the channel has taken a bold, bindaas approach to get to the top.
The target is a hundred GRPs, says Nikhil Gandhi, Executive Director, Youth Channels – Media Networks at Disney UTV. Gandhi, who has been heading the channel since it launch, save a bit when he stepped out to launch UTV Stars, is bullish about public lapping up its programming content. A fair amount of investments have been made on distribution and get it in shape for the demands of digitization – first in the big metros and the 38 cities in Phase 2. The youth cluster of channels in the new management structure at Disney UTV comprises Bindass and UTV Stars (the other two clusters being movies and kids).
Specifically, in the quest to ‘Rest Less and Do More’ in 2013 and while not changing its mix of music and long- and short-form shows, the popular shows like Big Switch and Emotional Atyachar will see new seasons with Gaurav Chopra and Pravesh Rana respectively. Snacky shows like Angry Appa and What on Earth will be built on.
Much focus is going to be laid on on-ground and digital presence.
Excerpts from an interview:
How has the going been for Bindass since it took off about five years ago?
The journey has been brilliant. We were the first ones to launch as a YEC and ever since then we have only leapfrogged from one level to the next. We’ve grown as a brand. There were certain mistakes that we made along the way but those were earlier days. We sorted ourselves out in 2009-10 and that is when we gave the first slice of the positioning called ‘What I Am.’ That kind of gave us an edge as audiences started to know that this is a brand for me and that it caters to my needs. This we did on the back of research, an exercise we continuously keep doing. So understanding the pulse of the audiences has been our core DNA. That is what drives us in whatever we do.
As you look back, do you think that the Bindass concept was ahead of its time?
I wouldn’t say it was ahead of its time; probably I think the audiences were not ready for it. We were still struggling with single TV homes, distribution was a huge issue, the industry wasn’t as organised… Now as I look back, I wish there was a DAS regime that happened at that time or that DTH was flown in a big way… Today, we can proudly say that we were the first guys to make a concept called YAC, which has become the need of the hour for any youth channel in this space right now. We were the first ones to launch a show that time – Sun Yaar Chill Maar – which went on to complete 150 episodes, which was a first sitcom daily soap. Even today our audiences go with such shows. So clearly we were a futuristic youth brand where even the advertisers and brands loved our concepts, shows etc. But somewhere we knew that we were a new brand and that we needed time to take on MTV at that time. But the tables have now turned and we are very strong in our leadership right now.
So was it a first-mover advantage or disadvantage? Are you happy with the decision?
I would say it was an advantage. I am absolutely happy now as all that we did in those years is now paying off. In fact all the learnings, perceptions, tracks that we had about our audiences is now very relevant as it has started paying off. The last six months have been a clear-cut work on the product, the brand as well as where do we take our audiences along with us as we progress.
There has been some tweaking in the brand positioning over the years…
Yes, the first one was ‘What I Am’ in 2009-10 which gave a sharp focus to Bindass being a youth brand. It gave it attitude and the audiences also lapped it up as they could identify with it. Having done that for two years, we realised that we had to give some purposeful meaning to Bindass because it was coming out to be wholesome entertainment but that’s about it. And we gave a whole new dimension of restless to it. So it’s about having an attitude with a purpose. Bindass today is an attitude and a positive one. It’s a must-have for you. If you have four engineers and one of them has a Bindass attitude, the likelihood of him succeeding above the others is far more than the others. So that’s the whole promise of being restless. We are trying to push our viewers and telling them not to be happy with what you have done; take your limit to the next level.
Where is this viewer of yours located?
Honestly, we have viewers from all across the country but our heart is sitting in North-west India. That’s from North of India to the West of India including Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand etc. That’s because we have realised that all these people who have a different standard of living have the same dream as a guy from Mumbai. But their taste and perception of what is happening on television might be different.
Has DAS been a shot in the arm for your channel?
Not only DAS but the distribution across the country itself, we have really bolstered it. We have been on the ground and ensured that we have enough nuts and bolts to tighten our distribution.
By being a YAC, you are also catering to the most fickle generation who can switch tastes very easily. How do you ensure they continue to hang around you?
Predominantly our strength has been research and even before we launched this channel we realised that there is a gap for this kind of space. The name that came to be known of our channel was born out this entire TG who came on the channel and said we want the channel to be called Bindass. The second name that was close was Dhoom, but the name Bindass cut across Bombay, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Amravati etc. So the name itself is an attitude on its own.
I wouldn’t call them fickle-minded but getting-bored-very-fast generation. You have to keep them on their toes rather than them keeping you on your toes. One needs to understand what is driving them and what their ambitions are and that’s when you start getting pegs of properties that need to be created. Every show that gets aired on our channel is backed by humungous amount of research.
The other thing that we do with this TG is that we do not talk to them; we speak with them. We engage with them so that they start identifying very closely with us. That’s what keeps us going forward. Of course there are gives and takes as far as show formats and all are concerned but largely all the shows that we have done have been in that zone and has given us the edge.
In terms of advertiser-friendliness, how would you rate the channel since you launched operations to now? How have brand-driven shows delivered for you?
The biggest testimony is that we are in season 4 and 5 of most shows like Big Switch, Emotional Atyachar etc. The whole thought is to take them along with us. We have now become not just a platform to be heard but also an enabler. In fact this year the change on Emotional Atyachar is about empowering. Also, our brand is very well personified across all the shows that we are doing.
Did you face issues with the moral police in terms of content being aired?
The moral police will be there for any show and I am sure for every show in this world if you are in the public domain you will have issues with the moral police.
Coming back to the present, what’s the story looking like currently?
The story today is that we are very clear that we have created an identity for ourselves. We have an edge as far as our shows are concerned. The fact that all our shows are original home-grown concepts is the biggest feather we have in our cap. There are 5-6 formats that we have originally created and which are working very well. We are even looking at licensing some of our formats to different parts of the world. We have already done that with EA last year and are looking at Superdude and Big Switch format being licensed to different countries soon. So where the freshness of Bindass is concerned, the whole new leap that we took in the last three months has paid off. Superdude has given us good GRPs and we are in the process of launching two more shows. EA has been our flagship show and that is yet to come so I think we are only going to go to the next level as far as our performance is concerned.
As for the business perspective, we are doing it at a different cost level altogether, where programming is concerned, as compared to competition. We are trying to give audiences shows in a different manner and at a different cost.
Since HSM is your critical market, have you looked at going Hindi for Bindass?
We were initially 70:30 Hindi to English but the moment I stepped in I said we need to go 100 per cent Hindi. There is a Hinglish touch to it as that is what audiences also want but largely, we are doing shows in Hindi.
With various networks looking to switch to regional feeds what is your strategy on that front?
We too are considering that option; it is there on the cards. We are looking at the right time and moment. As for the choice, Bhojpuri and Punjabi really do not interest us and we consider South to be a different country altogether. These are markets where advertiser interest is larger than any other market. But we are still doing research around these markets and will arrive at a solution very soon.
How is the merchandising and web business doing for Bindass given that the youth look up to these segments as well?
The first testimony is that we have 20 lakh fans on Facebook and more than 4 crore hits on YouTube. These are large numbers. When I quote this to an advertiser they just jump at the possibility as we are given them additional eyeballs for engagement. Also, for us these are all organic growth numbers. In the last two years we have been growing significantly and the plan is to take the number further and become the largest youth brand in the country on facebook. I am also the most spoken about and engaged brand on facebook, which tells me that there is something about my brand that works with the consumers.
Also we have developed a very strong creative team internally. The OAP team is phenomenally entrenched with what the audiences like. From the time we have been born we have always been different in terms of look and feel, colours etc. All this has evolved over a period of time and all of this is also going on the web. We also do multi-lingual multi-level campaigns through various platforms where there is media exposure. Like we had a game on the DTH platform around EA. I think the group synergies give us a lot of empowerment to start and take such steps in other avenues.
Another thing where we established ourselves last year was the ground space. We tied up with 3-4 mega events that took place across the country like NH7. We did Lady Gaga event to David Guetta to Enrique Iglesias…we are looking at doing similar things going forward.
How much of Events is critical where engagement with the youth is concerned?
I think it is one of the critical aspects. Youth will keep going to such places where they get entertainment and the whole idea is to engage at a different level. For example, we have created chickipedia on the web which is about the man’s perspective on how women think. It has been lapped by HUL who have pledged support for the next 2-3 seasons as well. So it’s about engaging with the right kind of shows on the web.
Will these ground level activities be extended to B-class towns?
Yes. For example, there is this concept called Croaking, which is the biggest karaoking competition in the country. It’s not about you having the talent to sing but about you having the b***s to take the mic and go on the stage and sing. So that’s again about empowerment and is being held across 15 cities. So that’s one important ground level activity. Another ground event we are doing is called Bindass Buddies Project being taken to 200 colleges across 15 cities. We will engage with the TG on campus which no other brand has been able to tap. We’ve got Axe who has come onboard as sponsor. So we’ve been able to create the right kind of associations.
In terms of GRPs what is your target for the next quarter?
Honestly, we have exceeded our target. We’ve now revised the targets on our own because DAS was anybody’s game and we didn’t know how it would pan out. We were hoping and had put all the right measures in place. Now that it has crossed that barrier and we’ve done better than what we expected – there is a channel V sitting at 52 and we are at 46, and they have 5 shows versus our 1 show. So the whole dynamics has changed for us. We will take it to the next level by adding more shows and at least be in this zone for the next 6-8 months.
In this genre, any specific targets that you have to get to the No. 1 spot?
The genre is growing and there will be a new number 1 as everybody progresses. Though there will be a level at which we will get saturated – 100+. That’s where we are headed to.
What’s the plan to expand to 38 more cities…
LC1 is very important for us and we are happy it is happening. These are markets which you’ve never heard of earlier. It’s not that we were not there; we were there in these markets just that our focus now will get even more larger. About 18-20 per cent of the play is going to LC1. The second phase of DAS is also what we are looking forward to. The first phase of DAS has given us a good boost for three metros; so that’s going to become the play now. The more mass you get with your content that will become the booster for your channel.