Epic isn’t a GEC, don’t subject it to standards that GECs have: Mahesh Samat

19 Nov,2014

 

 At 9pm primetime today (November 19), when you otherwise tune into your favourite soap or reality show or news, well, hour, there’s a new channel going to be born. Epic. What has set a lot of attention on the channel is the nature of its content and the people backing the initiative.

 

Spearheaded by Mahesh Samat, Managing Director, Epic Television Networks Pvt. Ltd., this is the first genre specific Hindi entertainment channel that will showcase content based on Indian history, mythology and folklore in a uniquely contemporary format. Industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Anand Mahindra and impresario and restaurateur Rohit Khattar are co-promoters of the venture company.   The programming line-up has a mix of fiction and narrative non-fiction shows, short-form content as well as films at launch.

 

Excerpts from an interview with Mahesh Samat by Shivani Jain for MxMIndia…

 

There is already a glut of channels in the market telecasting a wide gamut of programmes in the general entertainment and infotainment space. Do you think there is still room for a channel dedicated exclusively to Indian history and mythology?

Yes, we found that the few mythological and historical programmes being telecast currently have a huge following. This, in fact, was the genesis of Epic. Our relationship with our history and mythology is in our DNA. We are emotionally connected with it, more than any other country. So this opportunity was waiting to happen.

 

It has taken you’ll a long time to launch the channel. The announcement was made a year back. Was this due to issues on clearances from the government, or…

The issues with the previous government and approvals have been well-documented. I don’t want to spend too much time discussing that. The new government has been really helpful. We have got our approvals. And we are moving on.

 

… or was it the programming. Did that delay the launch?

There is no doubt that programming does take time. But the delay was due to some unavoidable extraneous circumstances. The main thing is Digitization has improved and viewers have become more attuned to different kinds of content.

 

All TV channels needs deep pockets, but a channel like Epic needs super deep ones given the nature of your content. How has the journey been for you so far?

I think we are trying a whole different model of television. We have to remove the current, existing models and get into new age. We had a business plan and we are with the business plan. We’ve had promoters who are very supportive.

 

And some very high-profile promoters indeed. How has it been working with Messrs Ambani and Mahindra?

There are actually three promoters. Mr Rohit Khattar is the person who is involved more directly with the business. He is the chairman of Epic. Mr Anand Mahindra and Mr Mukesh Ambani are relatively less involved. So we work with all three. Rohit being the chairman is more involved.

 

And how participative are the three?

It is varying degrees of involvement. Obviously, they are very busy people. Their involvement is limited to that extent. By the way, both Rohit and Anand are old film buffs. Rohit has the largest collection of film memorabilia which had gone to Venice and a couple of other places. And Anand himself is an undergraduate in films. His subject in Harvard was films, if I am not mistaken. They all have a passion for it. But operationally, Rohit was the one most involved.

 

When do you see the channel breaking even?

Sorry, we don’t disclose those figures. I think we are on track with the business plan.

 

What about viewership? Given the emphasis on getting the right ratings, what are your expectations on viewership?

I am very clear that we are not a general entertainment channel. So we should not be subjected to the standards and discussions that GECs have. Our reach will be lower, our ratings will be lower because it is a certain genre, a certain…

 

A certain niche…

No, it is not niche. I don’t like the word ‘niche’ because niche makes it too small. Let’s start looking at a third word which is ‘segmented’ which looks at a chunk of the market, but not the whole market.

 

What has been the feedback from advertisers thus far?

I think they are all very interested. Given that it’s a new concept, they understand the positioning, the story of differentiation, the story of segmentation.

 

You have come from Walt Disney, which is a totally different world?

Really, is it? So if you step back and see…Disney is a brand, a brand for kids. What we are trying to do here is become a brand in history and mythology entertainment. I think all my experiences of building brands over the last few years are proving to be useful here.

 

So did it require a lot of reorientation on your part?

I don’t think so. It’s an area I am familiar with – media and entertainment. Hopefully, our programmes succeed and become brands. If you look at global examples of channels like Discovery, Disney, even AXN, Comedy Central, you see examples of brands being set which are by genre type of content. And that’s what we are doing here.

 

Tell us a little about your flagship programmes or driver shows?

They are all flagship programmes. We have Siyasat, DharamKshetra, Daanav Hunters, Adrishya, Ekaant, Raja Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyaan. We also have a couple of comedies. For instance, we have Javed Jafri taking a light look at the films of the 1970s and ’80s. Watch them all on Epic.

 

Post a Comment 
  • Himanshu Agarwal

    BTW if I remember correctly it is Channel No. 269 on Hathway Digital Cable 🙂

  • Himanshu Agarwal

    Good interview and insights. I have sampled the channel and would like to feedback that the programming is engaging. There were facets of Indian History which I did not know until EPIC happened…Best Wishes to Mr Samat and Co.

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