It’s a fact! Factual ent grows with History

10 Nov,2011

By Rishi Vora

 

Factual Entertainment as a genre in India has been a niche segment for many years, dominated primarily by Discovery and National Geographic. The recent entry of History from the JV of TV 18 and US based A + E Networks, however, promises a lot of action. With only a month since its launch, the channel has already made an impact.

According to TAM Media Research, it is now placed at No 2 in the line-up of factual entertainment channels with a market share of 28 per cent in the metros; and it garners the highest time spent per viewer in the genre (35 minutes against Discovery’s 23 and National Geographic’s 16 minutes). And by all means, the channel has expanded the genre by 30 per cent, all India, reaching out to 45 million viewers, in the CS 4+ market.

 

What’s the success mantra?
There is no denying that the Network 18 clout and the reputation of the US major A + E Networks, helped in the successful launch of the channel. But, as the company officials state, the success story has a lot to do with good programming, distribution and marketing.

 

The channel embarked on a 360-degree campaign with Salman Khan, urging viewers to switch to a different kind of programming within the factual entertainment arena. Sangeetha Aiyer, General Manager – Marketing, shared her thoughts on the campaign. “All the research we’d done showed that there is a huge market in India for the type of content we had and that there is a lot of inherent weariness for existing content. This is the reason for our positioning as watching something fresh and new. Also, all our efforts during the launch campaign were primarily to broad-base the genre, whether it is the 360-degree marketing thrust, the 5 language feeds, huge distribution thrust, or using Salman as brand ambassador.”

 

On why Salman as the brand ambassador, she explained, “Salman has a phenomenal appeal across demographics, psychographics, regions; he is inherently ‘cool’ and brings with him an element of unexpectedness. A combination which is impossible to resist. There was never anyone else we even considered. Also he’s not just our brand ambassador; we’ve also cleverly integrated him in our programming and packaging and have more plans with him in the pipeline.

Cell 18, a division of Network 18 has worked extensively on the look and feel of the channel, the on-air promotions and packaging.   Zubin Driver, Group Creative Director, Network 18 and CEO, Cell 18 added to Aiyers point on having Khan on the channel as the brand ambassador. “The idea to go with Salman Khan was completely out-of-the-box, primarily because one doesn’t expect Salman to be the brand ambassador of a factual entertainment channel. And what he does on History and what the viewers are accustomed to see him as, is very different.  So that’s very clutter breaking and interesting.”

Driver further added that the challenge was to match up to the international standards of A + E channels, as far as the packaging and the creative look and feel of the channel was concerned. Elaborating on the kind of work that has happened on the channel, Driver said, “There is a great amount of detailing which has gone into the campaign. Show specific designs, using mnemonics and graphics and to integrate that with Salman, was a huge challenge. And I’m glad at the end of it we’ve done a pretty good job.”

Sudheer KG, VP and Programming Head shared the early apprehensions that the team share prior to launch. “We were very cautious right from the beginning, because History as the name suggest—immediately what first comes to mind is the boring sort of a channel with an old look and style, with no fun element in it. So our immediate task was to see how we could make one, the genre more interesting and second, to make our channel more entertaining. The idea of dubbed content helped us maintain the Indian flavour in every show.”

 

The programming strategy the channel has adopted is pretty simple. To look at the huge library of shows that History channel in the US has, and pick up shows from there that could suit the Indian viewers. And of course, the customisation which follows to make shows more relevant and meaningful for Indian audiences. In the times to come, the channel will look at different formats and if need be, acquire international content as well.

 

Passage Through India with Caroline Quentin, currently on air, is one of the popular shows, where the host travels all over India and introduce many aspects of Indian culture. Another show that is likely to be launched in the near future is Freddy Versus the World, featuring Cricketer Andrew Flintoff in trying some of the most extreme sports and challenges on offer.

 

As it seems from here, the challenge is to keep the momentum going. And that could be achieved by doing innovative yet relevant content. Being a niche segment, factual entertainment as an industry was observed to be stagnant for a while. Now that History has announced its arrival, there will be a lot to watch out for in this small yet growing industry.

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One response to “It’s a fact! Factual ent grows with History”

  1. Ravib says:

    rubbish. i don’t understand how channel got so much ratings when the distribution is so bad. the channel is not even available in virar belt in maharastra.