It’s comedy time in English entertainment!

13 Feb,2012

By Rishi Vora


English entertainment channels now have one more serious contender, which has already left an impact at its launch. Comedy Central, from the Viacom 18 stable, has taken the No 3 position in the category in week 1, with 14 per cent market share. It may be noted that Comedy Central is Viacom 18’s sixth channel.


Comedy Central was launched in theUSinitially, and post 2006, extended its presence to other countries. InIndia, it has been launched in seven cities -Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata,Hyderabad,Bangalore, Pune and Ahmedabad, reaching 20 million households across analog, digital cable and DTH.


It is said that the Indian version will have localised content apart from the international library of shows.


Now that the channel is at a reasonable position, the challenge is to keep the momentum going and, slowly but surely, be the No 1 player in the genre. Yes, there are established players, such as Star World and AXN, but Senior VP and General Manager of English Entertainment channels, Viacom 18, Ferzad Palia is of the opinion that Comedy Central has a differentiated offering. It is the first 24-hour comedy channel in English which catersSECAB+ audience.


On why there was a need of a comedy channel in the English entertainment category, Palia explained: “Comedy Central comes as a light hearted channel in an environment which is so much stressed and depressed; something which came up very strongly in our research.”


He added: “Also, the audience which we’re catering to are not on the lookout for crime and drama. And the pattern of the TG which we’ve observed is seen to be non-decisive in a way, where there is not much clarity on what the viewer wants to watch. But, with Comedy Central he knows he is going to get light-hearted humour – all the more reason for him to stick around with the channel.”


With the English speaking population on the rise, consumption of English content too will rise. It is said that 8 per cent of the total population understands English and a subset of that percentage can converse in English. Because English channels reach out to the premium audiences, there are advertisers and brands that look to advertise on English entertainment channels, and Comedy Central is already on the ball as far as tapping advertisers is concerned. It has already got Volkswagen on-board, and a few more premium advertisers will follow.


Apart from advertising, the channel is looking to add to the revenue via subscription, events and merchandise. “We are catering to an audience which no advertiser can afford to ignore. They’re a bunch of aspiring people, very discerning and those who enjoy quality programming. And this audience looks at English entertainment as the only form of entertainment on TV, apart from sports and movies.”


Though the channel seems to have carved out a niche within a niche segment (launching a comedy channel in the English entertainment category), Palia disagrees: “Comedy cuts across gender and age. So in that sense, it isn’t very niche.”


The channel, in next few weeks, will see a full-blown marketing campaign covering, print, outdoor, radio, Internet. The channel was launched with a TV campaign which ran across network channels. Social Media will be one big thrust for the channel as far as marketing is concerned.


Though the market looks a bit crowded with players like Star World, AXN, FX, Fox Crime, Big CBS channels – Spark, Prime, Love and BBC Entertainment, it will be interesting to see how the genre grows and which channels emerge on the top.


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