The Anchor: Anil Garg on 10 reasons why specialty channels are the need of the hour

13 Jun,2012

By Anil Garg


The television landscape in India has seen a paradigm shift in the last few years.  From a plethora of channels offering General Entertainment, News including Business & Market News, Music, Movies, Kids, Sports and so on, one is seeing the emergence of newer specialized genres such as Infotainment, Food, “Classroom” Education, Science and Technology, Specialty Sports (e.g. Golf), Home Shopping and Travel.  There are dozens of reasons for this (be it advances in technologies, affordability, availability, changing lifestyles and such) here are TEN reasons why specialty content will not only survive but thrive in the coming years:


1. Consumer Awareness and Demand

India, like most other countries, is fast realising that audiences are increasingly discerning especially with multiple TV households in Tier I, II and even III cities across all SEC groups.  Look at how Discovery has diversified from a single channel to Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo; or for that matter NatGeo. Infotainment content is entertaining and educative. Today people increasingly want to learn and know more about the world they live in. For instance, one would never stop a child watching a clip on the “Blue pottery of Jaipur” as opposed to watching cartoons on a kid’s channel.


2. The Nature of Specialized Content

Specialised content such as a cookery show or a travel show does not need to be in a 30 minute format, so typical of traditional television. Specialised content can be “snacky”; a five minute show on the “Fishing Nets of Kerala” or “48 hours in Cairo” can ignite the angst and aspiration in the mind of viewers who have or would love to experience this. Such content can be informative, educative and yet entertaining. Also such content appeals across all age groups four-adult. Plus, it is non-controversial as in there is no rape or murder or such.


3. Passion

People who want specialized content are passionate about it. So are the viewers! Take for instance Food or Travel. Specialised content has to be produced by people serious about the domain. As more and more people choose to work in their field of interest, so will they choose to talk about it in more and more creative ways. Likewise, an ever increasing consumer base aware about the affordable availability of such content will tune into what they are passionate about.


4. Forever Content

Most specialized content is forever in that it does not age. A show on the Taj Mahal or the Pushkar Mela is timeless. Unlike most soaps, reality shows or sporting events, most infotainment content is ageless and can be watched again and again for generations. We still love to watch a clip on what Mumbai looked like in the 50’s even though it is black and white; this will be the case even fifty years hence!


5. Technology including New Media

Affordable technology makes it possible to offer thousands of channels to viewers.  Technology trends, be it the downward cost of increasingly powerful Cameras, inexpensive video editing Software, dramatically reducing Storage cost, affordable and increased Bandwidth, ever increasing Connectivity, Interactive and Mobile devices and increasing use of innovative Applications – all this makes it possible for a specialized channels to stream to their audiences, anytime, everywhere. As rich content moves from Beta tapes to digital video formats, from huge physical libraries to compact server scale storage in a box, growing a business around this new realisation that the concept of space has changed will help new age entrepreneurs build organisations and brand architectures with specialized content.


6. Portable Content

The very nature of specialised content is interesting. There is a growing need and demand for on the move infotainment and on demand infotainment (e.g. what to see and do inSingapore), as opposed to a two-three hour movie. As consumer attention spans get shorter, information they seek has to be at their finger tips “here and now”.  Thanks to technology, this is made possible. Specialised content is easy to port for on-demand viewing.


7. Going Digital – Growth of Television and the Net

As India moves to digitization with the possibility of a 500-1000 channels though fibre and cable to the home, multiple TV households, increased Internet bandwidth and technologies such as 3 and 4G for the masses, affordable yet powerful handheld devices, access to specialized content will be easier and affordable for consumers.  Also for aggregators and distributors of such content, it will be imperative to reach out to every single viewer with a rich and varied offering.


8. Education

As the Indian population comes to grips with evolving technologies, the nature of content, applications and their usage will explode. From ten years ago when not many people used an ATM machine or a cell phone, the scenario is changing rapidly and dramatically. As people learn how to use a phone for purposes other than talking, to using the net for purposes other than checking emails or making a railway booking, we will see people searching for informative content and entertainment.


9. Targeted appeal

For advertisers, sponsors and the like, specialized channels offer a focused, targeted audience. Also, technology is fast reducing the costs for reaching out to the customer and getting a better handle of behavioural and psychometric testing – e.g. social media and viral.


10. Business Sense

Businesses understand the reasons above.  Channels like a GEC, Movies, or Sports are very expensive to setup and operate; in India we have seen many such channels go down.  For the cost of a single show on a channel in these traditional genres, it is possible to setup and operate a specialized channel and also to make it profitable. Ten years ago not many people thought that a channel like Discovery made any business sense! Also, specialized infotainment channels have multiple revenue streams; the touch-points for consumers sourcing information of interest are multiple.  The same content can be sampled on TV, researched in print and enabled/fulfilled via the web as an example – all thanks to technology.


In a nutshell, emerging technologies are playing a big role in bringing about this shift from traditional TV (latent viewing) to active TV (active viewing).  For instance in a specialized genre such as Travel, television can provide excellent programming backed up by a supporting interactive mechanism either through a website or an interactive mobile gadget which can create lead generation for travel booking, with applications that can provide ‘here and now’ information while at home or office or on the go. This increases the opportunity base and revenue potential for all possible trade partners – traditional travel operators, tourism boards, hotels and airlines, fleet operators and more – with the help of emerging new media technologies which help link up all possible interactions.


As all trends point to specialized content, such content will become the trend!


Anil Garg is Chairman & Managing Director, Explore Travel Channel


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