Paritosh Joshi: Channel brand or Programme brand?

16 Nov,2012

By Paritosh Joshi


In my early days in broadcasting, I would frequently wonder about this very question, mainly because I saw plenty of media weight put behind individual shows and nearly nothing on the channels that housed them. This may not have been strange by itself but for the suggestion I heard frequently about how shows would perform differently depending upon the ‘platform’ on which they ran, said platform connoting the channel.


The issue came back earlier today when I read about the sale of advertising inventory for Super Bowl XLVII topping $ 225 million. Small explanatory note for those not particularly interested in American sporting traditions. The Super Bowl is the Championship game of the American Football tournament conducted by the NFL, the National Football League. The 47th finals will be played on February 3, 2013 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Lousiana. It is the biggest sports event by far of the US sports calendar and attracts major advertising campaign launches including the legendary launch commercial for Apple’s Macintosh computer during Super Bowl XVIII, January 22, 1984. (Stop already. The punters are getting impatient).


Here’s the interesting twist. The event does not belong to a single broadcaster but, since 2008 when Fox carried it, actually rotates between Fox, NBC and CBS in a three-year cycle. XLVI was NBC, XLVII will be CBS and with XLVIII, it will be back at Fox. None of this rotation makes the smallest whit of a difference to Super Bowl.


Cast your mind elsewhere. KBC has run on two major networks. “Friends” and a number of other marquee shows have sometimes been on two networks at the same time albeit with different seasons. Audiences have supported these shows with consistent enthusiasm. There may be a small ‘platform’ effect but in the main, these shows seem to be agnostic to it.


In the meanwhile, another phenomenon is playing out in the world of television, the effective disaggregation of channel content. DVRs are an important spur to this but even sans recorders, consumers also enjoy access to their favourite content online. Piracy it undoubtedly is, but try saying that to a consumer who searches Google for Balika Vadhu Episodes and finds over 4 million results on YouTube.


So how do channels remain brands in the future? Give up the obsession with “General” anything. Brands are about a single-minded commitment to delivering a particular consumer benefit. If you are a comedy channel, well then, deliver comedy. Golf? Cooking? Action? You get the point. These are the kind of brands where the viewer can return to time after time with certainty of finding a particular type of content that she is looking for. Not to mention that these channels don’t need to depend excessively on high cost, big brand shows so long as the content delivers the goods.


The entire evolution of Cable TV in the US, in massive contrast to the legacy Networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox; is in how they have moved to carving up the market along ever tighter benefit propositions. I am particularly fond of a Fox Sports specialized channel, Fuel TV. It does content on only seven extreme sports: Skateboarding, Snowboarding, Wakeboarding, Motocross, Surfing, BMX Biking and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). None particularly expensive to source, all with small, committed and substantially overlapping audiences. Just the kind of audience-content combination that can build a tight brand-consumer relationship. And what a wonderful job Fuel TV has done to achieve just that.


So why do we still persist in thinking that channel brands can be all things to all people?


Paritosh Joshi has been a marketer, a mediaperson and a key officebearer on industry bodies. He is developing an independent media advisory practice. He can reached via his Twitter handle @paritoshZero


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4 responses to “Paritosh Joshi: Channel brand or Programme brand?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks guys. When two serious professionals commend the thought, I must be doing something right.

  2. Excellent read, Paritosh. Thought provoking – the Super Bowl bit on 3 channels was an eye opener.

  3. Excellent read, Paritosh. Thought provoking – the Super Bowl bit on 3 channels was an eye opener.

  4. Atul Phadnis says:

    Great piece Paritosh! And so relevant in an increasingly digitalized TV medium. We should meet one of these days on new data coming in from domestic markets that wholeheartedly supports your observations! Cheers…