Shailesh Kapoor: Where Are The ‘Niche Channels’?

26 Apr,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


For almost five years now, there has been much talk of ‘niche channels’ making it large in India. They were supposed to take Indian television by storm, especially with the projected increase in digital penetration. Carriage fee was supposed to make these businesses unviable, and hence, as we moved to a fairer, more digital environment, such channels were supposed to mushroom in dozens.


The reality today is far from that projection. Barring a few International content-based English channels, there has been hardly any channel launches on the national stage in the last year. Digitization is now on in full swing, and DTH has been here for a while anyway. But the talk about going ‘niche’ has remained more talk than action.


The first level of confusion is with the definition of a ‘niche channel’ itself. In marketing terms, it should refer to a product catering to a specific audience segment (niche) and doing a great job at that. However, it is used in the TV industry in India to collectively brand all the channels that don’t fit into the top four genres, viz. GECs, movies, news and kids. The most outrageous definition I have heard is that “all channels below 50 GRPs in C&S 4+ are niche channels”!


In the true sense, most “niches” are audience segments that go beyond demographics. They are based on special interests (e.g. food, travel, gardening and automobiles), which can potentially cut across age, gender and geographies. Hence, such channels are actually targeting a behaviour-led or an interest-led segment. Unfortunately, such concepts are not recognized by most audience measurement systems. Hence, there is no standardized way of measuring the success of these channels in their intended target audience.


Take the example of Food Food. The channel can arguably be an effective platform for food products to advertise. It is fairly obvious that the common target audience of interest to both the channel and such advertisers is a person with a keen interest in food, including a role in decision making on food purchases. The ratings, however, can only be measured amongst an “approximation TG”, such as C&S 25+ Females ABC. While most housewives have to cook, not all of them are “interested” in food. In fact, those interested are in a minority by a decent margin. Hence, the “true ratings” of such a channel will always be under-reported. After all, a Kissan or a Sunfeast actually needs to reach only the interested minority, and not the larger set of women.


In the absence of “true ratings”, the available ratings of a special content channel are often taken as a sign of under-performance, which in turns leads to a series of endless chipping and chopping of content, packaging and even business plans. More often than not, these are futile exercises, with a downward spiral awaiting them. Many such channels have shut down, or have gone into auto-mode (other word for low-cost) over time.


As subscription revenue becomes more relevant, such channels should ideally have a more robust currency of evaluation of their performance. But in a bundling-led model, the a la carte performance will still not be known accurately.


When you are surfing channels on your TV set aimlessly the next time, like we all often do, ask yourself the question: Do we have more variety on our TVs today than five years ago? Quantity yes, but variety? Highly debatable.


Niche channel boom, anyone?


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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2 responses to “Shailesh Kapoor: Where Are The ‘Niche Channels’?”

  1. sanjay says:

    Lets put it this way. You walk into a star hotel and see the buffet spread in front of you. MOST would walk towards it and SOME may prefer to order instead from the menu. These SOME are the set of people who are on the niche channels. But then, addressing to these SOMEones ordering would be much more effective than the MOST who chose the spread. Ask the MOST what he ate half hour later and he would probably recall 3/4 dishes from the 36 served, while asking the SOME on what he ate an hour later also, would exactly recall everything. That’s the difference. I strongly believe that the viewership shown against these niche channels should immediately be multiplied by an X value (whatever the trade experts may deem fit on agreeing) and the brand advertised would have a much much stronger impact on the minds of these SOME people than the MOST. Indeed, a debatable topic but a worthy one for the advertisers, agencies and clients to spend time on and understand. Cheers !……………

  2. AcK says:

    Dear Mr. Kapoor,

    Notwithstanding the fact the digitization is still in very early stages, and comment on its impact on niche channels (or the lack of it is premature, I am not sure why a general ratings systems are very relevant here in any case. Why would advertisers,you mention Kissan or Sunfeast, not put advertising on these channels. Magazines (as opposed to newspapers) have not had a robust measurement system for ages; they continue to thrive. Maybe what is required is special surveys such as extensions to one conducted by Nielsen UMAR to capture this data. The general ratings system (as well as IRS) are by definition massy surveys and not suitable to capture the nuances of niche. If they try to do both, they might end up even spoiling the current process that works well for mass platforms.

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