Building on Colors. Interview with Sudhanshu Vats

20 Mar,2015


It may have been more of a coincidence. A day before the first day of the festival of colours, Viacom18 announced its five regional entertainment channels would drop the ETV branding and adopt Colors. The ETV GECs, owned by Prism TV Private Limited and part of the Viacom18 networks, has operations in the Hindi entertainment, youth, children, English entertainment and regional clusters.


Speaking to MxMIndia, hours after making the announcement, Viacom18 Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats said the exercise helps in building the Colors franchise. Colors, as a brand, has become the cultural touchstone for millions of Indians across the world, he said.


Meanwhile, Colors Marathi will be relaunched on Sunday, March 22 starting 6:30 pm with MICTA awards (the Marathi film and theatre industry awards like the IIFA) and two new shows starting March 23 – Majhe Hoshil Ka and Sakhi. Colors Oriya will go live on April 1 while the Bangla channel will happen on April 12. Colors Kannada and Gujarati will go live on April 19.


Excerpt from an interview.


The rebranding of the entertainment bouquet with the Colors prefix may now appear to be a no-brainer. But for how long has this been in the works?

Yes, Colors’ foray into other general entertainment spaces or language general entertainment is natural. From a strategic point of view, it expands the footprint of Colors as a brand. Particularly in general entertainment, we are a multi-brand media network. So, whether it is Nick in kids or MTV in youth and Colors in general entertainment, the natural extension of all our marquee brands into subsequent languages is a very natural strategic move. I think ETV as a brand enjoyed legacy, because it was the first regional brand, it had history and huge loyalty to some extent. But one of the things we noticed was that it had also aged a little and was not contemporary enough. If we juxtapose ETV with Colors, Colors, as a brand, stands out for its young, modern, urban, contemporary and innovative nature. Therefore, from a consumer angle as well as strategic point of view, it was almost natural that you move as we build it.


So just as youth brands are under MTV and for kids, there’s Nick, couldn’t we have had separate brands for the regional and Hindi GECs?

It all depends on how you look at it as a segment. If you look at the genre as general entertainment and within that regional and language segmentation, then may be one brand for general entertainment, which is indeed Colors, does make sense. And, therefore, it has the capacity to have that scale. While Hindi is of course predominant in India, without doubt, at this movement at least, in viewership too, regional is also catching up the fast. To be honest, the answer is yes one could have had a dedicated brand. At the same time, could you have extension of your GE brand into other GE spaces? The answer is yes again. To me from some scale and some brand halo and Synergy point of view, may be it makes more sense to sort of…


The Colors as channel we know it is not going to be rechristened?Or suffixed Colors Hindi?



Colors, the Hindi GEC brand, is bold, young, urban breaks barriers and, well, a lot of money is spent on its programming and marketing. The expectation will be the same from the language GECs? And if not fulfilled, it could have a slightly negative rub-off on the Hindi GEC?

We will of course try and play out the same brand philosophy and brand mantra. That’s the thinking behind it.


In terms of programming are you looking at a significant change from what’s there right now? Or will we see a significant leap in look, feel and content?

I’ll answer this in two parts. TV18 expressed its interest to acquire ETV in 2011-2012. Basically, post-TV18’s acquisition of ETV, we’ve been associated with them from a synergy point of view. What we’ve done across these regional Prism channels is let the Prism team look at some of the things they can pick up. To give you some of the examples, we’ve already attempted Big Brother in Bangla and Kannada. In Kannada, the Prism team has looked at ‘Dancing with the stars’ which is ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa’. It is in its second season and has been very successful and is already the No 1 show this year. We’ve also looked at few shows that are about ideas from Viacom18. Let me give you an example of another show called ‘Indian’ we ran on ETV Kannada. It’s Roadies meets Bigg Boss! There are also programming shows like Balika Vadhu, which are remade, Madhubala, Uttaran, in regional forms. From a programming perspective, it’s a two-stage journey. Journey 1 is already on from synergies and it has helped uplift the viewership of these channels. And #2, as we launch with the rebranded Colors, you’ll see considerable change in programming.


Will there be any change in the Hindi GEC?

Colors continues its journey. We’re a strong No 2 as you know and we’ll continue to work on that. That’s a completely independent piece.


The launch of &TV means some tough competition for Colors, right?

Early days. We’ve It’s been positioned as an urban channel with some amount of social messaging, reasonably high decibel and expansive non-fiction. So, the zone you seem to see it is in Colors. The direct competition could be more with Colors. It makes a lot of sense if you step into Zee’s boots. Zee enjoys a huge legacy. They enjoy a tremendous first-mover advantage, clearly in distribution. I think they’ll be ahead of Star, in sheer distribution. Because of that, I can say that they are slightly less urban.


Would you at any time look at a mid-market GEC?

We keep evaluating from time to time. There are two ways of looking at it. One is that may be there is more room for more GECs in India and that could be a hypothesis. The second is that people have tried and not many have succeeded. You had others, headed by people who had reasonable experience. Off late also, Zee’s Zindagi made a very different attempt. Sony Pal, which is almost like a full-fledged GEC, wasn’t very successful. We’ll see what comes there. There is one school of thought that there are four or five GECs which have established themselves and may be as a GEC there is room for just about this much. The second school of thought is that there is more room. To answer your question, yes we are looking at it, evaluating. We don’t have anything firm at this moment.


Surely, more is in the offing. We hear about an English GEC. Any indicators of the directions you are looking at?

My answer on this one is also similar. I don’t want to say something we’re not yet firm at. Basically, you’ll be seeing more offerings. I can’t share them convincingly till I don’t know them well. But, yes, we’ll continue to deepen and strengthen our presence in the genres we’re playing in.


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