Rising to the Top with Nick, now Colors

06 Mar,2020

Nina Elavia Jaipuria, Colors, Nick, Viacom18

 

In September 2018, when Viacom18 announced that Nina Elavia Jaipuria was going to Head, Hindi Mass Entertainment in addition to the Kids TV Network which she was already spearheading, there was an element of surprise and anticipation. Surprise, because she was doing a great job in a hypercompetitive space like kids, so why burden her with more, and anticipation because we did know that she has done her bit with GECs at Sony and is no stranger to the genre and that she could do it. Almost in superquick time, Colors has delivered – and not just with non-fiction, but also with fiction. We took a while to do this freewheeling interview, but now that we fixed a time, we took the opportunity to get up, close and personal. Note: the interview was conducted on February 24 and after that two weeks of BARC data have been released. Excerpts from the interview of Nina Elavia Jaipuria with Pradyuman Maheshwari.

 

 

You are sitting in the same place when you were only handling the kids cluster… haven’t changed your office?!

Yes, very much. Some things don’t change. Some things that worked don’t need fixing. Very happy where I am and it’s been a fantastic ride. Moving from kids to adults.

 

And you’ve done that earlier.

Yes, back to adults. My media journey actually started with Sony Entertainment. My first show there was Jassi, if you remember.

 

Yes, it was quite the rage.

And then the first Indian Idol in Sony. I also did the first Khatron Ke Khiladi and Jhalak Dikhla Ja. I also did the first Bigg Boss. All of them were at Sony. Now of course they are all in this building which is a happy space to be. But having said that, I think I am grateful to the organisation to have found me capable. This is my 14th year by the way. Thirteen is a lucky number for me because when I got this it was 13 years in Viacom.

 

You were with Viacom before it became Viacom 18.

Yeah, my appointment letter was from MTV Networks and precisely one year later, we became Viacom 18.

 

This was a question that I have been wanting to ask you ever since it was announced you were taking charge of Colors. So, is Colors kidstuff or a lot, lot more?

I think all target audiences are now getting savvier. It’s important to understand the consumer and I think that it’s a very important part of what we do to make sure that we are catering to them and their entertainment needs. So, to me, kids is a very dynamic target audience. They are so dynamic that they are challenging with their tiny, mini attention spans. Having said that, in the GEC space, the whole question is how do you continue to get loyalty and stickiness for the channel. You have to keep making sure that you are delivering endearing stories and characters. We are looking at white spaces which keep viewers stick to you and keep giving them their daily dose of entertainment. To me, both businesses are fairly different in nature. Both audiences behave very differently. But at the end of the day, the good thing is that, since we are an entertainment channel we cater to families. I happen to know both of them fairly in detail now… we are a family entertainment network.

 

So how do you switch on and switch off from kids to adults?

See kids has been there for long. It’s like I said, 13 long years of Viacom 18 with the kids’ business. When I took it up we were really the number last channel and we came up the ladder and over took Disney and Turner. Nick has been rated the No 1 channel now for six years in a row.

 

Hmm.

We have really built that business. I remember there was this time in the organisation when there was a conversation which was like you are the No 1 channel but not the No 1 network. Now of course we are the No 1 network as well because now we have 34% of market share. It’s a long journey from where we started and where we are today with 21% Nick and 10% with Sonic. And Nick Junior is doing very well as well. From that perspective, the journey was very fulfilling, very gratifying in that sense because we built business models that weren’t built in this country until late. We started creating IPs on our own and which are created by Viacom 18. We have actually done eight IPs in eight years. Having said that, in my daily business now, both come very naturally to me. My foundation media was GEC, so that can’t change. The solid foundation that you have, takes you to where you have to belong.

 

But the fact that you have to stay on top itself is important. There are other biggies out there who are fighting to get there. So sustaining No 1 status is also a challenge…

That is always the case. To get there is easier than to sustain it. It has been a big challenge for us at Nick and we have managed it so far. But we keep thinking that somebody is going to topple us at some point and we want to stay ahead of the curve. But it’s also about being in the business which is very cyclical. It’s also about being in the business where you have a tempo that will take you somewhere and then it’s very hard to sustain and then it takes you up again and takes you down again. But what’s different from the kids perspective is that you hook them on to a character which creates a very big bond and relationship with the viewer. That stickiness and loyalty is much more because the kid wants to come back for that character, to you. Whether it’s Shiva or Motu Patlu or whether it’s Rudra, they want the dose of that character multiple times in a day. So that’s a different business of how you keep on innovating and make sure that you give them content. We made 150 hours of animation content last year for example.

 

And they have been huge successes.

Yes, huge successes. And we put in a huge amount of money. You know how much animation cost is. It’s not cheap. But that is what is keeping our portfolio – the width and depth of our portfolio — very, very robust. That keeps bringing kids, consumers and viewers back to the channel. I think we are actually making sure that at the end of the day we do the same at Colors where we are talking about knowing what the consumer wants. We are about knowing all about the white spaces and innovating. We are about delivering different genres which haven’t been tried before. If you look at our line-up today, the sweet part of this No 1 journey for Colors, at least if I would talk about it is the fact that, it is not purely on the merit of Bigg Boss. To me it is about our fiction which is firing and how!

 

You had a great run doing Nick. So when you took on Colors, didn’t you ever think ‘Gosh, what have I taken up?” It was great going with Nick, and then you had more responsibility…

No, in fact it was challenging. What you had to do was sustain one business at the No 1. What was challenging for me and what was more reassuring for me personally is to say is that if I had turned that around, there is no reason why one couldn’t replicate it. There is no reason why as a team we can’t come together and make sure to break our hands and legs or do something to be back at the top. We proved that. There were lot of exits in the building that we know about them, across lots of functions. Having said that, did anything change where we were driving the business?  Absolutely not. We just made sure we kept the focus on what we wanted to achieve and the good part about the focus was that we made sure that we worked on fiction and non-fiction. We made sure we worked on weekdays and weekend together. That’s why the beauty of the fiction firing for us is so large because from 7pm onwards which is Vidya to Choti Sarrdaarni which is at 7.30 to Shakti to now, Barrister Babu. All of these and I can talk about the first 3 are actually slot-leaders. The fact is we have four fiction shows in the Top 10 of the country. So that is Choti Sarrdaarni, Shakti, Naagin [4] and Barrister Babu which opened at 2 which put us with four shows in the Top 10. Which is absolutely so gratifying and not just from a quantitative perspective but from a qualitatively. We do all-max characters…

 

While all shows are doing very well but in the past we have seen it has been a little cyclical. The Colors story as well had started right on top. When it started out 12 years back. It went up. And it often goes up and down.

It’s true for the entire GEC genre.

 

Unfortunate?

That’s the truth for the category. When you do a tentpole, you hit a certain level. The strategy for us at Colors is try to maintain [the leadership].

 

Perhaps an unfair question to ask: How do you ensure that you replicate Nick longstanding success story with Colors?

See it’s not so easy. It’s not like there is a written formula which says, like here is what I have done in Nick and I should follow what I did at Nick. But I do believe that some bit of the ‘keedapanti’ and the whole thing about wanting to pioneer, innovate and experiment has been the DNA of Viacom18 and I think from Kids I take that to Colors as well. We are trying different things. We are trying to innovate. We are trying to experiment. Look at the genres at what we have launched. Look at Barrister Babu. Unheard of a genre; taking up a social evil. Naati Pinky – a very different, nuanced show, very enduring Pinky. I don’t know if you have seen in the show.

 

I did…

The character is lovely… it grows on you. It’s a very different genre. Experimentation there again. I strongly believe in my personal way of leading the teams has always been team work. Some ways of talking about how as an organisation which is a BU [business unit], we need to deliver and take the business [forward]. No matter whether that is marketing or on-air production, content, research or scheduling. In fact it’s even sales to some extent and if all of us are on the same page, I totally believe we can totally take the business to where it belongs… if we all work outside of our sidedoors and united. So large part of that happened when Colors happened. So of course one is the experimentation, innovation and risk-taking, trying different genres, making sure that… and the fact that we wanted to focus on getting our fiction right. We have tried a lot. You have seen the number of launches we had. You have always to be ready to make sure that not everything is going to be a hit. You will have to take some flops. But in that process we have got Meher going. We have got Naati Pinky going. We have had Barrister Babu getting a great start. Look at what Naagin 4 did. The biggest launch of Hindi GEC in 2019. People are actually waiting for it to come back and saying where is Naagin 4. Imagine viewers are waiting for it. Look what the launch did to us.

 

How does a same person who does responsible entertainment with kids channels do Naagin which is labelled by many as regressive.

Even when I did Nick and I was responsible. I think the onus of what happens in your family is that of the family member and the parents. Entertainment could be us, OTT, Bollywood. It could be anything. Your child can be exposed or the family can be exposed to anything today. The onus of being responsible while lies with us and we are very careful. The buck stops with the family and the parent. Look at what Twilight is. Everybody raves and rants about the western world.

 

Hmm, and Vampire-

That’s what. Vampire and Twilight and all of that. What is all of that? That is fantasy. That’s the genre in which Naagin functions. It’s been an Indianised fantasy compared to that of the world;s and all of that. Having said that, fantasy as a genre has always existed.

 

And…

The fact of the matter is that 90% and more are one-television households.  We always knew that co-viewing is happening.

 

Huge amount.

On both. Kids also. Adults watching kids and kids watching adults. Both ways. Because we know that the remote moves from child to adult at some point of time in the day. We know that all the kids who are watching us and their tailormade content are also passively watching everything else. A lot of reality and impact shows are followed by kids. They love a lot of all of that.

 

True.

It’s huge. There is a lot of fan following to an extent that in our kids research we find shows and characters mentioned which are GEC characters. There is no stopping that in a country like India, where you will continue to have co-viewing. If you ask me, co-viewing is actually benefitting the industry. Because it gives you the opportunity of having that many new platforms to reach out to families as a whole. That gives an opportunity to advertisers as well to reach out to audiences which are not just niche and specific for kids.

 

When you look back at the Colors story since it started 12 years back, it’s a channel that’s experimented a lot. It’s like the name of the show – a Khatron ka khiladi.

Absolutely. But experiment only when required. So you don’t fix what you have broken.

 

That’s right.

At the end of the day if it’s working for you, you build on it. So the trick is for the tenth season of Khatron Ke Khiladi, you build on KKK to say that what is it that I can give this season that I didn’t in the last nine seasons. How can I innovate. But you don’t go looking for another format when you know that KKK was the biggest non-fiction show of 2019. So what you do is get a twist in the tale and say we have not tried Bulgaria so far, for example. The fact that Bulgaria had its own challenges. To overcome those challenges, you actually ended up innovating, experimenting with tasks, experimenting with all the drills that you did there. The freshness comes from Bulgaria. The freshness comes from Rohit Shetty getting even more excited this year because he knew he delivered the No 1 non-fiction show last year and he himself wanted to this bigger, larger than life.

 

And curated some of his own tasks.

Yeah. Like, I don’t think KKK has ever done a moving train stunt before.

 

I saw that.

Plus we have done an aerial stunt with the chopper. That’s new. The fact that the newness comes from the kind of mix of contestants that you have. It’s a fairly eclectic mix…

 

Are you worried about the ratings which come out every Thursday?

I’m never worried. I think life in media is not to be worried every Thursday or whenever you give an exam and you wait for the results. But to be worried is a wrong thing to say. Having said that we know that the [Bigg Boss] season has delivered. So to me, it has been a blockbuster. The only anxiety of course has been of saying that post Big Boss, what? I am telling you that we have started that work long before while we were enjoying the success of Big Boss, all of us here were more worried about what life after Big Boss. The fact of the matter is that our fiction has fired so well that we are not so worried about losing Big Boss on the weekday – Monday to Friday because we know we have four fiction shows in the Top 10.

 

Finally fiction is what drives a GEC.   

It’s the bread and butter. You can’t do without daily dal roti and vegetables, right?

 

You spoke about thinking of what you will do after Big Boss. How much do you get actively involved with the content mix, etc?

See the content team is running with decisions that we as a team you use sounding boards to figure out what is going to work and not going to work. Should we try or not. For example, the content team was just talking about how do we continue with this Big Boss phenomena. How do we make sure this popularity we are able to deliver it. That’s when they came up with this whole thing about why not take Shehnaz and Paras into a new show. It was a matter of days and weeks of let’s try this new show. Let’s try and pull it off and see, take Shehnaz and Paras who were so popular in the Big Boss into a sequel. It was a decision that we altogether took. It would help us to sustain, to continue the Big Boss popularity. The fact that people are in love with Shehnaz may want to come back and see her and continue with the loyal audience for Bigg Boss to make sure that we don’t drop the eyeballs. So I don’t involve myself in the day to day content in terms of stories and arcs and all of that. But we do follow the fact that there was a Shakti leap to happen. We were all talking about should we, should we not. We said we have to. There is no other way. We have to do when Big Boss is on. All these decisions are cohesive in nature and taken together in that sense.

 

Colors is the flagship channel in terms of revenues for the group.

Absolutely.

 

So the responsibility is huge!?

Very huge. In fact it can be nerve-wrecking. You know everybody’s future in this organisation depends on whether Colors makes it to the top or not. It couldn’t have happened at a better time than a time when there is a slowdown. There is a sluggishness in the economy. But having said that when you are at a peak at that point of time. There are people who are willing to take a bet with you and willing to put their money where their mouth is because you delivered in a period that has actually been very hard. I think it could have come at no better time than to help our top line actually surge ahead with the kind of response we got for Bigg Boss. Even in a year like this it has been a profitable show. Even when we extended it, almost 70-80% of the sponsors that came to the original, came back to us on the extension which is how much they believed in the property. Which is how much they believed in the channel. So to me, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The fact that it is now helping us at a top line level. The fact is that some of the pieces worked for us…

 

How is the sales process looking? You have a new sales head.

He’s not new anymore. He has completed nine months and he has delivered. And he’s delivering.

 

It’s been a horrible year for sales overall in the industry

But like I said to you, when you have a winning property on hand. Whether it’s a fiction show that has worked for you and now it’s in the Top 10. Or whether it’s the winning property like KKK perspective or a Bigg Boss which has never seen a season like this before. There are brands who are willing to put their money where their mouth is… they know that a winning property is going to bring them a greater ROI than one which is not been tried and tested before.

 

All in all, achche din for you. But any reasons for sleepless nights, if at all.

See, the media is all about being very dynamic. It’s all about change. We are constantly on the treadmill. Every single week-on-week is a number that you need to make sure that you have to be delivering enough and more content so that viewers don’t run away from you. So there is no saying that I am going to sit back and relax and now enjoy. Like I said, before Bigg Boss was going to the finale, we were thinking about how do we sustain. That continues. We are constantly on the look out to maintain great storytelling. We have got to maintain endearing characters. We have got to maintain the newness and innovation which will keep getting our viewers back. So in fact we are already thinking about how do we tie IPL for example. What is going to happen during the IPL. What is going to happen after IPL when the viewers come back.

 

IPL does impact

IPL has always been eating into GEC eyeballs. It’s not just Colors. It’s the category.

 

And the extra emphasis on promoting it.

Yes, absolutely. It is bound to eat up into the category. No two ways about it. Having said that we have also gone through many IPL cycles now and all of us have survived and there is no reason why we should not. We should ensure that we plan for it. You know exactly what your strategy is going to be on weekday, weekends… on the matches where there are some teams that are very specifically watched and create a nuisance for you. But currently we are best placed for this challenge because we have about 144 million viewers every week on Colors. They are watching almost over 200 minutes of us. Now even if we lose, how much would we lose. That’s also because our fiction is firing. Bigg Boss has given way to KKK, it has given way to Naagin. There is enough and more in the channel to come back for and of course we are giving them Shehnaz as well.

 

By the time IPL starts, some of these shows starting now would’ve matured.

They only grow. Like I said, Pinky is growing on you as a character she is really for me personally I thought that show is very different. Because it is talking about a woman who is so challenged but yet she is so positive. It has a bit of comic twist to it which is different from the new ones. The character really grows on you. Similarly, Barrister Babu is talking about social evil but at the same time giving you so much entertainment and drama that it’s not a show that you will not watch. You will keep wondering what’s going to happen to this lovely girl who is eventually going to be the First Barrister Babu in her region. So it’s a lovely endearing story about a relationship between a man and a girl. It’s beautiful according to me.

 

I have seen the promos.

Lovely promos. Even the promos were looking lovely. It took us a long time to figure out the strategy of promoting that show and how we should promote it. It should not become like another Balika Vadhu that we are talking. We had that risk of going there. We said that we had to make sure of the strategy that we follow, and make sure that we get that promotion right as well. That’s why the great opening. Top 10 on the first week.

 

Back to Nick… the big season for the kids channels coming up in the summer.

Yes and we are ready with our ninth IP, by the way.

 

Ninth?

That’s our 9th … I’m not going to reveal more.

 

Is it a film thing, or your own IP.

Own IP. Can’t keep doing film. We are really looking forward to this. Again a completely new genre. A white space we have not done before. Even the category is not done before.

 

So, are you watching more of kids channels or GECs?

(laughs) Look at me. I’m consumed totally. Then to be in touch with all of that, I am also in touch with OTTs. I have my hands full. I have to make sure what viewers are watching. What is the kind of content that is being offered. Not just in television but in OTT space because in my view these two are going to co-exist for a while. Neither is going away. Neither is cannibalising. Neither is threatened by each other. As content makers and storytellers, you better understand the kind of stories that are being told across platforms. Because content to me is going into space which is platform agnostic. Because a lot of what we do on television is lapped up on Voot right. Look at what Bigg Boss did on Voot. 1.5 billion video views. That’s a big number!

 

Yes it is

Sometimes I do believe that content is platform-agnostic as well. And the good part of what we have on Voot, is the fact that there is so much rich data that is now available to us from a viewer standpoint that we can actually use the big data, use the analytics to make sure we help, chisel and curate the content that we go create for. That’s the beauty about having it. That’s why I think that when somebody asks me about what OTT means for a TV broadcaster. Unlike the West in India particularly, the broadcasters are ready with it. They are ahead of the curve. They create their own OTT platform. There is some viewer to be graduated from TV to OTT, we have our own product lying there ready waiting.

 

Except that OTT has different kind of content, more adult stuff.

While we are all say that, there are enough viewers of Choti Sardarni, Naagin and Bigg Boss on OTT and that’s true as well.

 

So what next?

There’s cricket which will go live on Colors Cineplex, VOOT and Jio.

 

We didn’t discuss Colors Cineplex… but will do that on another day. Thank you!

 

 

Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.

Videos