If general entertainment channels are the mass breadwinners or household names for a broadcasting network, special interest channels are the fringe embellishments without which the bouquet offering is incomplete. Observing from a pan-India platform, one may wonder if urban and youth markets deserve the amount of effort, research and investment that is required to fuel their constant need for innovation. However, the bottom line is, these niche channels are propelling a network’s popularity beyond their flagship GECs among media circles as per the Pitch Brandometer Study 2010 (an exercise to gauge the media planners’/ buyers’ perception of the media brands), where POGO performed better than mass audience channels across genres. The year 2010 has set the tone for super specialisation, as players enter special interest genres in a rush not to get left behind.
Music-Youth Genre: Thin Line fades to a blur…
Bindass began the year by launching their brand campaign ‘What I Am’ in February. Channel [v], Star Network’s music channel, followed suit by restricting the programming mix with a focus on music content, but by mid-year, gave in to the lure of non-fiction by launching ‘Roomies’. Viacom18’s MTV continued to swear by the non-fiction reality show format through the year, while simultaneously investing in building the brand with dedicated resources pumped into social media. As the year progressed, MTV, feeling the heat from UTV’s Bindaas, launched a comprehensive campaign in December titled ‘Stay Raw’, under which it revised the programming mix and brand image to better connect with the effervescent and critical youth audience target group.
Even as these three channels battled it out, the music genre rolled out some surprises as the ratings charts showed a phenomenal growth by channels that consciously remained purely music based in content such as Sri Adhikari Brother’s Mastiii, which launched in July as a music-comedy channel and soon shot to the top. During this period, Fox International launched a group of seven channels, of which NG Music was in the music space. Noteworthy innovations by existing players included those by 9XM, which introduced a special 9XM anthem for the FIFA World Cup and then further integrated it with Waka Waka, the official FIFA anthem. 9XM also introduced a series of initiatives and contests around forthcoming Bollywood movies and introduced two new animated characters – Falli and Balli – in addition to their popular characters, Bade Chote and Bheegi Billi. MSM had announced their plans of entering the music genre by mid-December, which will now be realised in 2011.
And yet, the high popularity and continued seasons of reality shows such as ‘Roadies’ on MTV and ‘Emotional Atyachar’ on Bindass and Channel [v]’s ‘Dare to Date’ makes one wonder what the youth really wants.
Meanwhile, in Sports…
Needless to say, IPL Season 3 proved to be the single most effective cash crop for 2010 in terms of ad revenues as well as record scorings (up to 12.9 TVR for six metros for the final match) on the ratings board as a programming module for MAX, uplifting it to genre leadership position by April. MAX also secured the rights for ICC T20 World Cup in May, which gained an approving nod from media planners.
English movie channels combated the season by beefing up their content offering before and after the match movies as done by Star Movies, which launched ‘Super Star League’ (SSL). Similarly, PIX came up with the ‘PIX Premier League’ (PPL), while ‘Hollywood Premier League’ (HPL) was HBO’s answer to the IPL mania, coupled with a series of innovations around HPL such as the HPL Scoreboard and HPL Googly.
Other cricketing events of the year included the lukewarm India-South Africa series and the Asia Cup aired by Neo Cricket and the India-Australia series in October. The Micromax Cup was aired by Ten Sports and the Champions League T20, for which ESPN refreshed its positioning. The year closed with Ten Sports garnering advance booking of up to Rs 130 crore for the India-South Africa tour starting December 16, which further reiterated the faith placed by advertisers in cricketing ventures.
Even though events like the Hockey World Cup broadcast by Ten Sports and the Delhi Commonwealth Games on Doordarshan were also part of the 2010 sports kit, not much enthusiasm was seen either from advertisers or media planners.
As a genre, sports channels held their own. Instances such as Broadcast24 adding a dedicated sports news channel, Sports24, to its kitty in May is proof enough that there is no dearth of content in relation to sports news. As per Pitch’s Brandometer, Neo Cricket scored a 710, ranking number two on preference list for media planners and buyers.
No Kidding: Kids’ channels are media favourites
In the kids’ entertainment space, channels like Nickelodeon from Viacom18 and Cartoon Network, part of the Turner Group, have individually entered into many strategic partnerships to enhance their brand offerings.
In June, Nickelodeon rebranded its identity with a new global logo to unify the group’s brands across networks and even ventured into the Tamil and Telugu markets with South versions of two shows – ‘Artzooka’ and ‘Dreamkix’. The channel boasts of over 300 brands advertising with them and had announced plans to hike up ad rates by October. A special focus area was their ‘Back To School’ campaign and increased efforts in the retail segment.
Sun Network and Walt Disney came together in April for channel distribution, which included all Disney channels that were earlier distributed by Star Den. In October, Cartoon Network joined hands with Perfetti Van Melle for in-animation brand integration for Center Fruit into an animated feature movie called ‘Balla Bowl’, co-produced by Turner. Cartoon Network also ventured into the online gaming sphere, driven by its most watched show ‘Ben 10’ by launching ‘Ben 10 Omniverse: Rise of Heroes’ in September, touted as the very first multiplayer online game. POGO launched M.A.D. Creations Art curriculum books in December as an extension to its popular arts and crafts show ‘M.A.D’.
Channel heads in this space are aware of being up against the mass GE space and have expressed the growing importance of marking their presence in the online and retail mediums. Two of Turner’s channels, POGO (No. 1 spot with 722 points) and Cartoon Network (No. 3 spot with 701 points), Nickelodeon (overall 7th spot) and Hungama TV (overall 13th spot) have emerged as favourites among media spenders as per the Pitch Brandometer report 2010 in the special interest genre.
English Entertainment: Everyone wants a piece of the pie…
At the start of the year in 2010, Star World saw internal shuffling with Keertan Adyanthaya moving from heading Star Plus to taking over the English channels of STAR India. Programming changes in Star World and strategic tie-ups with Fox and Disney helped the GEC and movies to maintain leadership in the English space.
Zee refreshed its English channels – Zee Café and Zee Studio – in October by giving the channels new logos and having simultaneous telecast of international reality shows. With CBS entering this space with three new channels – Big CBS Prime (English GEC), Big CBS Spark (Youth channel) and Big CBS Love (channel focussed on women) – the English urban viewer is no longer falling short of options. This meant existing players such as AXN and Zee’s English channels had to offer new incentives in terms of better content and programming to retain their viewers.
Sony PIX, the English movie channel from Multi Screen Media, made a smart move in 2010 by tying up with Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the English movies genre, Times Television Network launched their English movies channel, Movies Now, in December positioning it as a movie library channel for the urban audience. With such key developments, 2011 promises to see much more activity in this genre.