Over the last few years, Indian television has witnessed the springing up of niche channels and, interestingly, success seems to be meeting them at every step. The History Channel had set aside a sum of Rs 25 crore at the time of launch in India. The investment seems justified as the channel is garnering at least 15 per cent global viewership and revenue from this region. The examples of successful niche channels on Indian television are many – to name a few, there are Discovery, National Geographic, Pogo, Cartoon Network and AXN.
However, if there is a void of any sorts, there are others joining the segment – be it a colourful Hungama, a new lifestyle channel from the Discovery platter, the recently launched Zoom and let’s not forget the animation major Disney. But the key question remains as how much is too much? What can be termed as the optimum limit for the niche space, especially when there are advertisers that still swear by the numbers offered by mainstream soaps like ‘Kahaani’ and ‘Kyunki’, regardless of the clutter factor.
Says PRP Nair, Vice President, RK Swamy/BBDO, “Everything in the communication business depends on frequency and the recall factor. When you buy spots within a popular soap (say, a Kyunki or Kahaani), you find your space along with everyone else. In the kind of clutter that’s seen on mainstream channels, especially during prime time, it’s difficult for brands to make a mark. Yet, these spots are not easy on the pocket. Buying media on niche channels is a much cheaper process. The bottom-line is that you are noticed, that’s the most important aspect.”
Nair adds, “You can ascribe the same reason to advertisers buying media in chunks on news channels, music channels, and movie channels. It’s easier on the pocket, offers more frequency and greater recall, makes a lot of business sense, and offers plenty of value for money.”
Hiren Pandit, GM, Mindshare, asserts, “Honestly, niche players have plenty of potential in the current day, and if it hadn’t make perfect business sense, you wouldn’t have so many of them opening shop. There are brands that are looking for focused audiences, such as lifestyle-oriented brands, apparel brands and cosmetic commodities. They are not looking merely at numbers, but at the ‘right numbers.’ The same apply to print as well. A Cosmopolitan or Verve is targeted at niche audiences, and yet, they enjoy plenty of advertiser support. And, in spite of a number of niche publications coming on the scene, the slot is not yet saturated.”
Harish Shriyan, Vice President, Mediacom, however, has a different viewpoint. “Niche channels provide the perfect supplement to the already existing kitty of soaps, game shows and movies. But it can never go beyond the supplement factor. The fact is that mainstream channels like Star and Zee are must haves; you simply cannot do without them. So any question of ad revenue moving on from mass channels to niche channels is completely irrelevant as the former provides the relevant numbers. As for the niche category getting saturated or overcrowded, I firmly believe that the slot can grow way more. Only with new players entering the scene and competition growing manifold, will niche channels account for a considerable portion of the advertiser’s media plan,” Shriyan offers his views.
“If you look at kids’ entertainment, the category has grown with players like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon entering the scene. And it continues to grow with Hungama and Disney getting on board. Marketers are looking at kids’ entertainment in a big way, thanks to the efforts of the already existing players and the scene is set to evolve to the next level with more players coming in. Kids’ entertainment in India has the potential to attract at least Rs 500-600 crore of advertising revenue,” he adds.
Much like the employment scenario in India, where an era of specialisation has already set in, a specialisation of different sorts is taking place on the television scene. If you are interested in history, horse racing or gardening, these might soon be available on a whole range of specialist channels eyeing the Indian market. And as more and more players explore the domain, the advertising scenario will be set for a rapid change. Focused audience is bound to be the mantra for the new-age television.