Bindass Play which was launched in October 2014 is two months away from completing a year. The channel which replaced UTV Stars has grown by over 65% in terms of ad revenue in the short span since its inception. An extension of the Disney brand Bindass in the music space, the channel is now looking to explore other avenues to earn revenue. Most of the plans are still in the pipeline and will be revealed after its completion of a year in October. In regards to the channel’s growth during the year and its future plans, we spoke with Nikhil Gandhi, VP and Head of Revenue, Disney India and Vijay Subramanium, VP and Head – Content and Communication, Disney India.
Excerpts of the interview:
How much has Bindass Play grown since its inception last year?
Gandhi: Bindass Play hit the high ranks from the time it launched. It was in the top slot right through October till now in TAM and even in BARC it continues to remain in the top position as far as music channels are concerned. There are two or three things that work for us. One is the engagement with the audiences at a show level which were integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Selfie Walla show and the voice messaging service. Secondly, the environment and packaging around it, along with the content we had on the channel drew a very strong loyal base of audiences. In doing that in one year of its launch it has been a phenomenal boost for business overall. In terms of absolute numbers we have grown by 65% over the last year. That is from an ad sales perspective. From a distribution perspective it has given us a good reach because of the wide connectivity and distribution that it has available on all the DTH platforms and all the MSOs on the ground. We are expanding its base into other territories as we speak.
How has content contributed to the growth of the channel?
Subramanium: Bindass was moving into storytelling and we felt that there was a great opportunity to serve our audiences with music which is a staple diet for young people. Except that it will be different as we will serve it through the philosophy of Bindass. That was how Bindass was created. Young people turn to music for every mood, whether they are happy or sad. That is one thing we wanted to tap into. We wanted Bindass to be a friend to the young viewer. We took these aspects and embedded it into our content on Bindass Play. So while the foundation of Bindass Play is music, the way we deliver it is very inspiring, empowering and optimistic. We are the only channel with four shows that are accessible through social media. We put access points through Facebook, Twitter, SMS and also the Selfie Walla show. We created an app for Bindass Play which allows you to access these shows from the comfort of your mobile phones. All these ingredients have come together very well.
Has BARC made a difference to the Bindass channels?
Gandhi: What is good is that many of the equations for many of the other channels has changed as far as BARC is concerned, but both Bindass and Bindass Play continue to remain in that top position. So here the content is calling the shots as far as the ratings are concerned. Earlier it was also to a large extent distribution. The numbers also did very well for us, in terms of the engagement we created with brand advertisers. We had a lot of brands which had come on board at the inception stage as partners. Today our brand count has gone up by almost 100%. I think from an overall perspective we are right now up there in the 15-21 age bracket space -- that is the audience we cater to. What we also did at the right time was to launch the app. That along with what we did on the content side really helped putting all the pieces together. Five months down the line we also interspersed very interesting short formats on the channel. Bollywood Republic is one kind of show that we brought in which gave you a different feel of Bollywood. It is available across the country in different formats.
Which are the brand categories that have contributed to Bindass Play’s growth?
Gandhi: Typical to all the youth categories most of the brands that youth lap up have come on board. In fact, we have gone a little further to look at even the new categories that have developed from e-commerce to auto. Interestingly, BARC has given us a new dimension to the whole Bollywood consumption in the Indian space. Like other Bollywood channels, Bollywood Republic is not just restricted to viewers aged 15 to 21. Bollywood cuts across all age groups. Predominantly it has been classified by a lot of the commercial trade as a youth channel but everybody, whether a 25+ or 15 year old or even a 4 year old, all consume a lot of Bollywood music in different formats. There are early signs of the different audience sets moving, but because the entire populace in not represented fairly, I am still waiting to see how we can look at growth of business over the next couple of years.
In the BARC ratings, Bindass Play is not among the top three players in the genre, so what is its position currently?
Gandhi: BARC is reporting (C&S) 4+. It is impossible to have a 4+ rating on all the channels. It just doesn’t make any sense. So if channels cater to a specific audience set you need to go after that set. I am just going into the 15-21 years bracket. HSM is our play area and that is where we are doing extremely well. Gone are the days when the age old channels were there in the top zone. We are ruling the roost. In time we will see a new evolution of the expansion of the audience set.
How much have ad rates of Bindass Play increased?
Gandhi: They are the highest in the music genre space. It increased by 100% since we started Bindass Play. Today we are a must do for any music plan that happens. We come at a premium price on the back of the brand and on the back of performance and that gives us a good advantage.
What are your future plans for Bindass Play in terms of revenue generation?
Gandhi: In terms of the pure monetisation of the channel per say, we have more headroom to grow which I think we will achieve in this year. I don’t see any challenge to that. We are also looking at the expansion of the audience set. Next is what we do beyond just the channel. There are many opportunities we believe in, in the branded content space, events space, tie-ups space and the movie tie-ups space. We are going to focus on and create alternate sources of revenue and add it back to the business. These are very exciting, though nascent at the moment, but we believe that with a lot of IP creation (for example what we did with Bollywood Republic), we can do a lot of things similarly with other brands. We are currently in talks with at least four or five of them and in the next year, (starting October) you will see a huge uplift of brand solutions and branded content solutions coming from Bindass Play.
Do you see any short term pains on the distribution front with the ending of the distribution deal with IndiaCast?
Gandhi: I don’t see any problem for us. I think we have a formidable network as compared to the other networks which went apart on their own. With two movie channels, two leading youth brands, and a top kids’ network in the business, I don’t foresee a problem. We have a very strong relation with all the MSOs. We have long terms deals already locked in with the DTH players.
What are the programming changes that you will look to make for the future?
Subramanium: We are looking to make a second edition of Bollywood Republic. We are planning two more shows that will have a huge amount of interactivity built in and by this I mean social integrations and looking to enhance the Selfie Walla show to take it to the next level. The other thing we are doing is the animated characters that we launched to give a flavour of Bindass Play even while you are consuming the core of our promise which is music. We are looking to enhance them significantly in terms of a mini-series on air.
Are you looking at expansion on the regional front?
Subramanium: It is early for me to divulge, but I wouldn’t restrict it to Bindass Play; Bindass as a brand has great potential and is very clearly the preferred destination for young adults in the Hindi speaking masses and we do believe that Bindass has the potential to tap into different parts of the country as well. At the right time we will definitely explore those.