English entertainment forms an interesting segment to observe on Indian television. If the figures of the general entertainment, lifestyle and infotainment channels are seen against corresponding programming, it appears that largely localised programming clicks with the Indian audience, irrespective of genre.
Infotainment seems to deliver better than general entertainment. Three major players in the segment currently are Discovery, National Geographic Channel and AXN. The year 2004 keeps One Alliance’s Discovery high but what is interesting is the growth graph of the bouquet’s AXN. The channel was the clear third player in the segment until week 12. However, it started moving upward since then, emerging as the top channel in the category.
Speaking on what has worked for the channel, Gregory Ho, Vice President, Marketing and Creative Services, SPE, explains, “The shows we launched in April were a good mix of drama series and reality programmes. What we realised that worked for us was the action and adventure shows. With action shows like Alias, which have women in the lead role becoming popular, the female numbers have increased.”
Where at one end, this works for AXN, NGC has a different experience. “NGC's programming is categorised into five broad genres: wild, world cultures, adventure, India, and science. From a ratings perspective the genres that are doing exceptionally well are India and science,” informs Pankaj Krishna, Brand Manager, NGC, India.
The channel has experienced spikes in the weeks 7, 10, 19 and 22. Krishna explains, “Weeks 7 and 10 were a result of the ‘Mission Mars’ promotions and weeks 19 and 22 reflect the success of Seven Deadly Arts with Akshay Kumar.” He explains that the channel has taken a three-pronged approach towards programming with the clear focus to broad base the channel’s appeal.
Says he, “The biggest drive in this effort is the tent-pole strategy, wherein along with the regular schedule, the channel premiers a production of global appeal, every quarter which each region adapts locally. For example ‘Mars: Dead or Alive?’ was re-christened as ‘Mission Mars’ to suit the Indian palette and to re-enforce the mission brand.”
For him, localisation does the trick for the channel, “The success is evident with ‘Mission Mars’ and ‘Seven Deadly Arts with Akshay Kumar’. We began with re-versioning in Hindi and then worked on ensuring a local connect in every communication we undertook. This included interstitials and hosting of global programmes by Indians.”
Localisation is something that has ticked for AXN as well, “The adventure shows also have a cultural bend to it and that works,” says Ho, “AXN extreme was designed on the local lines and promoted aggressively. It helped the channel in increasing sampling and viewers have stayed back. Localisation also works for the youth target.”
Working more on local lines, the channel is presenting another programming initiative, AXN Xtreme: India vs. Pakistan challenge. The activities around the show are scheduled to take place in August 2004 in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Karachi, where four finalists from each country will be selected to represent their respective countries. Ho explains that the show reiterates the channel's belief in content that Indians relate to.
Where localisation is the key for infotainment channels, it also works for the English general entertainment section. STAR World, for instance, has consistency added to Indianised content in its line up and invested in properties like India’s Child Genius. Deepak Segal, Senior VP, Content and Communication, STAR India, expresses, “The Indianised programming has really worked on STAR World. Shows like Rendezvous have thrown in numbers for us. Style and Top Drive are other examples. But at the same time, comedies like Bold and The Beautiful, Friends, Everyone Loves Raymond and programmes like these also are very popular.”
Looking at it in that light, where for AXN it is definitely action and adventure, for NGC, it is India and science, and for a channel like STAR World, comedy and soaps are the best bets. The English entertainment segment sure has different genres working for it. But one thread that largely binds them all is localisation.