Epic channel will be launched on November 19, 2014. exchange4media was the first to report about the channel getting the MIB nod (MIB signals end of Epic wait) and the tentative launch at the end of the year. The channel has now announced that it will be available on all DTH platforms as well as digital cable platforms and IndiaCast is going to be their distribution agents.
Speaking to us about the launch and the channel’s plans Mahesh Samat, Managing Director, Epic Television Network said, “We are trying to provide an alternative to entertainment. In India I think there will always be a big market for soaps, which is great, but there are lot of people who don’t watch soaps. For a large part of urban India, this channel is an alternative now. We are trying to create an alternative place and create our identity in the space of entertainment.”
On how the channel is being positioned, Samat said it was more of a segmented Hindi entertainment channel that could not be compared with either a Hindi GEC or a niche channel, but something in between the two and hence not in competition with either. “If I give people an idea of index, GECs are 100 and niche is 1, then Epic TV should be around 20 to 30 in terms of the size that we can reach,” he said. The channel also expects to reach 50 million households in three to six months’ time.
The core target audience is Male/Female 24-44 years and the channel is not restricting its audience, hoping to get a broad range of people onto the channel. The channel also does not want any gender slant to its content, catering to both. “We are specific in the content, so the genre is what makes us different. The appeal is more universal. In this genre you may not watch it all the time. So I want occasion-based genre tended viewership,” Samat added.
The channel is looking to adopt a revenue model of advertising, subscription and syndication. They are looking to drive the syndication of their content across the world. The channel is also looking beyond syndication of content in the conventional countries (SAARC regions) to unconventional geographies. Samat says that this is because there are other countries that are interested in content, which is about the history of India.
Epic will begin with a repertoire of 13 to 15 shows, out of which 10 will be highlighted during the launch, besides weekend movies. The programming will primarily be weekly with repeat telecasts over the weekend. Part of the fiction line up includes Dariba Diaries, Dharmakshetra, Siyaasat and Daanav Hunters that will be based on various mythological and historical stories. In the non-fiction shows they have called Ekanth, which explores abandoned forts and monuments; a show on the history of food, another on the true stories of Indian spies and the last on the myths and legends in India. Also included are two comedies, one of which stars Javed Jaffrey and is a satire on old films. Commenting on the shows Samat said, “Through a better appreciation of history we become a better society. That is the logic eventually but you cannot fry people’s minds. You have to be entertaining and do it in a way that captures their attention. We have to get people involved in it, it is not easy. So a lot of production houses have worked really hard because our standards were very high in terms of making the content captivating.”
Most of the shows on the channel are finite shows with around 20 odd episodes for some. The channel also announced that the first season of shooting for all the shows are complete and depending on the success of the shows they will be coming out with the next season.
With regards to the heavy investment involved in the content for the channel Samat said, “It is not so much expense as effort that has gone in. I agree about the costs being high, but if you look at show like Ekanth, it is not expensive, but very well thought through. If you go to a location for a shoot, you have to think through a shoot in way there is depth. So there are some shows which are expensive by the nature of what they are, there are some shows that require more effort.”
Though there are no brands on board yet, the channel said discussions with advertisers are on and given the broad audience base, brands are likely to find value in the association. The channel also looks to market itself heavily on the digital front, as it is keen to be perceived as a new-age channel that is doing a contemporary take on mythology. The promo for the channel received 1.2 million hits.
When asked whether the delay in the launch of the channel had pushed up the investment and how long before they can expect to break even, Samat said, “The delay overall is not great from an overall financial stand point. But I think everyone is optimistic about the future and we are trying to see how we can launch and come to a conclusion about the financials. I have got the support of all the investors and the entire ecosystem of the creative and the production departments. Everyone knows our intent and we are getting amazing support. Our promoters - Rohit Khattar, who is a close associate of Anand Mahindra, has been closely involved with and been very supportive about the channel. Then of course there is Mukesh Ambani. So they all have been supportive.”
Dynamite, an advertising agency, currently runs the creative duties for the channel. However, the channel also has an internal team, which is working on the promotion activities for the channel.