ETC Networks claims that it is the only second broadcasting network to achieve a breakeven within the first year of operations. Under ETC Networks Ltd, the two channels – etc Music and etc Punjabi have created a prime band presence in large percent of cable and satellite homes across the country (more so in the Hindi speaking markets) and boast of a viewership of more then 20 million. Events is what ETC is banking on, more so when it deals with upcoming talent of the likes of Kailash Kher and Mika Hassan. The network states that it has as many as 25 events lined up for 2005, with the more recent ones in January–February 2005 dedicated to Hariharan, Mika Hassan and Shankar Mahadevan. For the current year 2004, there have been more than 15 events.
Says Ashutosh, Business Head, ETC, “The onus is on music channels to bring in upcoming talent and provide a platform for their efforts. Events are not just a commercial proposition, these also add greatly to the talent pool in addition to providing a support system for social causes. One such instance is of ‘Sarhadon Ki Jugalbandi’, which was anchored by musician Durga Jasraj from India and Fakhr e Alam from Pakistan. It included names like Kailash Kher, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s nephew Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and popular Pakistani band Fuzon in addition to the desi band Indian Ocean. In 2005, we plan to have more of such events – around 25 in number and these would be all high-mileage occasions which would bring in ample returns – both monetarily and otherwise.”
On how ETC is performing in terms of revenue, he says, “ETC derives the bulk of its viewership from Hindi speaking markets of the north. We believe that we hold the top one position if you map the performance of music channels in all these markets for the first six months. A large part of our advertiser-base consists of producers of Bollywood films, who choose to advertise on our channel because of the skew towards the masses and films. Plus, we have names like HLL, P&G, Godrej, Idea, Marico, Coca-Cola and Britannia advertising with us. By the end of this financial year, we are anticipating a minimum growth of 30 per cent in terms of revenue, if not more.”
Is ETC planning to compromise on its programming anytime and take on non-music formats? Ashutosh asserts, “We are 95 per cent music, everything else is secondary. The fact remains that Bollywood music is our core proposition and the fact is unlikely to change. Can you honestly include a show such as MTV Bakra within the music genre? For a music channel, when it delves in programming efforts such as soaps or sitcoms, it is like moving away from the core proposition of music. Even if we include efforts such as these (since the future is hard to predict), it goes without saying that music will still dominate the proceedings and the mix just wouldn’t change.”
Essentially speaking, what is ETC’s target audience? He answers, “I believe that we address all SECs of the Indian populous. In any case, it’s a flawed perception that only one category of viewers can relate with a particular property or a channel. If you examine the days when STAR had primarily English programming, everyone naturally assumed that it was skewed towards upper SEC A and therefore that the numbers would display be the same. However, the numbers spoke differently. In spite of Zee consisting of Hindi programming, it derived greater numbers from SEC A.”
What’s it like competing with sister channel Zee music? Ashutosh explains, “Honestly, our programming is nothing like Zee Music. We look and sound extremely different from them. And I think that competition ought to be there in every area – be it from a sister channel or any other. The music market is expanding by the day, and there’s enough for 10 more players. We are doing well for ourselves, irrespective of the competition.”
Evidently, ETC has a secure footing in the music market today, and it plans to enhance this further by taking on more of events and outdoor activities. A 30 per cent growth at the bare minimum is the figure being anticipated by the channel by the end of this financial year.