Food and lifestyle channel Living Foodz broke even last year and the channel is already scaling up its activities with both on ground and on air properties. Its latest offering is its first tentpole property ‘Femme Foodies’ which claims to be Asia’s first food truck reality TV show, featuring celebrity chef Ranveer Brar. Started on May 22 and conceptualized in-house by Living Foodz, the original series is based on the unique concept of ‘Gourmet on wheels’. Amit Nair, Business Head, Living Foodz tells us more on the marketing initiative for the show, its scale, scope of on ground properties, ad rates and how the genre can do better. Excerpts:
What’s the scale of ‘Femme Foodies’?
It would be on the same scale as ‘Ganga.’ Pre-production started three and a half months back. Shoot took 28 odd days. This was based in one location but it was a new format, that too with outdoor shots, so the risks and variables involved in it were as unpredictable as ‘Ganga’. Therefore, the budgets were similar.
What were the marketing initiatives for this new show?
Since the show is unique it deserved a different marketing plan. We tied up with 100+ CCD outlets across the country, all premium ones. We did a print version on Monday (May 22). We did a lot of marketing on TV especially on Zee Cafe and Zee Studio, which has a similar TG. We had shot a music video for the show which helped us create a lot of positive buzz. We partnered with Zee Music on that and premiered it on their YouTube channel. It had garnered 1.6 million views (the last time I checked). All of that has driven good perception for the show.
What’s the marketing budget?
We have a plan of spending about 50 per cent of our budget on three/four major tentpoles produced every year. ‘Femme Foodies’ is the first one for this year.
Are you planning to hike your ad rates?
We are looking to increase ad rates possibly after the HD launch. We will possibly offer a combined or separated rate. But it isn’t clear yet.
How has the content strategy evolved over the last two years?
Across the board people have realised that localisation is the key which is going to drive viewership and advertisers’ interests as well. We realised this much before and have been steady. Now a lot of channels in the factual and lifestyle space like Discovery, Epic and Fox are following the same route.
We have three buckets around which we make shows. First are the two/three mega shows done across the year. Then we have these lifestyle shows which are a combination of food and travel which we did last year like ‘Pickle Nation’. We have another category called premium instructional shows in afternoons where the art of cooking is focused on more than eating. Last year we did ‘Northern Flavours’ which had good ratings. Next season is expected in the second week of June. That helps us to cushion our afternoon timeband and we have another primetime in the evening offering new ideas and formats. So that's how we look at programming.
What are your streams of revenue? What are the future streams you are looking at?
Our shows are syndicated to international territories. So they are also run by Zee channels in the UK and US. We are sold via syndication to various other networks as well. So that's also a strong revenue source which contributes to 8-10 per cent. Branded content forms about 10 to 15 per cent.
We have three on ground properties, Living Foodz Powerlist Awards, Epicurean Guild Awards and Food Fiesta. It is one of our marketing strategies but we are also looking at them as a revenue spinner in the coming years. We want to build them not only from marketing point of view but also looking at close associations with advertisers who will get great traction from it. We will be looking for sponsors for Epicurean Guild Awards but only if they match the kind of revenues that we are looking for. We don't want to sell it cheap. We want to establish these properties and make them big.
How is it going on the digital front?
It has been slightly slower. We are looking at a bigger play in the digital space with a revised version of livingfoodz.com in the next three/four months. We will be roping in advertiser for the site. We are looking at various ideas within that space whether it's original content for both flat and video.
Social media is one of the key platforms where we engage with our audience and we spend a significant amount of our marketing money on that. We have seen very good growth on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also there is a lot of traction from OTT platform Ditto, quite unexpected for something like this.
When are you planning to launch the channel in HD?
We are looking at it possibly in July or August. Permissions are in place but we are waiting for certain things. We want to add certain original content. We are looking at newer shows and acquired content. We want to work on certain timebands. In HD we want to add a layer of premium to it. We don't want it to be a mirror channel.
Do you think marketing plays a significant role for a genre like this?
Shows take about 50 odd percent of marketing. We do a lot of tie ups with on ground properties like Palate Festival in Delhi and Kala Ghoda in Mumbai that we did last year. They have given us great traction and built positive word of mouth (buzz) because that’s the kind of audience who watches our channel. We sponsored Goafest this year. We wish to be seen at places where decision makers are there whether it's the viewers or even the advertising fraternity.
What are the challenges? How can the genre be improved from viewership and advertisement perspective?
We are still under Rs100 crore. But there is a lot of interest from advertisers to advertise on niche channels. It will depend on channels like us to push up the ad rates. The international channels that have been around for a long time haven't done anything as far as content is concerned to push the viewership pie and advertising revenue. When we launched we took a 25 per cent hike compared to others in ad rates. We faced difficulty in the first three/four months as we faced pushback from advertisers. Then we found supporters.
From the content point of view there are challenges to keep on innovating.
But, we are seeing a renewed interest in the genre with new players coming in like FYI which is at number three right now. So with more players coming in and offering local content, it will definitely help in growing the viewership base of this genre.
What are the future plans?
Season two of shows ‘Pickle Nation’ and ‘Northern Flavours’ are expected. We are planning two tentpole shows around September and December. In September we are looking at reality as a format and the one in December is more on large-format travel.
We will continue year two of our on ground activities with Powerlist Awards somewhere in August and Epicurean Guild Awards in January 2018 on a larger scale. Partnerships will continue to happen as and when.