As television audiences in India are evolving in their tastes and content preferences, some genres, such as Infotainment and Lifestyle, are benefitting more than the others. And yet, despite the investments in high-end content and production, or the role that the channels of this genre are playing in taking the television industry to the sophisticated hi-definition route, this genre does not get its due attention.
The key players driving this genre are Discovery Communications owned by Discovery Networks APAC, and News Corp owned National Geographic Channels and Fox International Channels. Another player is NDTV Good, the lifestyle channel from the NDTV family.
The Road Ahead -- Regional, Local...
Discovery already runs six channels in India – Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Turbo, Discovery Science and Discovery HD – and has also applied for licenses of five more channels. The group intends to stay in this non-scripted genre of content. To strengthen its presence, Discovery has made its channels available in local languages and is currently available in five languages – English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Bengali.
For Rahul Johri, Senior Vice President and General Manager – South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific, the next step is to provide global content in the “regional language that the local viewer understands and converses in”.
The channels in the genre from Nat Geo and Fox are National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Adventure, Nat Geo Music, Nat Geo – HD, and the recently rebranded Fox History & Entertainment, which is now ‘Fox History and Traveler’ with the brand message of ‘Fun is in the Journey’.
Debarpita Banerjee, Vice President – Marketing, Fox International Channels India, noted that travel as an industry was booming. She added, “Everybody wants to get out of the mundane and explore all that the country, and the world has to offer. In the context, travel as a genre of programming is still under-served in India. With Fox History & Traveller, we will focus on travel aggressively with an aim to become the clear leader in the genre.”
Fox History & Traveller too has increased its focus on locally produced content and two shows – ‘What’s With Indian Men’ and ‘Twist of Taste with Vineet Bhatia’ – are already in the offing.
Relevance and Innovation
With the focus on regional and local, infotainment and lifestyle channels appear to be on the right track. Kunal Jamuar, Executive Director, MPG, highlighted that infotainment genre had a healthier share of viewership and revenue, given that channels such as Discovery went regional before any English general entertainment channel even contemplated things such as sub-titling or dubbing. He said, “In the short term, the growth by going regional will increase viewership and sampling, but the long term goal for these channels would be to upgrade viewers to their original content.”
For the media buyer fraternity, the key words for the genre are ‘newness’ or innovation and relevance to the market and audiences. According to Vidyadhar Kale, General Manager, Maxus India, “These channels need constant innovation and should continue to evolve their mix to attract the audience.”
Ravi Rao, Leader-Team Unilever, Mindshare South Asia, stressed on the need for strategic scheduling of programming and creating engaging content for this niche, high-spending TG. He said, “The content should be slotted in relatively weaker time-bands for other channels. Most of these programmes do well during weekends or post 10.30 or 11.00 pm.”
While Rao advises careful slotting, where other genres may be weaker, Deepak Raj Netram, General Manager, Lodestar UM, cautioned that it would not be right to expect a specialist genre to compete with general entertainment. He said, “By their very constitution, infotainment channels are targeting niche audiences. As long as they are relevant to audiences, there is promise.”
Leading the HD Wave
Infotainment and lifestyle genre, like the sports genre, has been playing a key role in advocating the hi-definition (HD) route to viewers. Because HD implies a better viewing experience, it means more opportunities for subscription revenues for the broadcasting industry. Infotainment channels have also been pushing the HD agenda to benefit from the boom in technological advancements in production of shows and television sets, due to the aesthetical appeal of the content.
Rao noted that most of these channels had migrated to HD platform, which gave best of quality and almost life like content. He observed, “This can increase a channel’s stickiness and retain the niche audience. Since these channels are also available on mobile with high quality telecasts, that may also help them better connect with audiences and retain them.”
The Shy Advertiser
Even as players in the genre are investing heavily in offering the best to viewers, the advertisers are yet to be as excited. Ravi Rao candidly said that most clients did not consider infotainment channels in their media plans. He added, “Select categories such as travel, lifestyle, high-end automobiles and so on did consider these channels, given the audience profile.”
A point reiterated by Jamuar, when he said that in terms of advertiser interest, infotainment channels formed part of the cluster that was required for a brand’s imagery.
Netram agreed and added that while some categories had a higher presence on these channels, some gave this genre a complete miss. “Some advertisers may experiment associations with tent-pole properties and may have not return in the next season. On the other hand, there would be enough advertisers who have renewed their association year on year,” he said.
Ratings: Bane or Boon
One may question whether ratings should be the way to measure these channels, when planners have 0.0+ TVR to show. Vidyadhar Kale voiced that section of the industry that believes that it is. He stated, “On TV, we buy audiences, and as an industry, we have agreed upon rating as the currency. This should be applied to all sets of channels, including infotainment.”
Kunal Jamuar, on the other hand, belongs to the school that believes ratings are not the parameters for these channels. He argued, “It is not channel performance in terms of viewership, but the integration and synergies such associations bring to the brand that matter.”
On a broader level, many believe that ratings are just one of the parameters to consider these channels. Aspects such as imagery, brand environment, reaching out to a discerning audience that are otherwise difficult to reach, connecting audiences through interactive programmes either through web-based or digital world, channel affinity and stickiness are some of the other factors.
An interesting point that Kale raised here was that perhaps a potential game changer for channels such as these could be the new SEC (socio-economic class) definition. A sharper definition of higher SECs might see a rise in the ratings for these channels and reduce the incidences of zero TVRs.
What is clear is that the industry minds are at a consensus that the innovation is the key for the Infotainment genre to remain relevant. The ratings system and its parameters need some revision as per media buyers and planners. All in all, certain advertisers will continue to use these channels as a platform to reach out to their cream audience.