Epic channel that was launched in November last year has recently unveiled its new programming line-up for the coming few months which include eight new shows. Three shows in particular are being highlighted by the channel in order for it to capture the 10pm slot. Shows are told by three of the best story tellers which include ‘Mid Wicket Tales with Naseeruddin Shah’, ‘Jaane Pahchaane with Javed Akhtar’ and ‘Stories by Ravindranath Tagore’ which is produced and directed by Anurag Basu. Speaking about this Mahesh Samat, Founder & MD, Epic Television Networks talks about the new campaign aimed at growing viewership base, the Network’s standing in the entertainment/infotainment genre and expansion plans
What is the new programming line-up of shows that Epic is launching?
As you know we launched Epic channel which is on Indian history and mythology and all the shows that we have are episodic and come in seasons. This time around it is a new season of programming and we realised that there were some great story tellers in our line-up of programming. Naseeruddin Shah who is doing the history of cricket, we have Anurag Basu who was in many cases was producing and directing in many cases the story of Bengal. Also, Javed Aktar who is doing a very interesting show in the evolution of characters in Bollywood. We have realised that a lot of these shows were far more main stream relevant and connected with today’s audiences and so we put them together in a line-up. The other interesting thing was the 10pm slot has a very large audience base but it is a very experimental audience base. So there is an opportunity for us to establish ourselves in the 10pm slot with new programming which is very connected and which has great mass appeal. This enhances the channel listing around it. So we came up with a campaign which encourages people to see us especially during this particular slot.
The new season has a pretty strong line-up that goes across to eight shows. We are just highlighting these three shows but we do have the second season of Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyaan, Ekaant and Epic Ke Dus. We also have some other new shows like Time Machine as well as Lootere which is on bandits in India. So we have eight new strong shows but our focus is on the 10pm slot through these three shows i.e. Jaane Pehchaane, Stories by Ravindranath Tagore and Mid Wicket Tales and then lead them to the rest of shows on the channel.
What is the marketing mix for the channel’s new campaign and the marketing spends?
It is a multi-dimensional marketing mix. We are talking about cross channel promos, radio, outdoor, etc. We are also working on an aggressive campaign across digital. The marketing spends on this campaign is commensurate (to the marketing spends on the channel launch), it is not more than that.
What is the reason for Epic’s ratings not taking off? Was distribution an issue?
Actually we are quite satisfied by how the channel has taken off. We have very strong social chatter. In this business you can look at the social chatter to figure out what the viewers think of the channel. Of course for a new initiative you can never always predict anything. What you are referring to is our ratings not taken off yet because our awareness levels of the channel are low. Within the people who are aware the fan base is pretty strong and buoyant, which is why the whole idea of this campaign is to enhance awareness of Epic, of the time slot and get them to access and experience the entire channel through this campaign.
We had a target plan to launch and reach 35 million households through the launch and it maybe 45 million in a few months. We have already achieved those figures. We did not have Dish TV at launch and is the last of the DTH for the channel to come onto. Before the launch we had most of the DTH players on board. Right now we are on almost every major MSO in the country. We actually got a lot of support from the distribution platforms because they see differentiated content.
Do you think the growth was muted as it was initially targeted towards metros?
Our focus during the launch was the metros and we have added on many towns as well. With the marketing campaign this time around, it is quite focused. The first time around we also had to establish what the brand stood for because it is a new concept in Indian television to have a segmented channel. So we had to establish that, and there were many messages that we had given at that point in time and of course it is a hyper-competitive market we are talking about, it takes time for awareness to build up as well. Of course now there is a whole transition period between TAM and BARC ratings right now, a month or two later we can look at it (the ratings of Epic). In the pre-BARC days we saw an interesting organic growth in our ratings on a regular basis. The organic growth will only happen if the content has holding power.
With competition increasing in the Hindi GEC space, what is your strategy to stay ahead?
We are not exactly a Hindi GEC. We are a premium entertainment channel or an infotainment plus entertainment channel. On the other side of it, GECs have always been showing mythological shows but they have ‘soapified’ them. The kind of shows we have are completely different. We have a whole bunch of non-fiction and all our fiction have limited amount of episodes with a finite season driven approach. There is a market for what they are doing and hopefully there is a market for what we are doing. We are appealing to the viewer who wants to see something different and who wants to see a narrative style.