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Youth entertainment: battlefield for the next telly war

20-April-2004
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Youth entertainment: battlefield for the next telly war

Youth general entertainment evidently appears to be the future of Indian programming. Everyone seems to be busy to win the attention of viewers within the 15-to-34-year age group. Whether it’s Sony’s claim of this TG being its focus or MTV joining Balaji for a serial or the latest and perhaps the biggest STAR initiative in SP2 – the crux of the objective remains the same. Actions are undoubtedly in place, but is there really a place for such a channel?

If population demographics play a role, Farokh Balsara, Industry Leader, Media and Entertainment Practices, Ernst & Young, urges that there is definitely place for such a channel. “Various factors of age group 15-34 years make it an important target to any medium. It constitutes a third of our population. Where 15 to 19 is a nine per cent of total populace, age group 20 to 34 makes 24 per cent, which further adds seven million people to it annually. In fact, India presently is in the unique position of being the world’s youngest country, considering the number of youths,” he says.

He further explains that the best thing about this age group is that unlike senior groups or the younger, they are a combination of purchasing power and the will to spend. “They are the kind who will spend extra to get what they want. They will pay subscription money if the channel has the right content,” Balsara says. A thought that Jeffrey Crasto, Vice President, Media, MPG India shares: “There are too many products that target this TG right now. The attempt to put together a channel aimed specially at them is a good one. In that sense, the positioning of the channel, if it succeeds, will pay off.”

And, why should the channel not succeed? Crasto replies. “Historically, youth has been a difficult target to capture. If a comparison was drawn to print, whether it was Times or India Today Group, all attempts to get the youth failed. However, whether a channel succeeds in this endeavour remains to be seen,” he says.

Nandini Dias, National Media Director, Interface Communication, brings in a different point of view here. “Youth have their own priorities on what they want to buy. They might not like to spend on a magazine but when it comes to TV, it is available free of cost. In that sense, they will consume the medium,” she observes.

However, what about the fact that most TV households in India are still single-TV homes? Dias answers, “If you see the last three NRS results, the numbers of two-TV households are increasing. With the increase in this TG, this only makes it a perfect time to have such a channel.”

Let’s talk competition now. Does a Sony that claims to focus on this target prove competition? Or are other channels like Star World and AXN are taking similar space competition? Balsara feels that the growing market would accommodate all kinds of players. Hence, the SP2-kind does not pose or face competition.

Crasto too, believes the same, but for different reasons. Says he: “This would be a standalone channel. I don't think it can be competition to mass entertainment because of differed programming. Also, I don't think it would eat into the share of channels like STAR World or AXN or the other way round.”

Dias, however, maintains a different point of view. “I don’t see it in competition with any of the mass entertainment channels. They all have a similar kind of programming and that is not meant for the youth. I think channels like MTV and Channel V, who now call themselves youth channels are more like it. Theirs is the kind of audience that would come on such a channel.”

Adding to that Alex Kuruvilla, Managing Director, MTV Networks India, says: “We are in fact flattered that STAR is looking at this space. This means that our thinking on this kind of audience is bang-on.”

Speaking in a different light, he adds, “But given the huge numbers in India that can be called youth, which is a demanding lot at that, it is not enough to just call something youth general entertainment. That ways anything can be youth. In MTV, over the years, we have developed a strong brand in this space. I think we threw the first canon when we announced a soap on our channel. But I think it would be worthwhile to have something on this model. The more the merrier.”

That’s exactly what Tarun Katial, EVP, Programming and Response, SET India echoes. “I think imitation is the best form of flattery,” he says.

With everyone making a play for the lucrative youth, for Indian television, the definition of successful strategies and programmes are all set to change. An effort like SP2 will bring with it the new face of Indian programming.

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