Almost 30-35% of our annual marketing spends are on 'IRT- India's Deadliest Roads': Sangeetha Aiyer, A+E Networks | TV18

Sangeetha Aiyer, VP & Head Marketing A+E Networks | TV18, on HistoryTV18’s new show, its huge scale, marketing plans and how the channel’s localisation strategy shaping up

e4m by Madhuwanti Saha
Updated: Oct 20, 2016 8:12 AM
Almost 30-35% of our annual marketing spends are on 'IRT- India's Deadliest Roads': Sangeetha Aiyer, A+E Networks | TV18

Looking to repeat the success of HistoryTV18’s popular adventure reality show ‘Ice Road Truckers’ with its local format, the channel’s new offering named ‘IRT-India’s Deadliest Roads’ is considered ‘the biggest tentpoles for this year’. The Indian chapter of the adventure reality TV series, premiering on October 21, will see celebrities Mandira Bedi, Sangram Singh and Varun Sharma travel through the country’s deadliest roads across the rugged mountains and valleys of Himalayas.

Sangeetha Aiyer, VP & Head Marketing, A+E Networks | TV18, feels that bringing this format to India was an ambitious task. She talks about the scale of the show, brand integrations and why it’s one of the biggest formats from the channel. Excerpts:

Tell us about the scale of the show.

HistoryTV18’s ‘Ice Road Trucker’ is one of the biggest franchises in the domestic US market. In fact it’s one of those shows that changed the fortunes of the channels (in terms of ratings) when it was launched in 2009 and 2010. As a format it’s extremely exciting. So it’s a big deal that we brought this format in India.

I don’t think anybody has experienced a format of this kind. We are looking at it from production point of view considering the investments that have gone into producing the show. It was an ambition to bring this format in India. Whenever we brought in new formats like ‘OMG! Yeh Mera India’ we have seen it resulting in a large reach. From that perspective we have seen eyeballs coming not only to HistoryTV18 but into the genre as a whole that has renewed interest in infotainment or factual entertainment.

When the show launches it will lead to the growth of not only HistoryTV18 from reach standpoint but also the genre per se. From marketing point of view I think almost 30-35% of our annual spends are on this show. So we are leaving no stone unturned in that sense to promote the show on digital, social, to TV, print and outdoor. It will see a whole gamut of activities.

What is the kind of reach you are looking at?

We are largely urban centric. So the target is all India urban market. It’s basically one million plus towns from demographics. We are not penetrated deeply into rural areas. It’s a work in progress. From audience perspective, channel typically looks at SEC AB15+ both male and female audience. 

What marketing initiatives have you planned for the show?

Traditional mass media marketing is pretty much in place which includes plans for TV, print and outdoor. We did a Facebook Live with the stars of the show on the day of the press meet. We are also going to have a Twitter BlueRoom activity with them. Couple of weeks from now there will be short form content exclusively put out on Facebook and YouTube, that one can watch online. This is a slow-burn which we have done in the past for most of our local shows.  It has been a huge success with ‘OMG’ on that front.  We are following a similar trajectory for ‘IRT’ as well.

Which brands have come on board? What about brand integration?

Bharat Benz and Lava are two key sponsors. While the former is the presenting sponsor, Lava is the ‘powered by’ sponsor.

When it comes to integration, we have a bunch of brands that have come on board for integration on what suits their sensibilities and what works seamlessly with the content as well. Bharat Benz and Lava are of course there. Apart from that we have Himachal Tourism Board, Nestle Maggi, Wildcraft, and Puma.

How has your localisation strategy been shaping up?

It’s been a combination of hits and misses for us so far. ‘IRT’ is our fourth local show. If you look at the last three shows, ‘OMG! Yeh Mera India’ Season 1 and 2 have done extremely well for us. The first episode of OMG Season 2 is in the top five shows of the genre and had the largest number of TVTs in its premiere slot. The traction that some of the stories are getting on digital is phenomenal (for us). So from content sensibility we have got into the right sub genre.

‘Man Vs Job’ had a lukewarm response. A few episodes have done well while few haven’t. Since there is no precedence of local production in factual entertainment it has been a trial and error for us. But we are looking at why it didn’t work, if the content not immersive enough to do justice to the show. Are people used to far more edgy content in the sub-genre of survival? This could be another reason. ‘IRT’ doing well will add another feather in the cap that we are in the right trajectory.

Do you think ‘IRT’ will be a benchmark for HistoryTV18?

Yes, we have put all our money in one basket, so to speak. I hope it sets a new benchmark as far as shows in the factual genre are concerned. The biggest victory will be when the genre size increases. You are getting fresh eye balls into the genre and not just cannibalising into each other’s market share.

What’s the content strategy after ‘IRT’?

The next quarter will probably see another local show. Ideas and conceptualisation are in pipeline. Apart from that we have an exciting line-up of content that HistoryTV18 is launching.  It includes new series called ‘Doomsday’ and ‘Bible,’ a mega production coming up in December.

How is the infotainment category coming along? Where do you see it going in the future?

There are a few challenges. In fact this genre has de-grown. That has lot to do with dynamics of how BARC plays out. It’s a combination of multiple factors that play a role in deciding what’s going to happen to the fate of the genre. It’s a space we have to wait and watch for some time.

Despite that most players, including us, believe that there’s appetite for this kind of content going by the increasing local production.  The genre is suddenly active with HistoryTV18 and other players providing best content or original content that will hopefully only grow the genre. It’s a positive sign for us. 

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