“Distribution is the biggest challenge in the Southern markets”

Distribution is often hampered by political interference. Besides, viewers are confused about opting for DTH or cable network, says RBU Shyam Kumar, CEO, Puthiya Thalaimurai

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Published: Jul 5, 2013 9:19 AM  | 5 min read
“Distribution is the biggest challenge in the Southern markets”

RBU Shyam Kumar joined New Generation Media Corporation, publishers of Puthiya Thalaimurai magazine, as Vice President – Marketing. He went on to become the Director – Operations for the Group and is currently CEO of the group. Prior to this, he has been with The Times of India Group for 14 years, where he had spearheaded the launch of its Chennai edition as City Sales Head.

Shyam Kumar started his career with Eureka Forbes in 1989 and joined BPL as the Direct Marketing In-charge in 1991. He has more than 23 years of experience in Sales & Marketing, including 17 years leading teams at various levels. His experience ranges from direct marketing to the broadcast industry.

In conversation with exchange4media, Shyam Kumar speaks about the cable digitisation drive in Chennai, the challenges and opportunities for channels in the Southern markets, Puthiya Thalaimurai’s GEC foray and more…

What are your expectations from the cable TV digitisation process in Chennai? What are the challenges and roadblocks that lie ahead?

At one point of time, the market has to open up. As far as expectations go, viewer should be provided with multiple options to choose from when it comes to TV distribution. Just as if I wanted to get a Wi-Fi connection, I can opt for the services of Reliance, Airtel or BSNL.

However, it is a different and difficult scenario in Chennai. The distribution is often hampered by political interference, which leads to major roadblocks.

How have regional channels (news and GECs) been faring in the South in terms of attracting viewership and ad revenues? What are the challenges and areas of growth for regional channels over the next five years?

The market dynamics have changed drastically – distribution is going through a lot of change both in terms of cable and digitisation. Amidst all this, we have to deliver content as per the expectations and satisfaction of the viewers. We as a group would like to concentrate on the content, the revenue is incidental.

Distribution is the biggest challenge in the Southern markets. Reach has to be established. Viewers are confused as to whether to opt for a digital platform or a cable network. You and I can talk about DAS, etc., but the common man is not aware of what’s happening in the media arena. Therefore, viewers have to be reached, educated and their doubts clarified.

Another challenge is that of content management. Today, almost all reality shows are film-based – be it singing, acting or dancing competition. Viewers will have to be sensitised to the fact that there is much more to entertainment than those with movie origin. We need to really address this, because it is reaching a stage where you are duplicating everything. There hardly any scope for originality and creativity.

In Tamil Nadu, we see that almost all the channels have some kind of political backing. We’ve heard that Puthiya Thalaimurai, too. has also got political backing. Please comment.

Puthiya Thalaimurai is run by professionals and has never had any political backing. We have hitherto stood scrupulously on our own feet, and it is the vision of our company’s President to build a media house from the South that stands tall at the national level.

We have learnt that you are now entering the GEC space. When are you launching the new channel? What is the name of the channel?

The channel is called Pudhu Yugam and we are planning to launch it before Diwali this year. We strive to offer our viewers content that would be very different from the other GECs. We aim to redefine the GEC space.

How important do you think experiential marketing is for media owners?

Events are a vital part in giving character to the channel. Even the title that we give is very defining. For instance, ‘Uzhavukku Uyiruttu Uzhavarkku Vazhvutu’ may be difficult even to pronounce, but the title given to a recent Agri-Fest event was a success. The event targetted at agriculturists was well appreciated. As a news channel, we believe that it is our responsibility to not only report the true state of problematic affairs, but also provide solutions to the identified problems. Therefore, we channelise our resources with technical expertise to chalk out appropriate solutions to the problem – all available at one venue. Such experiential marketing initiatives definitely pave the way for the brand to grow and connect with the viewers.

How beneficial or productive have on-ground initiatives such as ‘Veetuku Oru Vingaani’ been for you?

All our events have been very productive – from the consumer point of view, from the participants’ point of view and from the brand perspective. This is because we never look at events as a commercial venture, but give them a social purpose. Instead of providing it to the viewers as just news, we try to ‘transcreate’ it into an event and provide solutions.

What kind of marketing and promotional activities do you undertake for your shows and channel?

The brand is being marketed currently only through on-ground events. Several cross media promotions are underway and convergence is taking place. We do silent viral marketing for the brand.

What is the marketing spends allocated for Puthiya Thalaimurai?

We don’t spend much, and only promote through events. Depending on the media plan for the events that we do, expenditure keeps varying. We do a lot of outdoor campaigns, the most recent one being the Agri-Fest. As such, we spend the highest on outdoor medium.

What are your key focus areas for 2013? What is your future vision and plans for the brand?

2013 is a very critical year for us, because all our focus is on launching the GEC. With regard to Puthiya Thalaimurai, apart from stabilising the brand, our focus would be to keep up the consistent growth. 

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