Will IN10 Media's Hindi GEC bet pay off?

Aditya Pittie, MD - IN10 Media, explains Ishara's gameplan for the pay Hindi GEC market dominated by the big 4 of Indian broadcasting

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Mar 5, 2021 8:25 AM  | 5 min read
aditya pittie

Pitted against the big boys of Indian broadcasting, Anand Mahindra-backed IN10 Media Network has its task cut out. With the launch of Ishara, the network has ventured into the pay Hindi GEC market, which is dominated by the big four of Indian broadcasting - Star India, ZEEL, Sony Pictures Networks India, and Viacom18.
The four broadcasters have a vice-like grip on the Hindi GEC market with each network barring Viacom18 having not one but two leading pay channels in the genre. Star India has Star Plus and Star Bharat while ZEEL has Zee TV and &TV. Sony has SET and SAB TV while Viacom18 has just one pay channel in Colors.

Faced with enormous competition, IN10 Media, which is spearheaded by MD Aditya Pittie, is hoping that its differentiated content backed by aggressive distribution and marketing strategy will help it survive in the pay Hindi GEC market.

Pittie hopes that the channel will break-even in 18 months. However, that also depends on the market condition and how well the company is able to execute its plans. "It is difficult to talk about break-even considering the market condition. However, our plan is to break even within 18 months," he said during an interaction.

Ishara is being positioned as a channel that caters to New India. The content on the channel will be progressive in nature. Currently, it has four shows namely the mythological masterpiece Paapnaashini Ganga, romantic-thriller Agni-Vayu, and two drama shows Humkadam and Janani.

IN10 Media has priced Ishara at Rs 5 while the channel will be available as part of 'Apna EPIC Value Pack' which will be priced at Rs 7 from 1st April. Currently, the pack is priced at Rs 2 for all IN10 Media channels.

"Most of our plans for launching channels in multiple genres was pre-Covid. Because of Covid, our plans got delayed by 6-7 months," Pittie said. Prior to launching Ishara on 1st March, IN10 Media launched kids channel Gubbare and Bhojpuri movie channel Filamchi last year.

"As far as our decision to enter Hindi GEC is concerned, the number of viewers in this country continues to increase and TV broadcasting is the largest media business in the country. Hindi GEC is the largest within that space. If you want to build a large TV network one needs to have a presence in the Hindi GEC genre," he said, on being asked as to why the company ventured into such a tough and competitive market.

"In order to build some scale, it is important to have some share of the Hindi GEC market. Overall, we want to have a larger share in the broadcast business and therefore we want to have some share in the Hindi GEC market," he added.

Currently, Ishara has two hours of original programming on the weekdays and it will be increased to three hours very soon. It will also have non-fiction shows on the weekend. These shows launched by Ishara will have new concepts not seen hitherto in the market.

Pittie said that leading GECs are doing four hours of programming every day. The definition of prime time is also changing. "We will add as much early programming as we can with time. On weekends, we will have 1 or 2 hours of programming a day. We will get audiences across urban and rural, however, our programming is more urban skewed and more female skewed. That said, we will also attract significant male viewership."

Ishara live stream will also be available on the network's video streaming platform Epic ON. Subsequently, the catch-up and VoD content from Ishara will also be made available on the platform.

He also said that Ishara will try different programming from what is already available in the market. "We did consumer research before launching Ishara. We have taken the qualitative inputs to decide the storylines for our shows. On the macro level, the storylines are based on our brand philosophy. We want to showcase New India which is progressive, overcomes challenges, and continues to be optimistic," he stated.

On the distribution front, Ishara has 95% penetration in the HSM pay-tv base. "Ishara is available in the entire HSM pay base of 80-85 million from day one. We have a 95% penetration. One of the key pillars of our strategy is to have our distribution right. Making our product available is the first step," Pittie noted.

He also said that subscription revenue has emerged as a significant and key revenue stream for broadcasters. It is important for broadcasters to build a strong subscription revenue stream in order to reduce dependence on advertising and invest in quality content.

"Pre-Covid, 35-40% of our broadcast revenue came from subscription. Post NTO and Covid, the contribution of subscription revenue to the overall revenue have increased for the broadcasting sector. It will be difficult to invest in original content just with ad revenue. Hence, subscription revenue is extremely important in building a successful and viable broadcast business. We would rather be pay and create good quality original programming rather than be FTA and not have much original programming."

Queried about ad monetisation, Pittie said that the response has been satisfactory. "We have got a good response from the market. Top advertisers have appreciated the efforts and the kind of content we have come up with. We will start running ads very soon. For Ishara, we are looking at a revenue split of 40:60 between subscription and ad revenue," he said.

To promote the channel, IN10 Media has relied mainly on television as the conversion of the audience is better. "We have a multi-media marketing strategy backed by maximum resources. Television is our main focus since conversion is better and it also has a good reach. We have also used EPG branding on cable and DTH platforms. Besides TV, the outdoor medium has also been used to promote the channel."

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