" Expect variety on these channels in 2015."
By Sugandha Rawal

New Delhi, Dec 21 - How many times did you switch on your TV set in the mood to watch a romantic or a comedy show, but ended up only switching channels in search of something apt? It is to eliminate this gap and to provide a one-stop destination to viewers that a slew of genre-specific channels surfaced on Indian TV in 2014, experts said.

The year saw the TV space go through a number of changes - be it long-running shows like Pavitra Rishta or Bade Achhe Lagte Hain going off air, or the arrival of Pakistani serials on the small screen through new channel Zindagi.

But the one factor that stood out this year - and is expected to continue in 2015 too - is the emergence of genre-specific channels.

Historicals has been an evergreen flavour on TV, but a channel named Epic is now dedicated to the genre. It was launched Nov 19.

Pal, introduced Sep 1, came out with an aim to resonate with the ethos of the traditional yet modern Indian woman.

Then, Reliance Broadcast Network's BIG MAGIC, described as 'India's Humour Destination' with the tag line 'Chatpata Har Pal', which was launched in April 2011 in Uttar Pradesh, went national this year.

Discovery Turbo also repositioned itself as a 'men's only entertainment channel' starting Dec 1.

Rahul Johri, vice-president of marketing of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, felt it's time to present a wide platter of content to the audience.

We have reached an era of 24 hours of well-defined channels where you cannot be everything for everybody, Johri told IANS.

Food and lifestyle-based channels have been around for a while now, but more differentiated channels saw the light of the day this year. The trend will only blossom, Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of media insights firm Ormax, told IANS.

A digitised environment enables niche and special interest channels to flourish. As the market gets more fragmented, we'll see more channels being launched to cater to specific niches and special interest or genres, Kapoor added.

There's no dearth of content on the small screen, but Mahesh Samat, managing director of EPIC Television Network Pvt Ltd, noted that similarity of shows across most channels in recent times has infused a need to segment the audience and focus on occasional viewing.

One of the things we realised was that TV is getting homogenous and there is a need to experience different genres. As fragmentation happens, segmentation is important, Samat told IANS.

The global trend also testifies to the change in the audience preferences. Most of the channels launched in US were segmented. We are not aiming for everyday viewing, but focusing on occasional viewing, he added.

Echoing this, Johri said: We believe that viewers want to go to destinations. There should be a channel to cater to whims and fancies of the audience at a particular point of time.

However, Kapoor said that while such channels may not cater to the masses, they surely boost the loyalty factor.

The reach of genre-specific channels may be low, but stickiness would tend to be higher as the channel is catering to a specific viewer taste. Hence, good content could lead to high time spent on these channels, but by a small set of viewers, not a wide mass, he said.

The overall television industry in India is estimated at Rs.417 billion ($6.5 billion)in 2013, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16 per cent over 2013-18, to reach Rs.885 billion in 2018, according to the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2014.

Over the years, there's no doubt that family dramas have etched out a place in the viewer's hearts. Serials like Uttaran, Sasural Simar Ka and Saath Nibhaana Saathiya stand testimony to this. However, it is unfair to compare genre-specific channels to general entertainment channels (GECs).

We want to provide an alternative (to watching GECs)...it's a new concept and will take time to settle. I feel it's unfair to compare segmented channel with GECs, Samat said.

The emergence of genre-specific channels is also a win-win situation for advertisers, Johri pointed out.

It helps both the viewers as well as the advertisers as they want to reach specific audiences. It is an efficient platform to engage with them, Johri added.

The channels are now geared up to add a new wave of content in 2015.

We will see more variety. But eventually, what works is what will set the trend. So, unless we see a genre-specific channel doing very well, the mainline GECs would continue to define the trends, Kapoor said.

Johri said the content on Discovery Turbo will be renewed after every quarter with a focus on adventure, excitement and thrills, whereas Epic's Samat revealed that the line-up for 2015 will be innovative and exciting with an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction shows.


Audiences moving toward an era of 24-hour well-defined channels

With the current fragmentation of audiences, segmentation is the need of the hour

Genre-specific channels may cater to a small section of the audience, but are expected to boost loyalty

Advertisers also benefit by such channels as they can focus on their target

More channels are expected to follow the trend to cater to specific niches, but future depends on the success of the already-launched channels

Genre-specific channels are not looking to compete with general entertainment channels, but to survive with them as an alternative

Expect variety on these channels in 2015.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at [email protected])

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