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A+E Networks | TV18's Avinash Kaul on branded content, investment & growth of infotainment genre

The network will continue to focus on creating original content in the infotainment genre in 2020.

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MUMBAI: Producing original shows on issues of contemporary local significance like surgical strikes, national elections, Ganesha festivals, marvels and mysteries of India; that’s how History TV 18 aims to stand out in the niche segment of infotainment channels in India.

“Very consciously we are going towards the direction of original local content because that is what will make our brand stand out in India,” says A+E Networks | TV18 MD and Network18 CEO Avinash Kaul in an interaction with Indiantelevision.com. He also spoke on the need for creating original content in infotainment space, challenges faced by the genre, impact of NTO on niche genres, economic slowdown, channel’s growth trajectory and plans for 2020.

Kaul believes that factual and lifestyle channels offer the best branded content options. “Factual entertainment is something which enables all kinds of genres to flow, and all kinds of brand stories to be told. So that's the proposition that we are trying to go with. It is a very robust platform because of its availability in multiple languages. The channel cannot compete with the ratings of GECs but it enables a brand environment where brand story can be beautifully curated. As a branded content it's the perfect way forward because the ratings are far higher than news but are much lower than GECs but the mass reach is still there.”

Speaking on some of branded shows done by the channels, Kaul says, “Our programming and marketing team has over 250 years of experience and have pioneered some of the biggest, tailor-made sponsored initiatives that have set benchmarks across industries. This, combined with our digital presence, might have resulted in several clutter-breaking advertiser-funded projects.”

To mention a few - Hamdard’s One for All a digital-first initiative- stories of people who have contributed towards the betterment of society; Renault presents Ride to Conquer is about four influencers from different walks of life who go on a drive for self-exploration; and Imagine your Korea- an initiative to get more Indians familiar with S Korea as a travel destination.

He further says, “From a ratings standpoint, obviously we are doing very well. FYI TV18 is the number one lifestyle channel in India by a huge margin. It's roughly around 60-65 per cent of the market. It beats even channels like FoodFood and Living Food, TLC Fox Life, Good Times, all of them. So it's fairly strong in the ratings ecosystem. As far as History TV18 is concerned it usually comes in number two after Discovery in the factual entertainment genre, which given the fact that Discovery is in the country for more than 30 years, and beating the likes of NGC and others by itself is remarkable.”

History TV18 has also released unseen differentiated programming in the Indian market. Kaul says that shows like Pawn Stars, Baggage Battle and Storage Wars from international houses resonated well, despite a lot of people having thoughts that it may or may not work as well in India.

The channel also has a show called Forged In Fire which is about people making knives and people making swords, which is a reality show. “Now, that's not something that one would see on a normal channel or any other factual entertainment channel and that's one of the top-rated shows,” he opines.

OMG! Yeh Mera India has two main sponsors Hyundai and Havells. “Even though History TV18 channel was a late entrant in the factual and entertainment genre, we were the early adopters of local content in India. We have OMG! Yeh Mera India Season 6. In three and a half years we have done six seasons. So which means in a year we do more than one season. So that gives you a sense of the amount of response that we get from this show, not only on TV, which is obviously top-rated but also on digital,” informed Kaul.

Due to the current business environment due to NTO, Kaul feels there is certain softness in the market. Because of this, the channel has kept some originals on hold for FYI TV18.

The biggest challenge faced by the genre is investment in original content. In India, the market share of infotainment is very low whereas, in the West, the genre holds the second position after sports. Kaul attributes this to investment in original content. Indian TV channels did not pick up the trend and the late entrants had to begin it, putting more pressure on them. He further says, “If it had been done at the right time, I think the genre would have leapfrogged to a totally different place.”

With regards to content, Kaul said, “The only thing that is well exploited in India is Mythology but not History. So if history could be done, that could really change the entire complexion. Because even if you see the OTT platforms, by the time they come to factual entertainment, it is another three four years as they are first creating mass production, like Sacred Games and other things which are basically something which will smack and people will get used to it. After building those libraries they will invest in these other shows. So I think that journey will take time. Until that time, we are only custodians of making shows like that. We can do it only one show at a time or two shows at a time.”

Revealing the plans for 2020 Kaul says, “The plan is to stay on course. I think this is the time to not get derailed from our plans but to continue building X amount of local content. My opinion is that if we stay on course and if we maintain our business, tightly we will deliver on our business. So that's what the key thing is that we're delivering on our business goals overall, I think we should be able to ride out this rough patch.”

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