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We had our viewers and advertisers back by Q3: Nina Elavia Jaipuria

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Jaipuria, Head- Hindi Mass Entertainment & Kids TV Network, Viacom18, talks about the industry making a comeback in Q3 with a bang after the pandemic disrupted first two quarters, and more

In an elaborate interview, Nina Elavia Jaipuria Head- Hindi Mass Entertainment & Kids TV Network, Viacom18, speaks to exchange4media about the industry making a comeback in Q3 with a bang after the pandemic disrupted first two quarters.  She also shared insights on the new trends in GEC and kids cluster, her plans for both the genres and a lot more.

 

Edited Excerpts

When we started off in March, we didn’t realize that the lockdown was going to be so long. But from a kids genre perspective, by the time March came, we were already preparing for a big summer, and so when the lockdown happened, kids genre was the least affected and we were ready to entertain our little kids and families with new stories, new characters, new episodes, new movies and new contests. So, Nickelodeon, Sonic, Nick Junior and all our brands were ready with new content to engage with kids. And I am truly happy for that, as kids, I think, were deprived of two very big things in their lives– school and friends. So as a responsible broadcaster, we were there with all new content and we continued to churn new content and fresh episodes for kids.

We really had a fantastic 2020 because we actually launched our 9th and 10th local IP in 10 years, Ting Tong and Pinaki & Happy-The Bhoot Bandhus, in the Diwali quarter. We lead the genre with a 32 per cent market share, with Disney and Turner following us. We were happy to be in a good space with original content.

The story wasn’t the same at GEC, which is Colors, where we ran out of original content and shoots were suspended for a while. But staying true to our promise of wanting to connect and engage and entertain our audiences, we looked into our internal and external libraries to ensure that we continue to entertain, and we put out Mahabharat, and Om Namah Shivay. We looked into our own libraries and brought back nostalgic feeling with shows like Balika Vadhu, Na Aana Iss Des Laado, Sasural Simar Ka, and audiences started enjoying this content. We also tried some innovative stuff with our characters and artistes at home. We put out a show called ‘Hum tum and quarantine’, which was really done from the home to ensure that we have some newness on the channel as well.

As soon as the lockdown opened, Colors was the first to go out there with original content and we had a fabulous primetime line-up with all our blockbusters, from Choti Sardaarni to Barrister Babu and Shakti, coming back. We also had, for the first time, a Khatron Ke Khiladi version made in India. We shot it in India as soon as the lockdown opened. Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, we still managed to put out a fabulous show with Rohit Shetty.

Both the clusters that you handle are very critical for Viacom18’s topline as well as the bottom-line. So to what extent were the revenues of these two clusters affected?

We did see a very subdued Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, but I am very happy to say that we came back with a revenge in Quarter 3. It was a great festive October, November and December for us. We had our viewers and advertisers back. We actually managed 17 sponsors on Bigg Boss alone. We had full inventory consumption. We had great sponsorships and partnerships which is also leading into a very robust and positive Quarter 4. So on the whole, I think across all our genres, we are going to see a very healthy H2 (Oct 2020- Mar 2021). The second half of the year is going to be actually perhaps even slightly more than 2019. H2 is really going to be a very good comeback for all our genres. And a couple of categories that stood out for us in that quarter from advertisers’ perspective are gaming, edutech, e-commerce, and e-wallets. There were brands like PhonePe, Amazon Pay, Bijyus and Dream 11. Then there were the usual suspects of FMCG there as well. These advertisers stood out for us and partnered with us because there is this whole thing about trusting the partner, and both partners trusted each other. I think we really had a good Quarter 3 and fingers are crossed for a fabulous Quarter 4 as well.

 

Has normalcy returned to shoots? Are you running as per schedule?

The challenges continue on the ground. We do have scheduled shoots going on and we are entertaining our audiences with all our differentiated content which is fiction on the weekdays and impact properties like Bigg Boss and Salman on the weekends. So shoots continue, but with great care and great safety for the crew and the cast and there is very strict SOPs being followed across all shoots. Of course, it is challenging and has not been easy. We are working in bubbles where we ensure that the two bubbles don’t interact, and therefore if one is out of action, the other one takes over.

So yes, shoots have happened, and most challenging of them was Big Boss. And we are happy to see that Bigg Boss continues as a live show every single day 24/7.

 

What have been the content trends in Hindi GEC and kids cluster across broadcasters?

One trend that emerged was that of nostalgia, and it actually fuelled our non-prime-time growth. However, though non-prime-time has gone back to its pre-Covid levels, for Colors particularly, non-prime-time has been very good and continues to show very robust growth. I think going forward, the trend will be about creating content and telling stories that are very inclusive, stories that capture the simplicity of human emotions, stories that help in family bonding and stories that could bring families together. We paid special attention in creating characters that were very relevant and relatable.

The other big trend that I see is the FTA space. We went back to the platform with Colors Rishtey in the GEC space and Rishtey Cineplex in the movie space.  We are very delighted to be entertaining newer audiences on a platform that we had exited a couple of years ago. We have seen huge growth there with both the channels actually being at 15-14 per cent market share. That has given us tremendous growth in terms of viewership as well as in terms of ad sales and revenue.

From a very larger perspective, the other trend was the impetus of OTT, and we are not shying away from that fact at all. In fact, we believe that we are in a country where, unlike the west, linear television and digital are going to coexist. We are in an ‘and’ market and both are going to grow and that’s a trend that will only take shape further in 2021. But what this really did for us, and we are very happy that it did, was it created a huge demand for content, and we are happy that we could satiate this increased demand and also experiment with content. There is all kind of content available today, long form, short form, episodic, and as content creators, we are really happy that today we are in a space where we are able to make choices and we are able to make content which is agnostic of pipe or screen. If you look at it from a Viacom18 perspective, all new IPs and the evergreen IPs of Nickelodeon are actually entertaining kids on Voot Kids. Seven of the top 10 titles on Voot Kids belong to the Nickelodeon IPs. So we are very happy that kids choose to see us on another screen.

 

There are some very popular shows on Voot. For instance, your Asur did very well. So can we have that show running on Colors or any of your TV channels?

That is a possibility, but I would imagine that the content that is typically viewed on some of the OTT platforms is not necessarily very inclusive and meant for families, and therefore, you would be careful as to what you want to put on your linear television. Not saying that it isn’t possible to do, but the reverse is very true. For example, Bigg Boss on Voot Select is doing very well. In fact, Voot Select viewers actually get to see Bigg Boss and a lot more of content around Bigg Boss even before television. So that strategy is working beautifully well for us. A lot of shows that are on Colors are doing fantastically well on Voot Select and Voot. So, we are very happy to therefore create content that is agnostic of the screen or the pipe. I truly believe that we are going to co-exist going forward.

 

Do you feel that there was a shift of revenue and viewership from GEC to movies?

Couple of genres grew outside of what would you call normal growth, and those genres are movies, news and kids. These saw a phenomenal growth in the lockdown.

Movies is a genre which is all about the titles that you play and it was about putting out our best foot out there and ensuring that Colors Cineplex delivers. We did see very good growth on the Nickelodeon franchise and the Cineplex franchise. Under two years, we actually managed a 7 per cent market share on Colors Cineplex. So yes, the movie genre did benefit and the kids genre for Viacom18 benefitted as well. In fact, we were the least discounted genre and franchise in the lockdown because we were dishing out original content, new IPs and we had a full house from an audience perspective. So these two genres did kick in. But now, as unlock is unravelling, it has gone back to the pre-Covid levels. However, it continues to be on a high because while the total TV grew at 9 per cent for kids, it has come back to 7 per cent. But since total TV is still growing, the number of people on the genre are actually higher than pre-Covid and kids are still at home and still online. So the kids category is actually still growing over the pre-Covid levels. But otherwise normalcy has returned across genres.

 

Coming back to kids, the category saw some new entrants. So can a Rs 500-crore market support so many channels?

I have always believed that the kids genre is here to stay because it offers custom-made, tailor-made content for kids. After general entertainment and movies, kids is one of the biggest genre at a 7% at 2+. So, I think it’s a genre that is here to stay for sure. Looking at the opportunity, we at Nickelodeon, just before the lockdown, made ourselves available in eight languages. We have all the four south languages and then we have Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi. So, as a franchise, there is a huge opportunity across and because we straddle all India 2+ audiences, the opportunity is huge. I also think that advertisers have come to realize that this is a great opportunity and a platform where they can reach out to their audiences from a family perspective.

So I think, yes, there is more than enough room and as you can see we all are launching local IPs and we already have three local IPs in progress.

 

What are the new launches for Hindi and kids cluster that we’re going to see in 2021?

Kids cluster will continue to look at local content. We are very happy to say that we, for the first time in collaboration with Viacom International, Nick India and Nickelodeon International, are co-producing a show called ‘The Twisted Timelines with Sammy and Raj’ and that we’re going to launch it in 2021 over and above our two local IPs. We look for white spaces and gaps in the market to ensure that we cover those white spaces. Yes, we are looking forward to a couple of local IPs in 2021 and want to make sure that our width and depth of local content continues to grow year after year and look at over a 100 hours of new content.

From a GEC perspective, I can promise you that we will continue to create characters and stories that are relatable and relevant. But I think we are also going to look at a slightly more disruptive content coming in as well. We are considering new IPs that will look at different storylines and genres. It is to ensure that we stay true to our DNA and what Colors stands for–to give differentiated content and a fabulous mix of fiction and non-fiction.

I think OTTs will only supplement what we do. We don’t really look at them as competitors. Like I said, we will coexist. TV still continues to be the primary screen of the household and family. And I think we will continue to be there but this is about being true to our promise of delivering great content on non-fiction and fiction shows.  We are looking at making our weekends robust with non-fiction and impact properties. We are looking at bringing new impact properties on the weekends as the year rolls out. We will start off with Dance Deewane once Bigg Boss is over.

We haven’t seen a dance show since the lockdown. So we are looking forward to that because we did Khatron Ke Khiladi, Bigg Boss and now we are going to look forward to Dance Deewane. Post that, we are going to look at some very disruptive new IPs from an impact property perspective. So, yes, we will look at a very rollicking, robust weekend with new impact properties and will continue to weave the fabric of the society through our prime-time, new genres, where we look at social commentary, romance, family bonding.  We will look at different genres that will continue to entertain and yes, we will have a very solid 7-11 pm prime-time line-up with fiction shows. We are in fact going to launch two new fiction shows in Quarter 4 itself. When Bigg Boss gets over, you will see two new fiction shows. Shows that are going to be telling very different stories.

 

How do you expect financial year 2022 to shape up for the broadcasting sector? Do you think we will recover in 2021 or will it stretch to 2022?

That is also a perspective of what is happening in the economy, and I can see that the economy is starting to pick up. Consumer demand is starting to pick up. The census has reached a peak of sorts, and from what we see in Quarters 3 and 4 of this fiscal, I am very hopeful of a great 2021. I do believe that we will go back at least to the fiscal of FY 20 levels. Of course it’s a matter of time, but looking at how the two quarters of this fiscal have been, I am very confident that we will come back with a very robust topline and we will continue to deliver a very robust bottom-line as well.

The industry will take a little time because media platforms, other than television, are still recovering and are on a very slow recovery path, particularly from the theatre’s perspective or on-ground perspective. Print, and radio are seeing a slightly slower recovery than television. Television and digital are galloping and we will see a good robust comeback of these two platforms for sure. The other platforms will take some time to recover, but recovery is here.

A lot of our advertisers have shown a whole lot of growth in the last couple of quarters. If you look at the results of some FMCG companies, you will see how their sales have grown over the previous years. It looks very positive.

We as an organization are committed to continue our investments in content. We are storytellers at the heart of what we do and we will continue to invest and entertain our viewers. We are also in the business of business at the end of the day and we will ensure good toplines and bottom-lines for our organization.

There are a couple of things that stood out for us in the year and that is of resilience. And I think that it will continue to be with us. It has taught us to embrace disruption and it has taught us to think innovatively and out of the box.

The second one is that of gratitude. I think we cannot be more blessed and we have to be really grateful. We just took so much for granted and we need to get into the next year with a whole lot of gratitude and resilience and couple of these attributes will pay off.  I think it’s for all of us, individually, professionally, personally and as organization.

About the author / 

Naziya Alvi Rahman

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