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Viacom18’s new English accent

Viacom18 is set to launch its English
General Entertainment Channel
(GEC). It would be its biggest
addition to its English genre count
that so far had the niche Comedy
Central and the music channel, VH1.
The group received its licence from
the Information & Broadcasting
Ministry this week for the pay
channel and is expected to launch it
Two senior officials in the group,
both with direct knowledge of the
plans for the new channel,
confirmed the imminent launch but
declined to divulge details. One of
them says, “It is a big launch for us,
we can’t disclose much, as the date
of launch is yet to be firmed up.”
According to trade partners of the
broadcaster, one of the tentative
names for the channel, used so far,
is Colors Infinity, taking after the
biggest brand in the network’s kitty
(covers a Hindi GEC and regional
channels). However, it might not be
the one to get finalised.
Jehil Thakkar, head – media and
entertainment, KPMG, which co-
authors the Indian Media and
Entertainment Industry Report
every year with FICCI, says,
“English GECs comprise a small
market in terms of viewership.
However, it is a coveted viewership
at that because a lot of the
aspirational and premium brands
target it as it consists of trend-
setters and decision-makers. Most
of the larger networks will try and
have one or two English GECs so as
to maintain relationships with such
advertiser brands.”
The English GEC will also add to
Viacom18’s distribution arm,
IndiaCast’s muscle-power, when it
comes to negotiating content deals
with distribution platforms such as
multi-system operators and DTH
It lacked the wider English
entertainment spread that some
competing networks have had so far.
While quite a few of Viacom18’s
channels carry a Hindi-English mix
of programming such as MTV and
Nick, it had only two under its only-
English category.
STAR India, on the other hand, has a
mix of general entertainment,
infotainment, niche interest and
movie channels in English such as
Star World, Star Movies, FX, Fox
Crime, National Geographic, Fox
Life, besides HD and specialised
versions of some these brands such
as Star World Premier HD and Nat
Geo Wild. The Zee Entertainment
Enterprises has Z Cafe and Z Studio.
Industry experts, however, point
out that Viacom18 had music-
turned-youth channels like MTV,
music channels like VH1 and Comedy
Central with a male-centric
viewership that catered to the
upmarket English entertainment
viewing demographic.
But the new English GEC would help
the network to garner a more
general audience in the space,
including a better targeting of

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  1. MUMBAI:
    of Viacom18’s
    Infinity. The
    genres it is present in.
    The newly launched channel will have
    both standard definition (SD) and high
    definition (HD) feeds. With the
    addition of the new channel,
    Viacom18’s English entertainment
    channel bouquet will now have four
    offerings namely VH1, Comedy
    Central, Colors Infinity and Colors
    Infinity HD.
    Even before its launch Colors Infinity
    has acquired 2000 hours of original
    content from across studios, including
    the likes of NBC Universal, Sony
    Pictures Television, Twentieth
    Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, BBC,
    Endemol Shine and a host of other
    independent and small studios. “These
    are all multiyear deals,” said
    Viacom18 EVP head – English
    Entertainment Ferzad Palia.
    Additionally, the new English GEC,
    which has spent close to a year and a
    half in curating content, will have
    shows from across genres like drama,
    comedy, super heroes, talent,
    lifestyle, action, mini-series and live
    The channel, which aims to target
    approximately 30 million consumers
    countrywide, at the time of launch, is
    using a phase wise marketing
    strategy. The first of this is
    informing consumers about the
    channel by using the well entrenched
    ‘Colors’ brand name.
    “Colors by far is perceived as a
    successful media brand. It is also
    known for its disruptive and
    progressive programming and that is
    what Colors Infinity is about. The
    idea behind using the name Colors
    Infinity is to build a broader base of
    people,” informed Palia.
    For Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu
    Vats, using the brand Colors is part
    of the network’s GEC approach. “If
    you look at our Hindi or regional
    channels, it is under the ‘Colors’
    brand. So from a strategic perspective
    it fits well. Also Colors is a very
    urban and inspirational brand. It will
    have a lot of resonance and appeal
    with the right set of people that we
    want to reach out to,” said Vats.
    The channel has roped in director-
    producer Karan Johar and actor Alia
    Bhatt as co-curators. The duo has
    worked closely with the channel on
    picking shows and giving insights on
    the programming. “Together the two
    of them have over 10 million Twitter
    followers and through them we plan to
    build relevance with a greater
    audience. They will be integrally
    involved with the marketing campaign
    as well,” said Palia.
    Colors Infinity will not charge
    premium subscription for the channel
    and will work on the advertisement
    and subscription model. “The Indian
    market has so far not grown enough
    for channels to make money with just
    subscription. In the future, may be
    after cable starts billing and there is
    addressability, it may start
    generating revenue,” opined Vats.
    Targeting viewers in the age group of
    15 – 50 years, Colors Infinity is
    looking at a distinctive scheduling
    strategy. “It will be disruptive and
    something which has never been done
    in India before. We are mapping it the
    way a consumer would want to watch
    it,” informed Palia, adding that the
    content will comprise Indian television
    While the network already has highly
    targeted channels in VH1, which is a
    pure music and lifestyle channel and
    Comedy Central, a comedy channel,
    both Vats and Palia feel that the
    viewership will not get cannibalized.
    “We are not here to eat from a small
    pie, we are here to grow the pie. In
    fact with time, we will have more
    switchers from competition channels
    than our own cluster,” asserted
    According to Vats, all the channels
    will co-exist. “Colors Infinity is a
    GEC, while the others are sharply
    targeted channels. This is how it is
    worldwide,” added Vats.
    The growing English entertainment
    According to Palia, this is the ‘Golden
    age of television.’ “The production of
    TV series in the US and UK was up 400
    per cent in the past five years. This
    can be attributed to the growth of
    cable, over the top services and the
    aggressive nature of networks in the
    US and UK,” he opined.
    Talking from an Indian market
    perspective, Palia said that English
    entertainment in India was now
    becoming main stream. “Close to 250
    million Indians now are English
    literates, whereas 10 years ago, it
    was close to 25-30 million. It is the
    second language to most now,” he
    pointed out.
    English entertainment genre
    currently reaches to 200 million
    consumers. “We have added 20 per
    cent viewers in the genre post DAS and
    our advertising revenue over the past
    five years has grown by 60 per cent.
    Not just this, close to 60 per cent of
    English entertainment consumption is
    coming from non-metros,” informed
    Palia is of the opinion that from an
    advertiser’s perspective, the genre is
    lucrative as English entertainment
    consumers have 35 per cent higher
    disposable income.
    Addressing the issue of ‘torent’ing,
    Palia said that the habit has been
    inculcated by broadcasters
    themselves. “We have forced
    consumers to go and download.
    Research shows that people do not
    download just because they want to
    watch content immediately after the
    US launch. The real reason is that
    they aren’t getting enough content
    that they should be. There is plethora
    of content that is not even brought to
    the country,” he said.
    While the shows are first aired in the
    US in September and go on till May,
    Palia points out that in India viewers
    have to wait for the first episode till
    May. “There is a huge time gap and
    through our new offering, we will be
    taking care of this aspect,” he
    According to Palia, the English
    entertainment genre has never really
    invited a much larger base of people
    who understand the language and are
    watching the content in their
    personal space and not on TV. “We
    want to be that channel, which takes
    the category to a larger audience. We
    are not going mass, but since English
    is now main stream, we are reaching
    out to a wider base,” concluded Palia.

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