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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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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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