<b>Ritu Kapur</b>, Programming Head, A+E Networks | TV18
Our ambition and mission is to broad base the genre and ensure that each and every Indian is tuning in to our channel. We look forward to having History leading the factual entertainment genre and growing it progressively into an alternative to mainstream general entertainment channels… This is the general trend the world over: factual entertainment channels actually compete with regular mainstream entertaining channels and we expect that to happen here as well.
Our ambition and mission is to broad base the genre and ensure that each and every Indian is tuning in to our channel. We look forward to having History leading the factual entertainment genre and growing it progressively into an alternative to mainstream general entertainment channels… This is the general trend the world over: factual entertainment channels actually compete with regular mainstream entertaining channels and we expect that to happen here as well.Ritu Kapur is currently Programming Head, A+E Networks | TV18, the JV between A+E Networks and TV18. She is responsible for developing the programming strategy, content and delivery.
Kapur has amassed an array of experience during the course of her career. She was the Features Editor with news channel CNN-IBN since its inception. While she was overseeing all entertainment, health and technology content as also lifestyle shows on weekends such as ‘Secret Kitchens’, ‘Ynot’, ‘Living It Up’, etc., her biggest initiatives have been ‘Real Heroes’ and Citizen Journalism. She started the concept on the channel and worked on it as it has grown and taken on the dimension of a media movement.
Kapur joined Network18 in 1992 as Associate Director and Correspondent on a lifestyle magazine show – ‘The India Show’, which was the first ever Indian show on a satellite channel, Star Plus. Following this, she moved to Sony Entertainment, where she was both Director and screenplay writer on the real-life docu-drama series ‘Bhanwar’. She also worked with SAB TV, Zee TV and Doordarshan, where she was involved in writing and directing several popular series.
She was part of the core team that launched a channel for the Diaspora in the UK and the US, called ‘South Asia World’. She has also taught screenwriting at the Film School at Rai University.
In this interaction with exchange4media’s Suraj Ramnath, Kapur speaks about History channel’s success, how different it is from other infotainment channels and the road ahead… Q. What is your market spends for the marketing of History? It’s in the range of around Rs 12-15 crore for the year, but that’s largely because this has been a launch year. Going forward, we will be looking at creating innovative clutter breaking marketing concepts, along with exploiting synergies with our sister channels.
Q. What is your advertiser profile? FMCG forms a bulk of the genre’s advertising. Having said that, we are getting new brands on board every day, cutting across categories of BFSI, Auto, Education, Travel and Tourism, Government PSUs, etc.
Q. Where do you see History channel in three years’ time? Our ambition and mission is to broad base the genre and ensure that each and every Indian is tuning in to our channel. We look forward to having History leading the factual entertainment genre and growing it progressively into an alternative to mainstream general entertainment channels. This is primarily because we believe there is a lot of inherent weariness and audiences are looking for new content beyond the regressive shows across GECs. This is the general trend the world over: factual entertainment channels actually compete with regular mainstream entertaining channels and we expect that to happen here as well.
Q. Post launch, how has the response been from the viewers of History channel? The response has been pretty phenomenal with the channel garnering a clear No. 2 rank across market clusters and audience groups. History helped grow the factual entertainment genre by 30 per cent and has gained significant market share in the month of it debut. History also led the factual entertainment pack in time spent per viewer with 35 minutes vis-à-vis Discovery (23 minutes) and Nat Geo (16 minutes), which is an indication of differentiated programming, its stickiness quotient and our positioning as providing new and refreshing content.
Q. What kind of marketing and promotional activities do you undertake for your shows and channel? As a channel, History has transformed itself by using very innovative formats that move away from the traditional concept of history being about dates. That DNA of innovation is being replicated everywhere, including every marketing exercise we undertake. For instance, we now have a comprehensive partnership in place with CBSC and its 10,000 schools on exciting on-ground events, activities and quizzes. History is also reaching out to every possible audience with access to a screen – be it a TV screen, a computer screen or a mobile phone. The channel has forayed on the mobile platform and is now available across major operators on live streaming and video on demand. On social media, History already has more fans than most of our competition. We have a healthy social media community, where every show generates interesting conversation currency on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter a week before its launch.
Q. Most of the content shown in History is international shows. Do you have any original Indian shows in the pipeline? The channel has launched a series of India connect shows for the month of November to provide its Indian viewers a ‘Desi’ element by capturing the diversities of this country. History is airing the following shows this month – ‘A Passage Through India’, ‘Monster Quest’, ‘26/11 Umbrella’ (which includes ‘60 hours’ and ‘Lest We forget’), along with other India connect shows such as ‘IRT: Deadliest Roads’ and ‘Strange Rituals’, which will be aired till December-end.
As already mentioned, we will soon be announcing a few big-ticket local productions that match international scale.
Q. How do you differentiate your channel channels like Nat Geo and Discovery? History is perceived to be associated with the past, but with our channel, we hope to change people’s perception of history. The channel today is contemporary. It is also about action, thrill and adventure as much as it is about events and people that have shaped our lives. With the right blend of strategic insight, cutting edge creative and innovative thinking, we endeavour to position History as the most relevant and engaging factual entertainment channel.
Q. What are the factors that you keep in mind when adapting international shows for the Indian audience? We select/ offer content that is superlative, engaging and connect with our target audience. Thematic and differentiated content seems to be the flavour of the season as there are people looking for differentiated content. Research has proven that viewers have started watching factual entertainment channels the world over even more because they offer a completely different style of programming, enhanced visual experience, especially in an outdoor setting that has never been seen before. This trend is bound to show up in India soon as people are looking beyond soaps, serials and existing reality TV content for entertainment. With History, the A+E Networks | TV18 JV has attempted to bring this kind of content to India.
Q. Is History channel planning to launch any more new shows in the coming future? We have a plethora of new shows lined up for December. We have special shows which are one-offs, focusing on interesting concepts like ‘History Must Watch’, which includes shows like ‘Child Warrior’ that talks about in-depth journalistic report of the escalating international crisis of children who are recruited and used as soldiers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Eastern Congo, Nepal and Columbia; ‘Ancient Ink’ – an insight into the world of tattoo making and how tattooing has changed over the centuries; ‘Scammed’ – which takes viewers inside long and complicated schemes and even the micro-cons that have plagued unsuspecting people for hundreds, even thousands of years; ‘The Real Story of Christmas’ – which reveals interesting and unknown facts about this religious festival; and ‘South Korea – a nation to watch’. But probably the most promising one is the thoroughly enjoyable ‘Freddie Flintoff versus The World’ – where ex-cricketer Andrew Flintoff travels across the world meeting celebrity opponents, unraveling challenges and competing in extreme sports.
Soon, we will also be announcing a few big-ticket local productions that match international scale.
Q. Out of these shows (‘Ice Road Truckers’, ‘Sliced’, ‘Top Shot’, ‘Swamp People’, ‘Food Tech’, ‘Deadliest Roads’, ‘Evolve’), which has been the most popular one? Most of our shows have done well, though the ones which have really stood out include ‘Ice Road Truckers’, ‘Deadliest Roads’ and ‘Food Tech’.
Q. How hard is History trying to air more of different content from that of Nat Geo and Discovery? History’s show selection and content mix are based on exhaustive studies, content testing and feedback with a variety of audiences. ‘History, Made Every Day’ – the channel’s position, encompasses the breadth of content and themes that History brings to Indian audiences – History here is not just about the past, it’s as much about people making history today. With such a strong positioning, we are clearly differentiated from the competition and our strategy is more proactive in nature and in line with our strategy of growing the genre. The channel has been launched with universal themes that use the premise of history, but are entertaining, engaging and thrilling, and would appeal to a very wide audience, including younger demographics and also discerning audiences.
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