Perspective | Is Bollywood taking over infotainment channels too...?

The infotainment genre is witnessing a new wave of evolution and sprucing up content in terms of differentiated offerings to tap into audience segmentation. The focus of late has been on  gaining traction and expanding reach hence innovations with entertaining formats alongside intellectual content is  prevalent on most channels in this genre.

Today with the growing popularity of Bollywood stars, we see channels like National Geographic Channel, History TV 18 and Discovery, who otherwise have no connection with Bollywood inclining towards the glamour industry and roping in big names like Salman Khan, John Abraham etc. as the face of their channel. In 2012, Discovery channel too associated itself withYash Raj Films production ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ wherein actress anushka Sharma was seen playing the role of a journalist with Discovery Channel in the film.

While information outlets or channels have increased and cluttered the media space, the growth in competition for audiences and more importantly advertising revenue has also intensified; thus reaching a saturation point as far as interest in informative content generation is concerned.
The fact is that although infotainment channels are meant for a certain set of audience who watch the channel which promises quality content end up being lured by stars from the entertainment industry.

Adgully caught up with some industry experts viz. Sangeetha Aiyer, Vice President and Head Marketing, A+E Networks | TV18, Debarpita Banerjee, Vice President, Marketing, National Geographic and Fox International Channels, India, Indranil Das Blah, Partner at CAA KWAN, Shailendra Singh, Joint MD, Percept Limited and N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA (Research Advisory) to understand their view points on the same.

Undoubtedly 'Infotainment' channels are all about interest driven content. It is not fiction, nor movies, but a reflection of what people are passionate about or find informative and interesting.

How the impact of the Bollywood star is changing the audiences preferences and their viewing habits has now become a matter of concern. Hence the question arises as to what is the basic need for roping in any Bollywood star in an infotainment channel, be it for a show or any other kind of association?

Aiyer opined that a star endorser can sometimes work wonders when a brand needs to reposition itself in the minds of its audiences. "I think what we achieved in HISTORY TV18 best exemplifies this. During the launch of the channel, one of the biggest challenges we faced was the brand name.  Unfortunately people had misconceptions that HISTORY TV18 is all about history in the real sense of the word.  Also because of its name, there was a perception that the content would be 

about date, text bookish, documentary-style, preachy etc. That was the main challenge."

Aiyer says, "So Salman, in many ways, symbolised the brand personality of History TV18. He is stylish, trendy, versatile, fun and his all encompassing popularity makes him the perfect fit for our brand.”

Giving her view point Banerjee said, "Every broadcaster wants to reach out to more and more people and most importantly, to the right kind of people- be it about their shows, or about the channel in general. Bollywood stars, if integrated appropriately 

with a brand or a show, do give the advantage of grabbing a larger number of eyeballs in a much cluttered and split-attention environment. But most importantly, since they are brands in themselves, with strong perceptions and values associated with them, it is easy for brands to collaborate with them and depict  a strong combined imagery, that appeals to the right kind of people."

"On another note, for that period, I think Salman Khan's association with a channel like HISTORY TV18 was unpredictable to say the least and in today's environment where it is tough to grab the attention of viewers, the association has managed to achieve much more than what we had hoped for,"Aiyer added.

Indranil Das also believes that ultimately content rules but what a Bollywood star 

can add is 'Instant Eyeballs' which is important for any channel or brand. He says, "Reach is what mattersinitially and then later content is what makes the channel sustain that connect and reach. We are living in a celebrity driven country hence the marketers and brand custodians use that element as an important aspect to build and expand the reach of the channel."

Chandramouli also agreed to the fact that the steps taken by channels is primarily to build their reach. He says, "Today the audience is getting younger and younger and the channels these days prioritize on reach and then content. By roping inBollywood stars they are giving an option to all sets of audience to at least try the content they are producing. Sustaining or un-sustaining is secondary. People like me, who only 

prefer intellectual content which such channels show would obviously go with quality and not the stardom, but younger audiences would go with the curiosity factor that these channels give by roping-in the stars."

So is it fair to say that this is just a marketing strategy on the part of the channel or is there a different thought behind doing the same?

Aiyer believes that brand positioning goes well beyond marketing and into the realm of corporate strategy which encompasses every single function in the organization. A person endorsing a brand forms the corner-stone of its positioning. A lot of thought needs to go into such decisions and although marketing strategy plays a pivotal role, the decision is a very strategic and a long term one.

Speaking about the philosophy and content on NGC, Banerjee said, "NGC has content that pans across many such passion fields i.e. fast cars, wild life, forensic science, people and culture, science and technology. As a brand the yellow window believes in exploring, accepting and preserving what the big beautiful world has to offer. John Abraham, an outdoorsy person, a wild life enthusiast, an experimenter with his own work, and an avid explorer was just a partnership waiting to happen.”

Indranil strongly believes that all these endorsements are just done keeping in mind the reach hence it is purely a marketing and advertising strategy. 
Shailendra Singh is of the opinion that no matter what the channel genre, but infotainment channels are also picking up the best magnates of our industry to create their reach and movement. "It is indeed the marketing strategy since these names are icons of the industry. Hence the curiosity factor increases among the audience and this helps the channels reach the exact point they want to," he said.

Elaborating the thought behind associating Salman Khan with the channel, Aiyer said, "History has always been associated with the past, but with the new History TV18 channel, we hoped to change people's perception of history. The channel is contemporary; it is about action and adventure. It is aboutpeople making history every day and through this unique and exciting partnership with Salman Khan, we have managed to reach out to a number of mainstream viewers whom we couldnot have reached otherwise."

With the growing commercialization, the need to make the infotainment category entertaining has undoubtedly become a priority for broadcasters. Hence the custodians of variouschannels, are adapting new ideas to lure audiences with anemphasis on engaging with personalities from the entertainment industry. In conclusion it would be fair to say that though content is king, it is equally important to create a buzz and buildreach and this approach is the way forward  for channels in the infotainment  category.


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