Second time unlucky

BY Radhika sachdev| IN Media Business | 18/04/2012
"While we cannot pin what went wrong to any single event or department, what we lacked was consistency of performance, or a big hit."
SIDDHARTH JAIN of Turner International India Private Ltd tells RADHIKA SACHDEV why Imagine TV was shut down.

This week, Turner International India Pvt. Ltd. downed its shutters on yet another Hindi General Entertainment Channel (GEC), Imagine TV.
Three years ago, their 50:50 joint venture with Alva Brothers Entertainment had met with a similar fate. Within a year of its launch, Real TV was shut down, the first Hindi GEC to do so in a market where, between them the four top players - Star Plus, Colors Viacom 18, Sony Entertainment TV and Zee TV - control almost three-fourth (69.4 %) of the genre, according to TAM media research’s viewership data for 2008 to 2012.
Although Turner has been extremely keen on entering this space, it’s been unable to crack the code and gain a foothold in a market, where the viewer is highly flirtatious, displays no brand loyalty and continues to flit between channels based on their unique perception of ‘superior content.’
The breaking point for Turner must have come in the second half of last year, when even a Sony SAB, riding high on comedy and ‘wholesome family entertainment’ rode past Imagine TV to grab a channel share of 9.6.
Overall, the Hindi GEC market commands a viewership of 29.25% and ad revenue of 23.14%, making it the most viewed among all genres, followed by Regional GECs and movies (27.30%) and the second highest revenue grosser after Regional GECs and movies (25.06%) (Source: FICCI-KPMG India Media and Entertainment Industry Report, 2011).
Obviously, India’s romance with saas-bahu soaps is far from over and perhaps difficult for a Turner to adapt to.

Siddharth Jain, managing director (South Asia) Turner International India Private Ltd. takes a few straight volleys from Radhika Sachdev on where did the math go wrong for Imagine TV.
Q. What went wrong with Imagine TV? Unimaginative programming mix? Wrong timing? A crowded market? Or not enough marketing? Positioning or a combination of all these factors?
A. We had bought into the vision of Imagine and we committed to fund and run the channel supporting it with anything that was required. We invested substantially and put all possible resources behind Imagine for over two years. While we cannot pin what went wrong to any single event or department,  what we lacked was consistency of performance, or a big hit. The vision was not matching the performance, and in every forecast, there was a gap between expectations and delivery.
Q. What’s going to happen to the two other channels from the NDTV stable - Lumiere Movies and Imagine Showbiz?
A. This is a closure of Imagine TV together with its international feed ‘Imagine Dil Se’. ‘Lumiere Movies’ is a separate joint venture company. We are in discussions with our partners about the future of Lumiere and will update you as soon as we are able.
Q. In retrospect, what went wrong with Real TV at a time when reality was doing so well in India? You had Alva Brothers’ Miditech to take care of content, Zee Entertainment and Enterprises for distribution. 
A. The closure of Imagine is in no way related to REAL.
Q. What was the reason for investing in NDTV Imagine, when, even at the time when it was acquired, it was at the bottom of the pile - way behind Colors, Star Plus, Zee and Sony?
A. The acquisition of Imagine was a wholly appropriate, strategic and extensively-considered decision.
Q. Media watchers contend that except for Rakhi ka Swayamvar that did create some buzz, your programming was largely lack lustre? Your comment?
A. Imagine TV has not performed or grown as per expectations. In the two years since the purchase, the channel has not been able to make the required impact with its audience. While some programs delivered satisfactory ratings, overall the channel was unable to achieve the ratings consistency needed to sustain the business and support continued investment.
Q. Did the increase in the carriage fee, under the new TRAI order also impact your business?  The USD 126.5 million that you paid to NDTV for Imagine TV, Lumiere Movies and Imagine Showbiz was a tidy sum. Did you end up making losses on that deal?       
A. The acquisition of Imagine was a wholly appropriate, strategic and extensively-considered decision.

Q. How is CNN-IBN doing in the English news space in terms of market share, advertising revenue, and average revenue per user (ARPUs)?

A. You will have to contact CNN IBN for these answers.


Q. Two years ago, you inked a multi-platform deal with Hungama Digital for distribution of Cartoon Network and POGO content across mobile, direct to home (DTH) and online platforms. Does this deal also cover video and gaming content and if yes, how big are these markets in India?

A. Our deal with Hungama does cover video and gaming but is limited to a few distribution outlets, such as DTH platforms. With video, there is a limitation on the size of the video that can be streamed on the telecom networks so we have limited content available for streaming. Currently we do not offer downloadable video clips.

Q. What kind of growth do you see for HBO and WB in India?

A. In English entertainment, HBO and WB complete Turner’s substantial offering for Hollywood fans in India and have robust year on year growth. HBO is our premiere destination and WB plays Hollywood favorite titles and hits all through the day. Both are well-established brands with not just for our viewers but also offer a premium and niche loyal viewer base to its advertisers.

Q. Lastly, what are your future plans for the Hindi GEC space, where you made a second, studied attempt and failed?

A. Turner remains fully committed to future investments and long-term participation in India. Turner’s growth plan in India is not limited to a specific genre but we will evaluate opportunities as they come. Having been pioneers in the Indian M&E space in international news and kids’ entertainment, Turner currently operates some of the strongest media brands in India. Turner will continue to be leaders in the media and entertainment industry and to explore expansion opportunities in this key priority market for Turner.

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