What lies ahead for E24?

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | August 11, 2008
At a time when the demarcations between news, drama, and entertainment are fast blurring, afaqs! Investigates the future of a channel such as E24 - a 24-hour news channel on entertainment

Entertainment & #BANNER1 & # news is at the top in the programming priority for general news channels, and news channels often win the TVR race with such shows. So, how about going a little deeper in the same space and having a full-fledged news channel on the entertainment industry?

In March, Broadcast24, a division of BAG Films that owns a general news channel, News24, launched E24, a 24-hours channel on entertainment news. E24's programming line-up comprises eight daily shows: Bollywood Reporter, E Special, U Mee aur TV, Har Card Kuch Kahta Hai, Music Tadka, Filmy Deewane, Dhamaal Unlimited and World Entertainment News.

Bollywood Reporter covers breaking news and major happenings, film deals, strategic alliances, and Bollywood trivia, besides exclusive interviews with celebrities from the film world. U Mee Aur TV is a similar programme on the television world. Music Countdown features the top 10 music tracks from latest releases, while World Entertainment News covers global happenings in entertainment, music, sports and fashion.

Besides, the channel also has a one-minute news capsule every hour on the entertainment industry.

The channel's programming also includes bi-weekly features such as Har Serial Kuch Kehta Hain on the television industry.

In terms of content, the channel is very niche. But Ashish Kaul, group chief executive officer, BAG Films & Media Ltd, is confident that there exists a market for such specialised channels. "The television industry, at the moment, is best prepared for specialised channels. In general, it's no longer feasible to launch big channels, considering the fact that big launches need three-digit distribution figures," he says.

"There is no guarantee that the new big channels can ever recover these monies, in the absence of really out-of-the-box programming. So, it makes sense to put one's bet on a specialised channel, to ensure viewers and returns on the venture," he adds.

Ashish Kaul

Divya Radhakrishnan

Jyoti Bansal

Punitha Arumugam
In fact, even in terms of promoting the channel, its efforts were minimal. Kaul provides a rationale behind this strategy. "First, we are not in a race of winning the war like the GECs. Second, if the content is bad and distribution system is in disarray, hype is of little use."

The strategy during launch was to avoid making too much noise. Instead, streamlining operations and simultaneously keeping a tab on initial feedback of the targeted TG before going on for further promotions was of priority.

"At the same time, mailers have been sent out to the interested parties, informing them about the channel," says Kaul.

On the flip side, media observers such as Divya Radhakrishnan, president, TME are of the opinion that niche channels such as E24 need a greater advertising and marketing push to create a wave in the market.

But then, it seems to be the company strategy to not go overboard with promotions and let the content and distribution speak. Interestingly, as Radhakrishnan points out, BAG had put up very few hoardings prior to the launch of even News24.

If not promotions, the channel needs to have differentiated content to be able to pull the audience. As Jyoti Bansal, executive director, west and south, MPG says, "In an already-crowded television space where the demarcations between news, drama, and entertainment are fast blurring, one needs to have clearly differentiated content to withstand the competition."

However, there seems to be an ambiguity in terms of the positioning of the channel. While a few compare it with news channels, others compare it with entertainment and lifestyle channels, such as Zoom. In fact, Bansal of MPG says that viewers who watch Zoom will be tempted to check out E24.

Among those who compare it with the news channels are Punitha Arumugam, Group CEO, Madison Media. She says, "News channels might be offering entertainment, but there are no fixed slots for such programmes. So, a viewer cannot watch the channel, with the mindset of getting his or her required dose of Bollywood gupshup on news channels."

However, Arumugam says that such channels will serve well as filler channels, playing their own role in media plans.

In fact, another Delhi-based senior media planner concurs with Arumugum. "Every channel does not have to command 90 percent penetration amongst audience across sections," she says.

Despite the fact that the channel had a soft launch in March, in the last eight weeks (Week 22-29), the channel has been sampled by 90 lakh viewers in the three Hindi speaking metros - Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata - as per TAM Media Research. In other strong Hindi speaking markets such as Gujarat, the channel has been sampled by around 45 lakh people.

Media Planners and advertisers are quite impressed by the initial sampling. Probably, it's because the channel got aggressive with distribution since June.

At present, E24 is the sole player in the market - provided it's not slotted with Zoom. However, media planners are unanimously of the opinion that this genre is also set to grow when other players enter the market. It is learnt that NDTV also plans to launch an entertainment channel, although it's still not clear whether it will be similar to Zoom or E24 or a mix of both.

Radhakrishnan of TME explains, "Being a unique player also makes it difficult to justify the positioning of your content. But as long as one provides a defined viewer profile, advertisers would be interested in the channel. For instance, for a clothing brand, it makes more sense to advertise on a channel such as E24 than a news channel."

As of now, the channel boasts of advertisers such as L'Oréal, Idea, Nestlé, HDFC, BSNL, Saridon and Piramol.

Kaul says that to attract the right kind of advertisers, they are continuously working on packaging and placement of the channel.

However, he also adds that special interest channels might not make huge money, but 'operationally efficient' channels will always stay afloat and deliver value for money to promoters and advertisers.

Kaul concludes, "In a Bollywood-crazy country, essentially, no one can go wrong by providing a platform offering more news on the film world, stars and fashion. Number games or averages do not always add up to the larger picture. So, in due time, we will reach the goals set out for the channel, merrily taking along the viewers and advertisers."

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