The decision to shut down Imagine TV by Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific (Turner) has come as a big, sad shocker for the industry. In fact, many state that there was not even enough time to sniff any rumour. And, while questions are galore, a significant bunch notes that the rebirth and rise of Life OK in the GRP scorecard could have significantly led to Imagine TV's sudden death.
However, following STAR One's renovation as Life OK, the story also underwent fresh repair. Life OK launched with 44 GRPs but eventually went up the ladder to average 80-84 GRPs per week, while Imagine TV's score stood at an average 60 points. Not to forget that currently, Life OK makes an approximate Rs 40 crore a month in advertising revenues.
Top media executives who do not want to be named state that in any given media plan, the second rung channels are primarily used to build frequency. Imagine TV's CPRP has never moved below Rs 15,000 and it made sense till the channel averaged at 70-80 GRPs. But, not after the channel started to decline. The monies were now being diverted to channels such as Life OK or even Sahara One and STAR Utsav because they deliver a better CPRP per deal. For the record, Life OK's CPRP is around Rs 15,000, while that of Sahara One is around Rs 10,000.
Speaking to afaqs!, Siddharth Jain, managing director, South Asia, Turner International India, explains, "When NDTV offered Imagine TV to Turner, the channel had a very good vision in place. The only thing that the channel needed was cash infusion and a strong support system. However, the match between that vision and performance was completely lacking. We follow a very strong financial decision and are answerable to stakeholders. And therefore, this was a business call we had to take."
Despite the facts, many note that Turner's decision to close Imagine TV "just does not make sense." All said and done, there is almost a universal consensus that Turner should not have closed down Imagine TV and instead focused to improve the distribution of the channel.
It's well known that while the staple content of any general entertainment channel has to work well for growth, the channel cannot succeed until it cracks its distribution. "Distribution and placement played a very big role in the growth of Life OK. In the last 12-18 months, Imagine TV did bring forth a significant choice of good content but could not get the viewership numbers. Therefore, Turner should have looked to push up the channel distribution and placement so that it could at least witness some default trials," says Praveen Tripathi, chief executive, Magic9 Media & Consumer Knowledge.
Karthik Lakshminarayan, COO, Crest - Madison Media, however, has a different take. According to him, Imagine TV was fairly well distributed in the market. In fact, it needed that one consistent show to keep the channel running, which maybe Turner failed to find.
Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the fact that the GEC business is a long term game and about two years is just too short a time period to take such a decision, he notes.
According to Pankaj Krishna, Founder & CEO - Chrome Data Analytics & Media, despite being a 65 GRP channel - the overall PCS of Imagine TV (availability across the top three distribution slots) stood at 86 per cent, not radically behind Star Plus at 98 per cent and Zee, Sony, Life Ok and Colors at 90 per cent.
"Consumer pull clubbed with strategic distribution planning has a huge impact on the overall performance of a channel over the years Imagine TV lost out on factors contributing to the former," he says. As per industry estimates, the channel would have to spend anywhere between Rs 60-65 crore to reach such high penetration.
Jain accepts the point. "Prior to taking the decision to close down Imagine TV, we had done an analysis on every aspect of the channel that could be worked upon. While distribution and marketing were quite in place, it was the lack of that one consistent show that was pulling back the channel performance. And this in turn was putting a lot of stress on our financial plans," he says.
So, what happens now?
Jain notes that the company remains committed to future investments and long-term participation in India. He states that the company is keen on India and will continue to explore expansion opportunities in this market through acquisitions and joint ventures.
As for the employees, the company plans to absorb a part of the Imagine TV staff into the other Turner channels, while a part will stay on board as the transition team till all the contracts and agreements with advertisers and partners are officially settled. Additionally, Jain claims that Turner has already outsourced an HR agency to place the remaining employees across the industry.