afaqs!

Comedy Central moves to a 'happy place'

By Shweta Mulki , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | September 10, 2015
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The general entertainment channel from Viacom18 has been given a new look and positioning.

Viacom18's English entertainment channel Comedy Central has donned a new look and unveiled a new brand philosophy that extends from the previous 'Laugh it Off' to the broader idea of 'Happy Place'. After three and a half years, the channel will now be available in HD.

This comes at a time when the English entertainment genre is seeing a lot of action in the form of channel launches, revamps and fresh line-ups. BARC's new report has also provided insights that reveal a growing interest in this genre in the rural markets.

Comedy Central has announced a bouquet of shows accompanied by a 360-degree marketing plan with campaigns on digital and on-ground platforms. This is being promoted on other network channels of Viacom18 including Vh1, Colors Infinity and MTV. According to the channel, a genre like comedy has audiences coming in throughout the day, but there are usually more eyeballs post 8 pm.

In the revamped line-up, the 9 pm slot gets a new show called 'Younger', and a fresh season of 'The Mindy Project' (S3) follows at 9.30 pm. Also, a new prank-based show called 'Betty White's Off Their Rockers" is slotted at 10 pm.

Betty White's Off Their Rockers

In the month of October, the channel will have new day-and-date shows including a fresh season of 'Brooklyn Nine Nine' (S3), 'Undateable' (S3), and a new show called 'Dr Ken' which will also be unveiled in the US around that time.

Ferzad Palia

With various English entertainment channels upping their game, how does Comedy Central bring in a unique audience, especially with sister channel Colors Infinity also belonging to the same genre? Ferzad Palia, executive vice president and business head, English Entertainment, Viacom 18, says, "Both the channels are set out to grow the English entertainment pie, and there is a large and growing audience to be looked at. We don't want to eat from a small pie. We may be sitting in a similar genre, but the kind of audiences for both channels are different, though there would be some overlap, of course, as it would in any genre."

Palia believes that Comedy Central is the most differentiated product in the entire space as it is the only one with a focus on a particular genre, comedy. "Colors Infinity and Comedy Central have the best of both worlds - the former is a separate entity that is mainly general entertainment with little comedy. So, we are not worried about eating from each other. Add VH1 to that and it becomes a diverse portfolio for the English market," he adds.

The channel believes that as English literacy skyrockets and a lot of viewership comes in from non-metros, its fan base is shifting. For instance, requests on Vh1 are coming in from non-metros more than the big cities. A look at any metric will show that the English genre is booming, and this is a continuing trend.

The content strategy for the entertainment genre, Palia says, is not easy to decide as channels are dependent on what the international markets produce. "Essentially, the way India has worked so far is that it has followed international trends. 'Superhero' shows, for instance, are the big thing currently. It's more about setting trends than gauging the audience as the latter does not know what new show or genre exists until they see it. So, we become a platform for discoverability as well, unlike the channels that create their own content here," he explains.

Palia says that it is easier to gauge genres that are not likely to work, but introducing new trends is the more important part for channels like Comedy Central.

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