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"There's no such thing as 'digital strategy'...": Swati Mohan, Fox Life

By Anirban Roy Choudhury, afaqs!, Mumbai | March 02, 2018
Rather, it's about strategising for a digital consumer, insists the country head- National Geographic and Fox Networks Group India.
Swati Mohan

Swati Mohan

Country head, National Geographic and Fox Networks Group India

Lifestyle is a niche genre on TV in India. But in recent past, the genre has seen significant growth in viewership; the impressions in 2017 were about 24 per cent higher than that of 2016. The genre has players from ZEEL (Living Foodz), Discovery (TLC), TV18 (FYI TV18), Fox Networks (Fox Life), Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Mogae Consultants Food Food and few others. Together, they fetch around 5.2 million impressions (2017) on TV, growing from 4.1 million in 2016.

BARC India Week 8 ratings of Lifestyle genre

The Fox International Channel is upbeat about the genre; the network has decided to refresh the brand to "up the game and stay ahead of the curve". We spoke to Swati Mohan, country head - National Geographic and Fox Networks Group, India and she feels that the premium consumer is much more exposed today and so upping the game is important.

Fox Life

The channel, as a part of a brand-refresh exercise, gets a new tagline 'Never Stop'. A few new shows are also lined up to bring in a programming refresh. Fox Life is currently (Week 8) at the number four position in the lifestyle genre with 875 impressions. The genre has its own challenges, it is not measured robustly and hence, "The accountability of inventory on these platforms becomes a big issue," says a senior media planner further adding, "The inventory of these channels (lifestyle) is improving as brands value the eyeballs and are ready to punt." Fox Life in India is sold and distributed by Star India and Mohan says, "They have a healthy mix of both advertising and subscription revenue."

Here is what she has to say about the various challenges and opportunities:-

Edited Excerpts

Why did you feel that the channel needs a brand refresh? What are you doing to freshen up the brand?

It is important to keep upping the game and stay ahead of the curve with our ever-evolving and much more exposed consumers today. As a channel brand, we have packaged a new look, a refreshed content line up and philosophy that we feel perfectly captures the growing need and consumption of lifestyle for our premium consumer, today. The new tagline of 'NEVER STOP' aims to inspire our viewers to continue to seek those extraordinary and memorable experiences that make life worth living!

When you see the lifestyle category today, what is the most appealing aspect for you?

It is always going to be interesting to be in a category that manages to find a meaningful place in a consumer's life - and lifestyle surely does. With Fox Life, we're clear we want to continue to do that as a lifestyle brand - whether on the channel, where we enjoy continued leadership or on Hotstar, the largest premium video streaming service - through our category-leading and large social media footprint that feeds consumers with content relevant for that format.

Where does the biggest challenge lay?

In today's world, with a constantly evolving viewer, as well as the media landscape, the biggest challenge ends up being able to put your finger on what the viewer will want next - and to make sure they get it before they start missing it. But it's a fun challenge and keeps us on our toes as we aim to continue to be relevant and engaging for our audience.

What according to you, can Fox Life provide for a brand which other channels cannot?

We take pride in three key aspects that we feel distinguish Fox Life as a Premium Lifestyle channel - One, our content (whether international or India produced) is very experiential - allowing for the viewer to truly be immersed in the content and want to do that/ go there someday. Two, we cover all aspects of Lifestyle - be it food, style, fashion, home décor, restaurants, start-ups, music... we've pretty much done it all! And three, we provide the right environment and lifestyle platform to fuel the desires of premium consumers who can then be effectively targeted by like-minded brands.

What according to you is the profile of a Fox Life viewer in India?

Our viewers believe in living life to the fullest through enriching and unforgettable experiences and journeys. They are not the people who would ever 'be done' with they have seen experienced or learnt, and aren't afraid to pursue their interests or passions further. They want more from life and are always open to new and extraordinary experiences and with our content, we constantly aim to provide them access to such unique experiences.

How has the profile of the viewer changed in the last three years?

While there hasn't been a landmark shift in the viewer's profile, what has changed are the exposure levels consumers have nowadays, simply due to the ease of access to information and experiences. So, their need and ability to know and do more, either planned months in advance or then an impromptu weekend getaway, is surely heightened.

Indian Men, Twist of Taste, Life Mein Ek Baar; you have done a few India centred shows; what has the experience been like?

As a network, we started the foray into English, original unscripted lifestyle content, before anyone else. Over the past few years we have had multiple successful franchises, be it Twist of Taste on food, Great Escape on Travel & Adventure or Design HQ on Home décor, just to name a few. Our newest (and what we are kicking off this re-brand with) is Masters of Taste with renowned chef Gary Mehigan, which we think is going to be pretty special. Our focus on high production value has managed to get these shows onto a global stage and so, they are airing across many countries and platforms worldwide.

Swati Mohan with Gary Mehigan Swati Mohan with Gary Mehigan

Food, Beauty, Makeup are the fastest growing genres on YouTube; how do you plan to compete with the digital spread?

Our content has high production value and we appeal to our digital consumers as well, who are more than happy to access lifestyle content like food, fashion, travel, design, and reality TV via the digital medium.

What is your digital strategy? Will it be a part of Hotstar or will you have a completely different strategy?

Well firstly, I believe that there is nothing called digital strategy. There needs to be a strategy for a digital consumer and that, we most definitely have. Whether being able to have our content accessed on the go and anytime, Fox Life content is available on the country's largest OTT platform - Hotstar. If it's about giving people a chance to interact with the content and the brand in a like-minded community through other engaging formats, then we have the largest social media footprint in the category. And it is important to mention that none of this has taken away from our leadership on linear television. So, we are proud to have built an effective and relevant ecosystem for our content and brand.

Today, there are so many GECs and all are marketing GEC content; the category as a whole, gets a lot of mileage. Lifestyle, being a niche genre, hardly reaches out to the masses; do you see a lack of marketing from the overall category as a reason why the genre is not growing at a pace it should?

The marketing of special interest channels like Fox Life is no different from any other premium brand out there in another category today. It is targeted and focused. Everything from the message, the format of the message, the delivery vehicle, the look and feel, and just where and when it gets served to the consumer, is pretty critical for it to be effective. Given our leadership in viewership and social media footprint in the country, I'd say we've done a pretty good job.

Where do you see the next set of viewers coming in from and what will drive them in the genre?

The Indian audience has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past decade or so. The new viewers are more aware and, as a consequence, look for more value adds from any program that they watch. We are constantly improvising our content to suit the needs of the evolving viewer.

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