Shweta Mulki
Media

"We went from concept to execution and launch in just 6 months" - Suparna Singh on NDTV Hop

Singh says the idea behind the 'world's first made-for-mobile live channel' was to create a part of NDTV that Gen Z has a direct connect to, instead of a surround connect.

Telecom major, Bharti Airtel together with media house, NDTV has just launched mobile-only live channel 'NDTV Hop' on Airtel TV. With eight hours of exclusive programming every day, NDTV Hop is available on smartphones in portrait (vertical) mode, and has content mainly targeted at the late-eighties/nineties-born - Gen Z.

"We went from concept to execution and launch in just 6 months" - Suparna Singh on NDTV Hop
"We went from concept to execution and launch in just 6 months" - Suparna Singh on NDTV Hop

Suparna Singh

"We (the core team that runs NDTV Convergence) thought of this in February this year. The technology behind it-cheap and quick as it is, became such an enabler, that we went from conception to execution to launch in just 6 months." says Suparna Singh, CEO, NDTV Group. Also attributing it to NDTV Convergence's content-design-technology expertise, she recalls, "In 2014, when election results were out, we had some 13 billion hits on our site, but it didn't go down, whereas when Trump was elected, the New York Times page crashed!"

The other key factor was Airtel's immediate backing, she says. "As soon as we came up with the idea, Airtel saw its potential right away and within a couple of weeks signed up with us and have given us a lot of space as to the kind of content we wanted to create," Singh shares.

"Resources, look and feel, and studio specificity are separate and exclusive to Hop"

Singh reveals that there is a young team of about 70 people working on Hop. "A senior team at Convergence supervised the launch. The teams have their own specific studios, which when compared to conventional broadcast studios look and feel much smaller, informal and cheaper - but are terrific. We are determined that none of it looks the same as on our broadcast channels," she says. She adds that the production quality is high - it's only low-cost compared to a broadcast channel production and because this doesn't go through conventional modes of distribution.

The insight

Singh believes that young users have a very strong connect with NDTV as a brand. "They've grown up around it and hold it highly credible. So our mandate was to create a part of NDTV they have a direct connect to, as opposed to a surround connect. Genres such as gadgets and auto - we're strong in mainstream - and travel - which we don't do so much on broadcast currently - we are now creating offshoots of that," explains Singh.

"We went from concept to execution and launch in just 6 months" - Suparna Singh on NDTV Hop

A screenshot of NDTV Hop app
Click on the image to enlarge

"Also a lot of young users check out the main app on the phone - so we wanted to connect with this surging lot who weren't watching us on air but were certainly visiting us online," she adds. Besides hard news, lifestyle, entertainment, pop-culture and fashion news were popular among these users, so the team thought of building video around that.

She shares that the language - the idioms, the syntax and the way that it's shot are different from that on broadcast. "It's in Hinglish, in a more informal way and in a style that won't fly on television (on our channels at least). It's about direct access without the filter of parents or older people," she adds.

Besides being available on Airtel TV, NDTV Hop is also available as a standalone app where it can be watched live.

Retaining Gen Z's attention: Competing with social media

Singh believes that a lot of the content put out to Gen Z is not necessarily very high quality. "If your content is premium, engaging, not talking down to them, and created by their age group, stickiness will be seen. So we've built in a lot of interactivity too, which will increase as we go," she explains.

While Hop is a live channel, its content is also available as VOD, and apart from interactivity, Singh adds that some shows will seek much more participation and contribution from the viewers.

'Not looking to get into any subscription model for now'

On monetization, Singh says that besides advertising revenue there is e-commerce integration. "In the shows where it applies - for instance, fashion, if you see and like a bag, you can click on it and buy it - we already have the tech built in. We will be offering more products as we evolve through tie ups with manufacturers and retailers. There's will be product placements, brand solutions and advertorials, which true to our style, will be called out as sponsorships," she adds.

Are brands ready with mobile-friendly 'portrait mode' campaigns?

For mobile-only content, ads too, need be produced in portrait (vertical) mode. "A lot of people are getting in touch with us and realising that it's actually quite simple to do. Affiliate brand solutions, placements, etc. will be the genres that'll be utilised initially. We have an in-house team that helps them create these ads," says Singh. She adds that Hop's promos running on NDTV's channels are all in portrait mode, and similarly ads to promote the broadcast channels will be in the same mode.

"Shooting and editing on phones is not so complicated now. It's a matter of advertisers realising the potential of it and recognising that this is the only way to reach young users very quickly.

'All about the reach'

Singh notes that telecoms are competing in a big way and thinking of how to create exclusive sticky content. "Our target audience is giving us good reviews, and we will of course look at data over the next couple of months. Going forward we are thinking of getting into Hindi and regional content to go beyond metros and into smaller towns," she reveals.