Benita Chacko

“We're digital-first on TV- catch anywhere, anytime, on any platform. That’s what makes us the fastest growing channel”: The Q’s Simran Hoon

The FTA channel has witnessed phenomenal growth since it came on DD Free Dish in April this year.

After being available on multiple DTH platforms, OTT platforms, mobile and digital platforms like Snap, JioTV, Amazon Fire TV, The Q India found a spot on DD Free Dish in April this year. The FTA channel has witnessed phenomenal growth since then, soaring from a 4 Gross Rating Points (GRP) in the first quarter to a 46 GRP in the second. With the Covid19 cases ebbing and the economy unlocking in the third quarter, it has now come down to 38 GRP.

“Before we came onto DD Free Dish we just had 0.5 GRP. In a span of about eight to nine weeks of coming onto DD Free Dish, we went up to 51 GRP. That makes us the fastest growing Hindi GEC channel for young India. Our content was very different to what the other FTA channels were running. Currently, we are in the 30s because in the last two weeks there's been a little unlocking and the whole GEC category has degrown,” said Simran Hoon, the chief executive officer at The Q.

The channel is an owned subsidiary of Canada-based media firm QYOU Media Inc. It caters to the youth beyond the metro cities. This audience has limited access to digital media. Through its shows the channel tries to provide that. Their shows include sketch comedy, food shows hosted by popular digital creators, animation and lifestyle/ travel shows. It provides digital creators a platform to showcase their content on the television.

“It creates a win-win situation. For the influencers and the creators, they get to showcase their content on a TV channel. And for us, we get original content. We're digital-first on TV catch anywhere, anytime, on any platform. That’s the reason for us to be the fastest growing channel,” she adds.

Free Dish audiences are typically in the tier two and tier three towns. Most of the content on these FTA channels are reruns of shows aired by leading GECs during prime time. The FTA channels of the 'big daddies'- Sony Pal, Zee Anmol, Star Utsav and Colors Rishtey - run their old content from their main channels. For Dangal, it is content from NDTV Imagine. The Q sets itself apart by providing digital content on television.

“We were looking at how we could serve something different to this underserved audience. So we curated content from digital media and gave them a whole new, refreshed, differentiated entertainment on their TV sets,” she adds.

Through television the channel reaches more than 110 million homes and another 700 through mobile screens. Providing content on multiple platforms comes with its challenges. After all, the needs of OTT viewers and television viewers are quite different.

“Yes, but since this audience is underserved on content, we pick up some relevant content from OTT platforms for the channel. For example we are airing Aashram from MX Player. We have edited it and instead of nine one hour episodes, we now have half an hour dailies for the television audience. We have also edited out content that’s not suitable for TV. OTT still has a very urban skew to it. In these towns, not everyone has mobile phones and the majority are still single TV homes. People are also suffering from poor bandwidth. So discoverability of content remains an issue. Since we provide curated content, based on what resonates with them, people don’t need to waste their bandwidth to figure out what to watch,” she adds.

Apart from the big four, the other players in the GEC space are Abzy Cool, Azaad and Shemaroo TV. Azaad is a new channel launched this year especially targeting the rural audience.

“There are more players coming into the space. There is a big growth in viewership in the tier two and three towns, which were so far not addressed by pay networks, resulting in advertiser interest,” she said.

Hoon says The Q provides advertisers a unique target audience. Unlike other FTA channels that target audiences over the age of 35, the channel mainly caters to young India. “The young population had almost exited television. With digital taking over, they were not being served by those television channels anymore. But we are catering to this audience with digital content, which is curated for them so they don't need to go and discover content. And whether it's on TV or on their mobile platforms, it's available to them for free. For the advertisers this is additional to the audiences that the other networks provide,” she adds.

The pandemic has changed the audience's television viewing behaviour. Hoon says that people now prefer happy content over dark material and also for shorter format shows.

“People are looking for more happy content now. They want entertaining content where they do not have to apply their mind too much, like comedy. They also look for infotainment, where they learn something new. Unlike earlier, when shows would drag on for years, audiences now are looking for episodic shows. They don't have that patience any longer. They're more interested in watching shorter formats,” she adds.

In the last year, The Q has also seen some major appointments. In August, they appointed Sujata Samant as head of marketing and Pankaj Rai as the head of ad sales for the North and East regions. Ashish Kotekar joined as head of ad sales for South and West regions in May. Hoon also was appointed as the CEO in April this year. Besides, in August the channel also launched BharatBox along with Chtrbox as India’s first integrated marketing platform powering brands to reach consumers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 Indian cities across television, digital platforms and social media. These are in the run-up to the launch of another channel in the first quarter of next year.

“We really want to be at the forefront of anything in the digital space. So whether it's the creator economy or it's the influencer market or programming. And we're very nimble to be ahead of the curve. We will be unveiling some interesting plans in the next 12 to 18 months,” she concludes.