Jain Banks on Brand
India’s yet-to-launch Hindi general entertainment channel, from Viacom 18, the recently inked joint-venture between Viacom and Indian media company TV 18, is looking to build a strong channel brand to stand out in a market where the arrival of hundreds of new channels is intensifying the competition for viewers.
“One of the things that Viacom 18 will do differently is build a brand,” says Amit Jain, EVP and MD, MTV Networks Southeast Asia, China and India. “Yes, content is king and distribution is God and all those clichés which you’ve heard about, but you can’t forget about the brand. You need to build audience connect, and when you build that connect you will see ongoing audience loyalty. There’s old clichés about audiences watching programmes and not channels - I beg to differ.”
Jain, former head of MTV India who was promoted to the regional role earlier this year, foresees a tough time for Indian TV companies with price competition from new channels preventing the country’s already low TV ad rates from rising over the next two to three years, pending a market shakeout and consolidation. Despite current growth prospects, the TV business in India today is not for the faint-hearted, he adds, indicating that in spite of strong advertising growth, the success and profitability of new ventures is likely to be dependent on subscription fees from emerging digital pay-TV platforms.
Viacom’s joint venture with TV 18 is building up a strong stable of channels that could emerge as India’s fourth major channel bouquet, alongside Star, Zee and Sony, although Jain says he will not be deciding whether to follow this path. “The new management team has every right to take a call on it,” he says. “That call should happen when the time is right,” pointing out that the current contractual arrangements still have a couple of years left to run. Jain’s replacement as India head is due to be announced this week.
Having broadened his scope to include Southeast Asia and China, Jain has been trawling for local partners to provide on the ground understanding and distribution in each market. “If there is one key unifying element in our strategy it is going to be the fact that we are looking for local partners to complement our ability to bring in world class content and brands, with those guys managing the environment, the distribution and the relationships.” The company has embarked on a major localization drive in Southeast Asia, launching new licensee relationships in Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand this year. “We are now in the process of investing in developing brands, developing businesses, and content. We have put our money on what we think are the growth drivers for the future.”
Jain has yet to make up his mind about the right strategy for mainland China however, indicating a decision may yet be some way off. “In India it took us a year to figure it out. In China it might take more.”