Interview: Ferzad Palia, Senior VP and GM, English Entertainment, Viacom 18

“It is very difficult to explain how well a particular channel is doing in a genre like this purely because of the monitoring system”

Surbhi Chawla | Delhi | January 23, 2012

Ferzad Palia, Senior VP and General Manager, English Entertainment, Viacom18 at the launch event

There are now a handful English channels being aired in India. Comedy Central is the new English comedy channel from the Viacom 18 stable to join the fray from today, with the brand philosophy of ‘Laugh It Off’.

Ferzad Palia, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, English Entertainment, Viacom 18 Media, in conversation with BestMediaInfo, talks about how the channel’s marketing plans, the target audience, and the differentiating factor.

Why do think this is the appropriate time to launch Comedy Central?

There were a couple of reasons for launching Comedy Central at this point in time. Firstly, the number of people who speak English and interact with the West has grown manifold. Even in terms of the future, in the next four to five years these numbers would grow by 20-25 per cent, which is quite big. That is one of the reasons. The other was that there is so much pressure on people, so what better time to launch than this? People today just want to come home and de-stress.

What will be the channel’s target audience?

We have something in this channel for the youth, which is 15 to 24 years. We also have something for the 25+ audience. We are scheduling programmes specifically for both these audiences at times when they are likely to watch TV. For example, for mature audiences we are scheduling more shows on the weekends including weekend premiering of shows. Most channels don’t do that; they run marathon repeats but we are going to be different.

How do you plan to reach out to your target audience?

We plan to do that through tons of marketing. We have a very interesting BTL plan, digital plan and even ATL plan. There will be plenty of ways that we will be adopting to reach out to our target audience.

What innovations can we expect in terms of marketing given that the market that you plan to reach out is already bombarded with tons of communication?

First and foremost, the resonance to the campaign that we have is fairly clutter-breaking. Then there are many innovative things that we plan to do. We are planning to tie up with 600-odd hangouts across our markets. We are also doing things like tying up with chemists as our philosophy is ‘Laugh It Off’, which is really to look at the lighter side of life. This will be the tag line and philosophy of the channel for years to come. There are two ways to look at a grim situation and one can always choose to look at things from a lighter side.

What are the challenges that you are likely to face?

The only thing is that it is very difficult to explain how well a particular channel is doing in a genre like this purely because of the monitoring system. So, it becomes very difficult to justify whether you are doing well or not. From an advertiser perspective, sometimes the purchase becomes a very subjective purchase. So that’s only the negative part but otherwise it is all set to boom.

You mentioned that there will be some amount of local content on Comedy Central. What can we expect in this regard?

We are in the process of working out what it is that we want to do on the local front because we have to get it right. Nobody has tried to do English language comedy. It is not easy to pull it off. So it will take some time. We are close to narrowing down as to what it is that we want to do and we will start pushing it very soon. We don’t want to anything just for the sake of doing it. There is very good Indian talent that can do something in the English language and we will explore these opportunities.

In terms of international show lineup, you have pretty much got some of the best names to start off with. Will these be new seasons of these shows?

Some of the shows that we have acquired are currently running and some of them have finished their season run. Plus, we also keep getting new show seasons, so we will keep bringing in fresh content to keep exciting our viewers.

There has been demand from sections of viewers that want their favourite shows to run almost simultaneously when they are aired in their country of origin. Is that likely to happen?

Yes, there are people who want to watch content as soon as it is out but that is not the format that we are following. We are not about showing everything first on television. Yes, there will be a few shows like that which will be aired for first time in India on Comedy Central, but we are all about bringing the best. We have handpicked for our viewers what we believe is an experience to watch and interact with and so on. Viewers who want to watch the show that was aired in the US yesterday would anyway watch it on the Internet, so why unnecessarily run behind it.

As it is a pay channel, how much revenue are you planning to garner from subscription vis-à-vis advertising?

It’s too early to predict what the mix will be or is likely to be. With the way digitalisation is picking up following the recent ordnance, it could be significantly higher than our estimates.

Surbhi@BestMediaInfo.com

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