Q] How did Viacom18’s Hindi and kids’ cluster cope with the effects and after-effects of the pandemic on the business?
When we started off in March, we didn’t realise that the lockdown was going to be so long. From a kids’ genre perspective, by the time March came, we were already preparing for a big summer, so when the lockdown happened, the genre was the least affected and we were ready to entertain our little kids and families with new stories, characters, episodes, movies and contests. So, Nickelodeon, Sonic, Nick Junior and all our brands were ready with new content to engage with kids. And I am truly happy for that, as kids were deprived of two very big things in their lives last year-- school and friends. So as a responsible broadcaster, we were there with all new content and we continued to churn out new content for kids. We really had a fantastic 2020 because we actually launched our ninth and 10th local IP in 10 years, Ting Tong and Pinaki & Happy-The Bhoot Bandhus, in the Diwali quarter. We lead the genre with a 32% market share, with Disney and Turner following us. We were happy to be in a good space with original content.
The story wasn’t the same at GEC, which is Colors, where we ran out of original content and shoots were suspended for a while. But staying true to our promise of wanting to connect and engage and entertain our audiences, we looked into our internal and external libraries to ensure that we continue to entertain, and we put out Mahabharat and Om Namah Shivay. We looked into our own libraries and brought back this nostalgic feeling with shows like Balika Vadhu, Na Aana Iss des Laado, Sasural Simar Ka, and audiences started enjoying this content. We also tried some innovative stuff with our characters and artistes at home. We put out a show called ‘Hum tum and quarantine’, which was really done from the home to ensure that we have some newness on the channel as well.
As soon as lockdown opened, Colors was the first to go out there with original content and we had a fabulous prime time line-up with all our blockbusters, from Choti Sardaarni to Barrister Babu and Shakti, coming back. We also had, for the first time, a Khatron Ke Khiladi version made in India. We shot it in India as soon as the lockdown opened. Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, we still managed to put out a fabulous show with Rohit Shetty.
Q] Both the clusters that you handle are very critical for Viacom18’s top line as well as the bottom line. So to what extent were the revenues of these two clusters affected?
We did see a very subdued Q1 and Q2, but I am very happy to say that we came back with a revenge in Q 3. It was a great festive October, November and December for us. We had our viewers and advertisers back. We actually managed 17 sponsors on Bigg Boss alone. We had full inventory consumption. We had great sponsorships and partnerships which is also leading into a very robust and positive Quarter 4. So on the whole, I think across all our genres, we are going to see a very healthy H2 (Oct 2020- Mar 2021). The second half of the year is going to be actually perhaps even slightly more than 2019. H2 is really going to be a very good comeback for all our genres. And a couple of categories that stood out for us in that quarter from advertisers’ perspective are gaming, edutech, e-commerce, and e-wallets. There were brands like PhonePe, Amazon Pay, Bijyus and Dream 11. Then there were the usual suspects of FMCG there as well. These advertisers stood out for us and partnered with us because there is this whole thing about trusting the partner, and both partners trusted each other. I think we really had a good Quarter 3 and fingers are crossed for a fabulous Quarter 4 as well.
Q] What have the content trends in Hindi GEC and kids cluster been across broadcasters?
One trend that emerged was that of nostalgia, and it actually fuelled our non-prime-time growth. However, though non-prime-time has gone back to its pre-COVID levels, for Colors particularly, non-prime-time has been very good and continues to show very robust growth. Going forward, the trend will be about creating content and telling stories that are very inclusive, which capture the simplicity of human emotions and that help in family bonding.
The other big trend that I see is the FTA space. We went back to the platform with Colors Rishtey in the GEC space and Rishtey Cineplex in the movie space. We have seen huge growth there, with both the channels garnering 15% market share. It has given us tremendous growth in terms of viewership as well as in terms of ad sales revenue.
From a very larger perspective, the other trend was the impetus of OTT, and we are not shying away from that fact at all. In fact, we believe that we are in a country where, unlike the West, linear television and digital are going to coexist.
Q] What are the new launches for Hindi and kids cluster that we’re going to see in 2021?
For the kids’ cluster, we will continue to look at local content. We are very happy to say that we, for the first time in collaboration with Viacom International, Nick India and Nickelodeon International, are co-producing a show called ‘The Twisted Timelines with Sammy and Raj’ and that we’re going to launch it in 2021 over and above our two local IPs.
From a GEC perspective, we will continue to create characters and stories that are relatable and relevant. But we are also going to look at a slightly more disruptive content coming in as well. We are considering new IPs that will look at different storylines and genres. It is to ensure that we stay true to our DNA and what Colors stands for--to give differentiated content and a fabulous mix of fiction and non-fiction. We are looking at making our weekends robust with non-fiction and impact properties. We are looking at bringing new impact properties on the weekends as the year rolls out. We will start off with Dance Deewane once Bigg Boss is over. We are also going to look at some very disruptive new IPs. We are in fact going to launch two new fiction shows in Q4 itself. When Bigg Boss gets over, you will see two new very different fiction shows.
Q] How do you expect financial year 2022 to shape up for the broadcasting sector? Do you think we will recover in 2021 or will the recovery stretch to 2022?
That is also a perspective of what is happening in the economy, and I can see that the economy is starting to pick up. Consumer demand is starting to pick up. I do believe that we will go back at least to the fiscal of FY 20 levels. Of course it’s a matter of time, but looking at how the two quarters of this fiscal have been, I am very confident that we will come back with a very robust topline and we will continue to deliver a very robust bottom-line as well.
The industry will take a little time because media platforms, other than television, are still recovering and are on a very slow recovery path, particularly from the cinemas’ perspective or on-ground perspective. Print and Radio are seeing a slightly slower recovery than television. Television and Digital are galloping and we will see a good robust comeback on these two platforms for sure. The other platforms will take some time to recover, but recovery is here. A lot of our advertisers have shown a whole lot of growth in the last couple of quarters. If you look at the results of some FMCG companies, you will see how their sales have grown over the previous years. It looks very positive.
We as an organisation are committed to continue our investments in content. We are storytellers at the heart of what we do and we will continue to invest and entertain our viewers. We are also in the business of business at the end of the day and we will ensure good toplines and bottom-lines for our organisation.