For a long time creative teams shied away from making fiction shows for the youth as they felt that youngsters who had little patience would prefer reality shows to fiction any day. They also felt that the youth preferred disruptive programming. Many reality shows were churned out, many of which were unfit for family viewing and according to the elders of the family taught their kids the wrong kind of things.
Prem Kamath on joining Channel V started introducing tasteful fiction programmes which the youngsters could watch with their families and also worked towards bridging the generation gap and helped in inculcating the right kind of values in the youth. Mr.Kamath, Executive Vice President and GM of Channel V talks at length with Tellybuzz about his journey with Channel V since he joined in February 2009 to now.
Channel V opened the V Spot Caf+Bar is February 2012. What was the intention behind opening this joint? Will you be having branches in Mumbai, Bangalore and other Indian metropolitan cities too?
Currently there are two outlets- one in Gurgaon and the other is in Saket. The third outlet is opening in Pune next month. Over the next three years we plan to have about 30 outlets- that is our broad plan behind this. We thought that it was a very logical brand extension, a lot of our viewers' time is spent hanging out at malls and cafes, going out on dates, going to pubs, we felt that we had the opportunity for extending into the space keeping the essence of the brand intact.
We are an entertainment brand- the V Spot is essentially taking entertainment on ground. Whether it's through the activities we do and music we play there and the differentiated programming, we felt it's very true to both the brand and the consumer, so it made a very logical extension for us. We have identified a spot in Chandigarh already. We are also on the lookout for a place in Kolkata.
What is your plan for the Indiafest 2013 which will be held in January? How will it be different from the 2011 and 2012 fests?
What we have done is that it's significantly larger in scale and that's a big difference. We started off for example with four zonals. We have now got into eight zonals. The Mumbai zonal is happening on Tuesday for example. The The Bangalore zonal is happening on Monday.
The number of students participating each year is on a consistent rise. There were 50,000 registrations in the first year. In the second year it touched about 86,000. We expect more than a lakh registrations in 2013. We have tried to up the scale in terms of artists, so last year for example the zonals were just the competitions. In Bangalore for the zonals we have Raghu Dixit performing. For the Mumbai zonals we also have talented artistes performing. So every city has turned into a mini India fest. The 2013 fest is larger in scale than the previous years' fests.
Initially the heads of youth channels and some producers were wary of experimenting with fiction as they felt that they just wouldn't work for the youth. A certain youth channel also tried a fiction show not too long ago which flopped. However your experiment with fiction starting from Roomies has worked wonders and has greatly added to the channel's GRP. Please comment.
It's just utter misconception that fiction won't work. I think it's just broadcasters talking to themselves which has no basis in consumer understanding. Consumers just don't look at programmes saying that it's a reality show, fiction show or a documentary. If the show is engaging people will watch it.
There have been people who have tried to experiment with fiction without much success. For us we built that success step by step. Roomies was a hit. Then there was a show called Ye Parindey which was not a hit nevertheless it was critically acclaimed. But the concept evolved was very different. It was set in a remand home which was an unconventional setup.
We had to go through a learning process of what would work and what wouldn't. We need to note that eighty percent of the content on TV is fiction and it's working completely fine. It's silly to assume that we can't create youth fiction. If shows aren't working it means that the shows are wrong or we are doing something wrong. It's not that it's the fiction format which is wrong, we are very committed to the format. So we did, tried and experimented till we started getting things right.
Roomies was a hit- it did well for us whereas Ye Parindey wasn't a hit. Then we launched Dil Dostii Dance, it was a massive hit and still continues to be the number one show in the genre. By then we had a sufficient amount of learning to channelize it into every subsequent show that we did. So thankfully every show that we have launched has opened and performed better than the previous shows.
Who is your target age group?
Our demographic target group is the 15 to 24 age group- A, B and C. We target the Hindi speaking markets. That includes the whole of India except for South India.
You had written in a blog that TV programmes have to be moulded for the youth who are low in patience….
You are probably referring to a piece that I wrote for one of the channel's websites in which I was speaking on what does TV for a young India entail. That's a generation which is fairly impatient and has probably less attention spans. We should probably take cues from all these traits and characteristics. A show like Gumrah is quite fast paced. It doesn't meander, it's episodic, one story comes and finishes. So these are all the cues we can take from audience behavior and the way this generation is.
Do you plan to make online shows in near future?
Internet is surely and steadily extending its reach. Internet will become a familiar medium for the youngsters. We have said that it's a very important medium, we aren't creating specialized or customized programming for the net as of now.
Currently our website and social media page has continued to be an extension of our TV property. On our Facebook page for instance you'll be able to interact with the stars as the medium allows that.
I do believe that as penetration increases, Smart TV proliferates as the net will become a major medium for entertainment consumption, we can try online programming then but we won't try that right now. The number of people accessing internet online is increasing but it's so fragmented, the monetization for the individual players on the internet continue to be low.
Channel V isn't playing music anymore July 2012 onwards….
Music is still an important part of a youngster's life, it's just that they aren't accessing it on TV anymore. The means that accessing music has moved away from TV. A large part of it has moved online. You no longer have to sit in front of your TV set waiting for four to five hours waiting for your favourite music video to play, you just have to go to youtube and watch the music video whenever you like. You don't have to put on the TV and wait for your favourite song, you may download it and play it on your mobile phone, I-Pod or whenever you choose to access it.
The shift away from music started three years on our channel. We recognized the fact that we just mentioned. It's taken us two to three years to build a pipeline of content which was voluminous and robust enough so that we could discontinue music completely. That we did in July.
When Channel V launched it was an English channel but now it's a Hindi channel. Why did this change happen?
For the simple reason that English isn't the primary medium of consumption in this country. I don't think it ever was. However when Channel V and MTV India etc were launched in India they were English speaking channels as they were conceived and launched in that manner. We realized later that the potential for this channel is simply more than limiting it to more than an English speaking audience. It's just a small part of the country today. We had to change the language to make it accessible to a much larger youth segment in the country, which is why we shifted to the Hindi language.
Instead of completely cutting off from music why don't you have one music based show like MTV Unplugged or Coke Studio?
I'd be happy to do any of these kind of shows the day they get the ratings. MTV Unplugged like Coke Studio fetched a rating of 0.1 and 0.2. With ratings like these monetizing these shows will be difficult. It's not that we are completely divorced from music. We simply don't want to play music videos anymore.
We are happy considering concepts around music but we need to feel that it will engage the audiences, not just something that we will be happy producing. A lot of shows that are on TV today are not sufficiently watched by the audiences because people simply don't understand what the audiences connect with, so we are clear that we don't want to create merely a genre because we want to create it when we feel we have the concept which has the potential of connecting very strongly with our viewers.
How is Channel V trying to bridge the generation gap through its programmes?
As long as societies have structured themselves into families, the generation gap and misunderstandings will prevail. Every generation feels that there's a communication gap between them and their parents. Because the pace of change is so strong in the society that we live today it's getting accelerated.
So when we do a show like Gumrah, we have parents writing in to us telling us that they really want to thank us for making a show like that. They feel a show like that helped them to understand better their kids' world.
On seeing our show Suvreen Guggal - Topper of the year, we had viewers writing to us thanking us for doing this as the same goes on in their homes. A viewer wrote to us, "I can make my dad watch this show and explain to him that there's nothing wrong in getting a degree in fashion designing because that is exactly what I want to do. But he is not letting me do that." That's a strong consumer truth and a large amount of our shows reflect this understanding.
Is your upcoming show The Serial fiction or non-fiction?
doesn't fit into any genre. It's a genre bender. We
are quite genre agnostic. It's an experiment we are
doing which is really interesting. The Serial is for instance not fiction, nor
non-fiction, documentary or a combination of everything. The young boy who is narrating it is also an
actor called Rohan who is also there in Humse Hai Life. In The Serial the
actors like Karan Kundra, Kritika Kamra, Vikrant Massey etc are all playing
themselves. They are all living out the real life stories and their real life
relationships. The boy and his journey is fictitious, he gets access to the
actors' world. Everything else is factual.
Our focus is to create something that is highly entertaining and engaging. Hopefully we would like to push the envelope with everything we do. We are completely open to considering any kind of a format.
The Serial was first called Rubaru. Why did you change the name?
Rubaru wasn't the final name, it was always a working name. When we start a project we always have to call it something, so Rubaru was a working name that we had given it, it was never the official name.
Best Friends Forever (BFF) starts 3rd December (2012). It is a story of three girls who have a dark secret to hide and its implications. It is slightly edgy as we have unconventional kind of protagonists. Please elaborate.
Our protagonists have always been very black and white. They been very good girls like Sia, Kria and Suvreen. In Best Friends Forever (BFF) for the first time we have a protagonist who has grey shades. That has certainly been the approach for all of our female stars and most of our male stars.
Now for the first time we are making a show where the girls have shades of grey. In real life nobody is good or bad in the absolute sense at all. In Best Friends Forever (BFF) there aren't wholly good or bad characters. The characters do have things to hide. They have done things like all of us which they aren't completely proud of. They have secrets and skeletons in the cupboard. They aren't holier than thou, they are like each one of us or like anyone of us that makes them a lot more relatable so that it's an interesting show. It's very different from what's on TV so far. Hopefully it should work.
Please do tell me about your
fiction show that you will introduce in January.
We don't have a finalized concept as yet. So actually we have three or four concepts. After having tested the concept level we develop it further. We test a complete storyline and then one of them gets made into a pilot. At this point it's at the concept stage, so it's too early to speak on it.
From January 2013, Channel V plans to continue on to 14 hours of programming. Please elaborate.
It's in keeping with the strategy of slowly increasing with the amount of programming. Currently there are five daily shows which run back to back. In the end of January and the beginning of February we will be launching the sixth fiction show. Hopefully in the month of April we will be launching our seventh show, that will give us 13 to 14 hours of programming.
Channel V has had five fold growth in the last three years. Did the revamp of the channel in 2009 with the Bloody Cool logo bring about this change?
Yes, that's where it all started. We started reducing the amount of music and started increasing the number of shows. It's obviously the success of the shows which have delivered the five fold growth.
Nowadays even Hindi GECs are targeting the youth. In fact shows with young lovers set in urban India in Hindi GECs are highly popular on india-forums.com. So what is Channel V doing in the face of this competition?
It's inevitable. In this country 65% of the population is youth. So it's inevitable that every channel will try and target the youth. The advantage that we have is that the youth spend more time watching our shows than the shows on other channels. The reason behind this is that because we don't have to cater to all age groups like the other channels. We cater to the youth far more as we raise issues which are far more relevant to the youth which Hindi GECs will probably shy away from as it would probably alienate a 35 year old, 40 year old or 50 year old. Therefore we can be more insightful and sharp with the kind of content that we have.
What is your message to the young members of india-forums.com?
Our entire channel springs from the belief that the youth aren't specifically well understood. That there's this gap which exists between them and their parents. Our real message through every show that we do is to follow your heart. Passionately follow what you believe in. Don't necessarily bow down to convention or norms or people around you tell you that that is the system or process. As long as you passionately believe in something and follow it aggressively, you will be able to go where you want to go.
Reporter and Author: Pallavi Bhattacharya