Biz Exec: Interview with Rajesh Kamat, Colors

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Rajesh Kamat, the Chief Executive Officer of Colors and Chief Operating Officer of the Viacom 18 Group, talks to BizAsia.co.uk about Colors’ recent entry in the UK market.

Rajesh is responsible for seeking growth avenues for Viacom18. While, overseeing the network functions of Viacom18, he continues to consolidate Colors�۪ leadership position in the Hindi general entertainment space as the channel’s CEO.

Under his leadership and within a short span of time, Rajesh drove Colors to the leadership position in just 9 months ��� thus breaking the 9-year monotony of STAR Plus in a dynamic space that is cluttered with 11 players.

With an experience that spans over a decade from FMCG to media, Rajesh’s previous assignments have been with Coca Cola, STAR India and Endemol before he joined Viacom18 and Colors.

We catch up with Rajesh to find out more…

What kind of response have you had so far from the launch of Colors in the UK and US?
The anticipation regarding the entry of our channel into the US and UK markets has been huge. Indians abroad who have visited and have had the opportunity of viewing shows in India were eager to have Colors on their network, same goes for those who have heard about the channel from friends and family back in India. Now that we have launched there, the initial reactions look rather promising as people are excited about our shows.

Is this the type of response you expected from the channel when you planned to bring Colors here?
We had certain expectations after we saw the eagerness that people showed for the channel to be shown in these markets. However, we are truly overwhelmed by the reaction that we have received for our shows after having launched. It is a very humbling experience for us.

Colors’ is known for its top shows such as ‘Balika Vadhu’, ‘Uttaran’ and ‘Na Aana Is Des Mein Laddo’ – how do you think these hard hitting social storylines will work in the UK?
Although our shows have a distinct traditional flavour, their appeal is universal. What the Hindi-speaking Asian audiences based in UK wants is entertainment that takes them closer to their native culture, values and society. And I think that the shows like Balika, Uttaran & Naa Aana Is Des Laado will do precisely that.

Roping in Amitabh Bachchan to endorse the channels in the UK and US have paid dividends as viewers have sampled the channel on the legend’s “say so” – how did you achieve this?
When we tried to look for a brand personality fit while launching our channel in the US and the UK, the only person who we could find suitable was Mr. Bachchan – the original global Indian and an international icon. Mr Bachchan’s charm lies in his inherent ability to connect with audiences across diverse and ethnic groups.

He can appeal to a 4 year old and to a 60 year old. His association reflects the true nature of Colors that resides in making a connect through various offerings which would appeal to different audiences reflecting a myriad of emotions while retaining a distinctive Indian flavour.

Which shows currently on the channel do you think will work best with UK viewers?
The spectrum of shows on COLORS ensures that there�۪s something for everyone and everything for some. For those with a cultural and traditional bend of mind we have fiction shows.

For those young both by age and at heart we have exhilarating reality shows and game shows.

And for those who love the opulent entertainment industry of India – we have Bollywood Blockbusters. From fiction shows to format shows to Bollywood movies ��� people across all demographics will find shows that are going to appeal to them. Also this year, adding to our line up of spectacular shows, we have tied up with the Indian Premier League to bring exclusive ‘cricketainment’ taking both cricket and entertainment to their extremes. So now, sports fanatics don’t need to feel left out as Colors has something for them too!

The channel is very soap-heavy, with only the odd non-fiction show on the channel, will you breaking away from this format anytime soon?
We have a multitude of shows catering to varying audience tastes. We have soaps for those who prefer traditional stories and those who like watching stories from the Indian heartland having a distinct ethnic flavour ��� Balika Vadhu, Na Aana Is Des Laado, & Bhagyavidhataa. While at the same time, we have a lot of fun filled and energy exuding reality and game shows for those with a taste for adventure and a zest for life- Fear Factor, India�۪s Got Talent, National Bingo Night. Now with the launch of IPL ���Entertainment, we’ll be adding something for sports enthusiasts as well! So, we are not soap heavy at all – rather we are a channel with something for everyone and everything for some.

The channel’s schedule consists of dramas during the primetime but also during the morning and afternoons – are there plans to screen movies during the vacant (repeat times) slots?
No. We believe in multiple windows for consumer viewing.

You have recently launched your afternoon band, ‘Sanjhi Dophar’ – do you plan to increase the daily hour slot to more soon?
We launched ��Sanjhi Dophar’ with two shows, namely ��Agnipareeksha, Jeevan Ki Ganga�۪ & ��Aise Na Karo Vida�۪. We have lined up another show as well. If the response to the current line-up is good, we will definitely add more shows to our afternoon programming mix.

You have acquired some huge movie titles to lure viewers in, please tell us about your new movie acquisitions?
With an exciting line-up of blockbuster movies coming up, we endeavor to make Colors the end destination for movies this year onwards. The year 2010 Colors viewers will be treated to blockbuster movies like ��Kaminey�۪, ��Kurbaan�۪, ��Wake Up Sid�۪ and ��Chance Pe Dance�۪.

Marketing and airtime sales of Colors UK will be handled by Di5 and Targeted Marketing Solution, how did this relationship come about?
Ad-sales is being done by TMS; before we firmed that we evaluated various structures as well as options. We finally decided based on the merit of the individuals involved ��� that bring strong experience, relationships and knowledge combined with a strong alignment to our outlook and commitment to Colors i.e. having a dedicated team to manage Colors sales ��� this was a key factor for us. They will have no other objectives or considerations.

Marketing being driven by the India team ��� Di5 supported us in this launch phase. Going forward too this will continue to be driven by India with local support on a case-by-case basis.

So far you have spent a lot on marketing the channel in the UK, what plans have you got forthcoming to promote it further?
Our marketing objectives are clear, while plans will continue to be developed and will keep evolving as we go along. Our first objective was to create awareness about Colors. After which we drove sampling and viewer interest through marketing of particular shows and then we plan to drive subscriptions. The third objective kicks in once we go pay and ViewAsia will also play a key role in meeting our objectives.

In terms of Sales for the channel, have you got high targets to meet? What kind of monies do you plan to generate within the first three years here?
It is too early to comment on this at the moment. After consolidating the leadership position in India, we�۪re focused on establishing Colors strongly in UK & US and therefore all our efforts are directed towards that. For any broadcaster, internationally, a significant revenue contribution is subscription, which is clearly our focus as well. This will also be supplemented with local advertising revenue.

Colors UK was in distribution talks for months with numerous parties including ZEE Network and Multi Screen Media’s VIEWASIA, the deal eventually went to the latter – what made you come to this decision?
Colors in India has tied up with MSM Discovery Private Limited, popularly known as the ��TheOneAlliance’ for their distribution and we deiced to extend our relationship with them in the UK as well.

Colors UK is currently free-to-air on Sky Digital, when do you plan to encrypt the service and add it officially in the VIEWASIA bundle?
UK operations began on 25th Jan 2010. The 24 hour channel will be available free-to-air at launch and then subsequently will be added to the ViewAsia package after a couple of months.

Will there be a price increase of the VIEWASIA bundle once Colors is added in?
We/ViewAsia will announce that at the time we go pay.

Do you not think that Colors is a big enough brand to become a standalone channel or even remain a free-to-air service?
While Colors is undoubtedly the best-in-class channel that viewers in UK will come to love, the FTA model is not sustainable for high quality-content channels and particularly due to the very high operating and technical costs of serving the channel in the UK. Also, we foresee a consolidation in the pay segment ��� that will ultimately benefit the broadcasters as well as consumers who will get to watch more channels.

Are there any plans to launch Colors UK on other platforms such as Cable or Freesat?
No, not for the time being.

When can we see new series’ of ‘Bigg Boss’, ‘India’s Got Talent’ and ‘Khataron Ke Khiladi’ in the UK? UK viewers will get to see these and wont be restricted due to copyright issues?
We�۪ve already been telecasting Khataron Ke Khiladi and will be starting India’s Got Talent from Monday 22nd February for our UK viewers who didn�۪t have a chance to watch it earlier. As the original rights for these format shows rests with the respective format owners or other local broadcasters, we will need to address the issue with them when the next season comes up.

Have you got plans to shoot local shows to connect further with UK viewers?
In our first phase of broadcasting abroad we will continue with our programming that we showcase in India. However, we could explore local programming in the next phase.

How do you envisage Colors one year from now? Future plans….
Our focus is going to be on doing everything possible to entertain our global audiences. We hope to be one of the top two players amongst Hindi Entertainment channels in these markets by the end of our first year of operations.

Why has Colors USA got its own website and why is it known as Aap Ka Colors and not just Colors? When will UK viewers have its own website?
We are having some legal issues around the channel name in US territory and therefore decided to launch the channel under the name ‘Aap Ka Colors’ for the time being. Colors UK viewers have their own website, the url is www.colorstv.in/uk.

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