Interview: Sumant Bahl, World Media Connect

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You are the agency representing Imagine Dil Se, 9XM, Music India and UMP Movies (marketing), how has your time been looking after all these channels?
It all started in early 2009 and has been a wonderful journey so far, with a lot of promise in store for time to come.

When Imagine Dil Se launched in the UK (initially as NDTV Imagine) ��� it must have been uphill task to be marketing it in such a saturated market, how did you find this? T
here is always challenge in launching a new product that too in a saturated market place. The core team at WMC which consists of Mr. Dheeraj Kapuria ��� the man known to be the pioneer for revolution of Indian content in the international world, my learning in the UK with the experienced Zee team under Dheeraj�۪s guidance and sales skills from Vineet, we knew we had a winning team and it will only be a matter of time before we could take Imagine to a formidable position and I am glad we did that successfully.

World Media Connect pushed Imagine Dil Se to new boundaries by making it a tough contender for Star Plus in the BARB ratings, how did you manage this?
We set out not to compete with any one channel or network in particular but to make a mark for ourselves and in this case for Imagine. Most important thing always is to understand the viewer pulse and be able to communicate it in the right way. We focussed on tweaking the Imagine FPC as per our learning and understanding of the viewer in UK, and did the right marketing, result of which has been witnessed by all.

[quote]We are overwhelmed with the response we have received from everyone in the industry… and each and every one have congratulated us for the success of team WMC in making Imagine Dil Se so successful[end_quote]

Imagine hadn�۪t been doing so well in India but this didn�۪t affect the UK beam so much, why do you think this was?
We have always maintained and understood that each market is a different ball game and how will the consumer of the product like or dislike each product is not dependant on its performance in any other market.

It was announced a few days ago that Imagine TV/Imagine Dil Se will be closing down, how did you feel when you heard about this?
I will be lying if I say it wasn�۪t a shock especially as WMC has been running it very successfully not just in UK, but also USA and Canada with wonderful expansion plans in store in very near future.

Do you think Turner made a rash decision about closing Imagine?
Turner is a very large and successful media company, I am sure they must have made the decision due to reasons very well considered.

What do you think the main cause of the closure was?
Turner has issued an official release explaining the reasons.

Do you know if any of the existing shows such as the dramas or ��Swayamavar�۪ will be bought by other channels?
We have no information on that.

Have you spoken to the UK / USA industry about the closure of Imagine Dil Se ��� what have their reactions been?
We are overwhelmed with the response we have received from everyone in the industry not just from the agencies, direct clients but also from our colleagues (who industry terms as competitors) and each and every one have congratulated us for the success of team WMC in making Imagine Dil Se so successful internationally. Would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one for their support so far and of course the response we have received for all our other channels.

When will you be switching off Imagine Dil Se in the UK and have you sold your EPG to another broadcaster?
This is all still being discussed with Turner India, we will inform once the picture is clear.

Many people associated you with Imagine Dil Se ��� but not everyone was aware that you were just the agency representing the channel ��� this demonstrates the impact you made in the industry, how do you feel about your achievement?
In fact even we or team at Turner did never think we were just an agency as we worked so closely, but the truth remains we are an independent media consolidation agency where we lend our experience and understanding of South Asian Diaspora in international markets and help Brand owners monetize their content to the fullest potential and feel proud of every success and achievement. At the same time we also help international content owners launch their products and services in India and are soon to launch few international channels there and thus complete a full circle.

[quote]However success of any TV channel is based on having the right content, presented and communicated in the right manner[end_quote]

What plans have you got for the other channels in your portfolio?
Our plans are still what they were to make every channel in our portfolio maximise its impact and consolidate its position among the genres they all operate, and we will continue to do so.

Will you be launching another Indian GEC channel to fill the Imagine Dil Se gap in the UK market?
We would love to. Although, which one, when, will we, are all questions to be answered in the future.

World Media Connect�۪s initial marketing push for UMP Movies has also helped it pass Star Gold in the BARB ratings, how did you do this?
As said earlier we did not set out to compete with any one channel or network in particular. However success of any TV channel is based on having the right content, presented and communicated in the right manner, at the right places and at the right time, with all the experience behind team WMC and having made Imagine a success, this was something we were very confident about and are very happy that all our plans have worked. Would also like to thank UMP team to have so much confidence in us to allow us complete freedom to design the marketing plan and also all our vendors who supported us to make available all the right media needed at the exact time of UMP�۪s marketing requirement. And of course it feels nice to be number 1.

You have plans to launch UMP Stars ��� can you say anymore on this?
Cannot say anything at this stage.

You have also recently re-launched 9XM in the UK ��� how has the response been so far?
9XM is the leading brand in India and is a wonderful product. The response so far has been phenomenal and the fact that this channel launched with ads on the channel on day 1, only goes to show that the market place today has confidence on products which WMC introduces. We endeavour to make 9XM number 1 in its genre in UK within a very short span of time.

You are adding more new videos to the 9XM library and planning local content, please tell us about this?
For any new content initiatives WMC proposes and respective channel disposes. We will announce all our plans as soon as they are firmed up and ready for being released.

How do you plan to differentiate 9XM and your other music channel, Music India when you are representing both?
These are two very different products. With live Gurbani from Golden Temple at Amritsar along with News bulletins from Punjab, one of the best collection of retro Music without compromising on all new music from new releases makes Music India a very different offering to 9XM- which along with all latest releases also thrives on a second to none collection of T-Series and Yash Raj Music and all its funny animations such as Bakwaas band kar, Bhhegi Billi and Ullu Da Patha. These both are acting very complimentary for us to sell the same in the market place.

In the USA, you are representing a large number of Asian channels, can you elaborate on this?
This is correct, in USA we are representing 6 channels from SUN Group making us market leaders in the south Indian space ��� which is nearly 40% of 3million strong Indians in the USA along with Times Now ��� India�۪s number 1 news channel in English and Zoom ��� the leading Bollywood channel. We are also looking to launch many more channels such as 9XM & 9X Tashan in the Americas soon. Alongside we are also working on some pioneering efforts and will keep you informed in the very near future.

What�۪s next for World Media Connect?
A great Future and for all our new launches and plans, please keep reading BizAsia!

BizAsia would like to thank Sumant Bahl from World Media Connect for the update on his agency and moreover details about Imagine Dil Se’s closure.

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