Vivek Bahl, COO Turner Int. India

It was last November that Turner International announced Vivek Bahl as Turner International India’s Chief Content Officer. Since then, Vivek has been working continously overlooking the Turner brands Imagine TV, Cartoon Network, POGO and WB.

How have the past few months been for you in your new position at Turner?It۪s been great, honestly! I feel the Turner culture is much after my own heart. The management has been extremely supportive, & it۪s a refreshing change to be able to focus purely on work.

Vivek Bahl, COO Turner Int. India

From when you joined, what challenges have you faced?All shows aren۪t successful, yet, I strongly believe that if they are done in a convincing & consistent manner, the viewers will eventually believe more in Imagine than they currently do, & keep coming back day on day to check us out.

Also in my opinion the challenge really lies within. We have to work hard to make the viewers believe in our content and we are geared up to do just that!

When overlooking the current programming at Imagine, what have you found about your shows that work well and don۪t work so well with your viewers?Well, currently a slightly older TG woman is the core Imagine viewer & while we want to stay focused at her, we also want the slightly younger TG to sample & like us.

Your primetime schedule in the UK currently consists of original shows between 19:30 to 21:30, with repeats and a movie late at night, will you be changing this?Our primetime in UK is from 1900 2230 (Gyaan Guru launched at 2200). Movie on Friday is the only late night movie which airs at 2200, which is a recent inclusion on the schedule. We have Monday to Friday afternoon movies and Saturday Sunday evening movies at 2100. We don۪t change this unless there is an additional weekday new slot.

Have you got any plans to simultaneously launch shows in the UK as India and show programmes at the same time slots as India?

We launch all big non-fiction properties simultaneously in India and our international markets. We started this with Zor Ka Jhakta and continued with Swayamvar Season 3 Ratan Ka Rishta.

We would be launching our two new fiction shows Mi, Aaji aur Saheb and Jamuna Paar with only a 1 week delay, which is a reduction from a 2 week delay that used to happen earlier.

We always aim to create schedules keeping the UK consumers preference and viewing patterns in mind.

What plans have you got to bring in new viewers to your channel?Our plans are simple. Rather than rely on big stars, big movies, big events, & big non-fiction, we want to focus this year on simple fiction shows. Those are the staple diet of GEC viewers.

So, we want to simply create engaging characters & tell watchable stories, day on day. Slowly, we believe, viewers will notice a change_ & a slow growth is always a stronger-at-the-base growth.

Out of the crop of shows Haar Jeet۪ and Dharampatni۪ are facing the axe? Why have these not worked? What will they be replaced with?Haar Jeet has just taken a natural time-leap that was to happen, & therefore, the show isn۪t ending.

Honestly, Dharampatni was a great concept, it opened well, but somehow the magic didn۪t build. Like I said, all shows can۪t be successes, & it is more important to create decent shows, whether they work or not. We took a call to replace the show, as we see a lot of potential for us in the slot, & didn۪t feel Dharampatni would, at this stage, be able to push aggressively for the same.

That said, we will work on all our shows till the last minute of the last episode, so that our viewers never feel that we gave up on a show & didn۪t care how it ended.

The other show going is Beendh It has been on Imagine for a while now, & we feel it۪s exhausted the main storyline. Similarly, we have an exciting track worked out for the climax of the show, so it goes with its head held high.

With Chandragupt Maurya۪ doing well for the channel, you have decided to reduce it to just once per week from this month, why this move?While it does become once a week, please note that it will now be 1 and a half hours long, therefore only a half hour of content per week will be reduced. And, in fact, we۪re adding half hour to Shani.

The reasoning is purely strategic. We wanted to give our 2100 & 2130 shows a full, Monday-Friday telecast, as we felt on Imagine currently; it۪s a bit of stretch to expect our viewers to come back to a daily show after a 3-day break every week.

Your first major launch for this year is Gyan Guru۪, do you think this alternative offering during primetime will work for the channel?If only I could predict all successful shows!!

Well, Gyaan Guru is a well-intentioned, extremely unique & very modest show. We۪re hoping our viewers will enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

There has been a lot said about the upcoming show Veena Ka Swayamavar۪, when exactly are you planning to launch this?While I can۪t discuss dates yet, the same should be towards the second half of the year.

Imagine has been well known for acquiring big movies but has recently laid low, why is this?

That is correct. This year, we have consciously moved away from a movie-intensive strategy, to a content-intensive strategy. The movie business has become unviable in India currently, with unrealistic prices & bidding wars. And, we would rather focus on our content, & use slots for our content to get sampled, rather than buy empty GRPs with big movies week on week.

Have you carried out extensive research in the UK to see what works well with viewers than viewers in other parts of the world where Imagine is available?

Yes, we look at BARB ratings and do competition analysis on a regular basis. Besides we take viewer feedback seriously and also have our partners there who give us regular feedback on content and schedule

The UK is a saturated market with so many free-to-air and subscription channels, how much of a challenge is it for you to differentiate each programme from rivals?

As per BARB we are second to Star Plus in the Hindi GEC space. Imagine Dil Se, apart from our primetime fiction and non-fiction airs movies all days of the week. We would be adding to our weekend movie slots and introducing new daily slots as well.

Besides this, we focus on giving our UK viewers local content. We were the ones who exclusively The Asian Achievers Awards and we plan to continue doing so.

We stand committed towards providing our audience programming which is simple, relatable and relevant…and which keeps them coming back to our channel.

In India, Imagine has faced immense competition from newly revamped Star One, now Life Ok, were you expecting this sort of reaction for Life Ok?

Well, it۪s great to see a new channel opening well.

It, in fact, reiterates our belief that viewers today are hungry for new content, & we, too, have big plans to give them what they want this year. Just that, we۪re going for a studied slow-&-steady strategy, rather than an expensive, & risky, big-bang re-launch strategy.

That said, I really feel it۪s too early to judge any new channel in the span of a few weeks. We should give it a year…or, two at least.

Beside programming, are you planning to revamp Imagine۪s branding and on-air presentation?Not right away. We would rather have viewers first get upbeat about the channel۪s content, & then study the need for a presentation revamp.

Where do you see Imagine in a year from now?

Steadily doing much better than we are currently. And, growing…

Immediate plans…

Gyaan Guru, Mi Aaji aur Saheb & Jamuna Paar are the first three offerings from our channel this year. Our first baby steps in winning over our viewer۪s hearts.