Press Release

Interview: Ajit Thakur, General Manager, Life OK, on programming strategy

4 October 2013

Ajit Thakur

After creating significant buzz with ‘Ramleela’ featuring Ajay Devgn in last year’s festival season, Life OK has raised the ante to strike a chord with viewers this festive season. The channel launched ‘Mahadev Putra Bal Ganesh ke Adventures’ during Ganpati which airs on Saturdays and Sundays in the 7 PM slot and will run till Diwali. Besides, the channel is launching ‘Bachelorette India’ in October in the 9.30 PM time band on weekdays. While the channel has gained momentum post IPL this year, the special programming for this festive season seems to add more excitement to it. spoke to Ajit Thakur, General Manager, Life OK, on his plans for the channel this festive season and his vision for the channel. Excerpts:

What is the idea behind ‘Mahadev Putra Bal Ganesh ke Adventures’, especially as ‘Mahadev’ is already on-air and the show will have the same characters?

Ganesha is grown up in ‘Mahadev’ and is the third most popular character after Mahadev and Parvati. There are several stories around Ganesha which couldn’t be told in ‘Mahadev’. So we planned to do an entire limited series during this festive season. No other channel has original programming in the 7 PM time band on weekends and through this we are targeting families along with kids. ‘Mahadev Putra Bal Ganesh ke Adventures’ will strengthen our weekend line-up that includes ‘Mumbai Fights Back’, ‘Shapath’, ‘UP Fights Back’.

Isn’t Mahadev being stretched simply because it is doing well on ratings?

Mahadev is also a finite series and the show will end as the story gets over, and every addition is linked with Mahadev. Besides Shiv Puran, there are several important literatures on Mahadev, Kartikeya and Ganesha across the country which we simply couldn’t have ignored. So, there is no question of stretching the show. For example, if we picked Ramayan, it was to tell people how Mahadev, Ram and Hanuman were linked.

Life OK is all set to kick off October with its first big-ticket show. What prompted a high-cost show which you have resisted so far?

In the past, we have done reality shows like ‘Sach Ka Saamna’ with Rajeev Khandelwal and ‘Welcome’, but we stayed away from shiny floored, big non-fiction shows so far. We were of the view that we need to get some momentum before we invested on big-ticket shows. Thus, ‘Bachelorette India’ is certainly the biggest and costliest show ever on Life OK to build up for our second anniversary. It is a five-week show starting October 7 and consists of 26 episodes. For this five-week series we will be shooting for 13 weeks. By scheduling it on weekdays, we want the whole family to enjoy the show.

Our line-up for the festive season is usually focused at creating buzz for high brand recall. For example, people relate ‘Ramleela’ with Life OK.

‘Bachelorette India’ is pitted against an established reality show, ‘Bigg Boss’. How confident are you about its success?

‘Bigg Boss’ caters to a completely different set of audience while ‘Bachelorette India’ is meant for family viewing. We are confident that we will perform better against ‘Bigg Boss’ as, beyond a point, people find it uncomfortable to watch ‘Bigg Boss’ with the family. So ‘Bachelorette India’ will give them a perfect dose of reality entertainment. Not only that, we are confident that ‘Bachelorette India’ will also help Hindi GECs grow the pie.

What’s your immediate goal with fresh programming line-up?

Post IPL, we started ‘Do Dil Ek Jaan, Ek Boond Ishq’ and now we are all set to launch ‘Bachelorette India’. These shows, combined with our entire new weekend line-up, make Life OK’s arsenal quite competitive. I’m sure this push will help us grow by 15-20 per cent and achieve our goals.

When LC1 towns were added to TAM measurement in January 2013, every channel crashed including us. We were down to 110 GRPs that kept improving every passing week. Among men, we have moved from 90 to 140 GRPs and among women we have moved from 120 to 170 GRPs. Overall, we aim to reach 170-180 GRPs by the end of this year. To be honest, we don’t plan for rankings, rather we plan for steady and consistent growth. Our focus also remains to become more talked about channel and ‘Bachelorette India’ is certainly going to create buzz for us. In the process, we will continue to be a channel for family viewing. With a variety of programming mix, we will be targeting male, female and kids in one TV household.

What about profitability? Creating buzz with high-cost shows must be hitting profitability?

If a channel reaches a steady 150 GRPs in the second year, there is a certain profitability growth attached to it. In calendar year ending June 2013, which was Life OK’s first full financial year, we were the first channel to be profitable in the first year of operation. So, could we have done big shiny shows? We could have, but they are expensive and still deliver ratings of 2 to 4 TVR. Such shows make losses and they are almost similar to what everybody else is doing.

Life OK is profitable, it has successfully created buzz. What else about the channel brings cheer for you?

Today, when you watch GECs on weekdays, you will find similar daily soaps on every channel with the exception of Life OK and one more channel. Even the GEC weekend line-up is not much different. Our interactions with viewers show that they watch Life OK as one of the two different channels and their first perception about the channel is that ‘it’s different’. Our ambition was to be a competition to Star Plus, but by doing things differently. We succeeded in being different and real.

Moreover, the overwhelming response from our viewers acknowledging our efforts towards issues pertinent to our society ranging from domestic violence to conservation of the Ganges to terrorism and crime has been very satisfactory. And whatever have we achieved so far is because of the young team which has delivered Life OK.

But isn’t it true that Life OK is hugely dependent upon one show – Mahadev?

When we asked our viewers about the show they watch on Life OK, majority of them turned out to be Mahadev fans. And we were fine with as every channel starts with one popular show. But now, if we go to the same set of people, they talk about four shows on an average – Mahadev, Savdhaan India, Shapath and Do Dil Ek Jaan. So it’s a good sign that we have moved from one popular show to multiple popular shows.

Did you feel any pressure of 10+2 ad cap if implemented successfully?

The ad cap is linked to viewers’ experience of watching television and as broadcasters we are all obliged to give viewers a better experience every year. One such step was digitisation and another is ad cap, and I’m very supportive of the view that eventually we must deliver a better experience for our audiences. Yes, it will bring some revenue challenges but it will attract more viewers which is equally important.

How much have you been benefited with TAM data reporting in TVT?

Of course TVT is helping the entire broadcast industry. Earlier, the reporting was not capturing the increased footprint of channels. For us, when LC1 towns were included, our footprint increased by 20 per cent, and this was not even reflecting in TVR or GRP. Now we are able to see the growth in terms of absolute number of viewers.

Did TVT data help you increase revenue figures or at least increase spot/sponsorship rates for delivering more audiences or advertisers are still buying spots/sponsorship on the basis of TVR?

The industry is getting used to TVT and I’m sure, in future, revenue will be driven by every eyeball that we reach out to. Currently we are in the middle of annual deals, hence I’d say it is still work in progress. But eventually the industry will move to TVT for buying also as it is a fair measurement of the reach of any channel.


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