Ravish Kumar, the Head of Regional Entertainment in Viacom18, is a busy man as he is occupied with the task of making a perfect entry for Viacom18 into the largest Regional Entertainment Market, Tamil Nadu, with the launch of Colors Tamil on 19th February 2018.
He is no stranger to Tamil Nadu. Being an Indian Airforce Officer’s son, he spent decent number of years in Chennai during his younger days. When it comes to growing a brand with differentiated content or rejuvenating legacy brands, Ravish Kumar is a commanding voice in the game. As Head – Regional Entertainment for Viacom18, Ravish works towards elevating the consolidated Regional GEC portfolio, consisting of Colors Bangla, Kannada, Super, Odiya, Marathi, Gujarati and Tamil, to the stature of Hindi GECs.
Tamil GEC space has become a highly competitive market in the recent past with Star Vijay and Zee Tamil fighting for the No. 2 position. In an exclusive chat with tvnews4u.com, Ravish Kumar details out his plans for Tamil Nadu GEC market and how his is going to nurture the new baby – Colors Tamil.
Q1. There is a great demand for Movies and Movie based content among Tamil audience. So, What is your strategy on movie acquisition for Colors Tamil..?
With Colors Kannada, we became No. 1 from being a No. 4 player. We did not buy a single movie all these four years. Our philosophy is to focus on the content and we believe in putting in a lot of our spends and efforts into our fiction shows. We do special episodes for festival programming within our fiction line-up. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we started shooting our fiction shows like movies. When we shoot a wedding sequence in one of our Kannada serials, a massive venue is hires and the team does the detailing right down to what flowers are going to be there, what decorations are going to be put up, who is wearing what. With so much effort gone in, post the shoot I tell the team – whoever wants to get married, please use this set.
In Hindi shows you want every marriage to be like a Karan Johar movie wedding. For us you know weddings mean celebrations and extravaganza. Hence we do not want to rely on movies or make it a key part of that as a strategy. Instead we choose to focus on our content and put our resources behind our fiction and reality shows. Because movies in this market are very expensive.
Q2. Agreed, But Still Movies add to lot of viewership pie, particularly in South….
In our experience if we put a good show out there with an innovative and disruptive touch, you will still get the same viewership and you can get it for a longer period of time. Movies are like steroids, if it works, good but, if it doesn’t work what will you do for the following week. I think this is the question every channel has to look at, I think movies are great and there are many innovative movies being made these days and off late both kinds of movies are working, commercial as well as innovative/offbeat films. Given a choice I would rather focus on innovative movies, Telefilms, short films or films shot in any format that might be used on cross platforms like VOOT also; such things work around to grow the eco system that gives an opportunity for new people to come and try their hand straight up.
Q3. How did you manage to overcome the talent shortcomings in Tamil Television Industry, in-order to meet the quality standards that you are expecting..?
It’s a huge film market but yet when it comes to TV content it’s a limited eco system, what we do is we focus a lot on writing first. We have to get the writers here, because that is where it all starts. This market doesn’t have a dearth of talented Producers, Cameramen and Technicians. We brought in a lot of people from films and those who are doing ads to come into the TV space and now that they are in the TV space, they are displaying their qualitative skills on screen that is not been seen before. It’s what you have seen in the promos we showed and the way we are shooting and how we are shooting, it is a scale that is not seen by this market and we truly wanted to bring the Cinematic Content values to television.
Q4. Are you applying the standards of Cinematic content consciously for all the shows permanently or was it just for the launch…?
We have consciously got it into it and every single show has been shot the same way. Some shows need more than others, obviously if I start doing family dramas which are more conventional, I may not need it, so it’s also the requirement of the studio. If there is extensive outdoor and if I need authenticity, then we need drones, Alexa cameras because that is what will bring life for the viewers, these are the little nuances that will pick up. The dress that you are wearing, the accent in which you are talking, the food that you are eating, all this will determine the authenticity that we wanted. We want to be rooted, we want to be traditional, yet at the same time be professional.
Q5. BiggBoss Tamil Season 2 is with Star Vijay, will you be pitching for Season 3..?
I don’t know, to be honest. Star bought the rights few years ago. In reality we were actually the pioneers, we have taken Bigg Boss regionally, we started with Kannada and took it to Bangla and now are doing it on Marathi. The Tamil version did great and it brought in major changes in the television viewing pattern among the Tamil audience in the recent times.
Q6. As they are planning to launch BiggBoss Season 2 in Mid June, How are you going to handle it..?
End of the day it’s all about viewers, we have to give the viewers what they want. It’s a great time for the viewers now because you are spoilt for choices You have channels which are changing the game, which are increasing production values and getting new formats. It’s a great time to be here. When someone is doing a format that works brilliant, it’s so much better for the entire market.
Q7. As you are entering one of the largest regional market, Do you have any specific numbers which you want to achieve in the first year…?
I never give my team a target, all I ask is give your 100 percent passion in the content and come back and tell me that there is nothing more I could have done or should have done. If you are happy about what your putting right there, I can guarantee your viewer is going to love it. See, what qualifies as success in this industry? It works when one person’s passion is reflected. So I don’t give my team targets, i dont say I want to be 300 GRP in 3 months. You put your best in the content out there and let viewers decide with their remotes.
Q7. How is the distribution scenario of Colors Tamil..?
Yes, we are in every single platform, Arasu, SCV, Dish TV, Tata Sky, Videocon d2h covering all TV homes in Chennai and across Tamil Nadu.
Q8. Talking about the freedom, There is a fear among TV producers that Channels let them down if the program fails to open well despite adhering to all their requirements and it often gets shutdown at 80 to 120 episodes that cause huge losses to them…? Will you be protecting them from such scenarios…?
Responsibility is shared both ways, we don’t look around pointing fingers, lets collect our success and if it doesn’t work, we make it work. That’s the beauty of the fiction story, we can start it small and make it big and there is no reason to give up pre maturely. We have confidence in our abilities and we have confidence in our partners.
Q9. Tamil Nadu is a market that is considered to be a country with in a country, Any specific startegy to win over…?
Our strategy is very straight forward, you start with really very talented passionate team, that’s where it all begins and its very important. You have to believe in them and then you empower them, and from that point they are the ones who actually take it forward and translate it down the line. The reason that it has taken us a while is because we want to start with the right kind of people. These are people who work down the road, we work and cut across barriers, so it’s not like a reality show happens and the fiction guy working with us says that’s not my show, when something is happening, everyone is there, that feeling of oneness should be there. That’s what we have in Kannada also, where it’s a shoot or an event – every person is there, even when I watch shoots, I help out, I do things, because everyone there is a member of the team. It’s just complimenting each other.
Q 10. Do you think 21 hours of Original content is enough to compete with others in the present scenario…?
I think even one hour of content is more than enough to compete, if it’s a quality stuff. The 21 and half hrs of content would be increased down the line but let’s first be convinced that people are happy with what we are giving them. Once they are happy, we will be happy to give them more, the idea is obviously to expand it moving forward, by i will be happy to start with even 10 mins.
Q11. You are take on Tamil Nadu audience…?
At the end of the day fundamentally human beings aren’t very different. If you take India as a whole, people are very god fearing, traditional, they take pride in who they are yet very rooted, at the same time progressive, they are always are looking out ways to better themselves and want to make a difference, that’s what we want to bring light in our programming. On a fundamental level what we are doing in Kannada is no different from what we are doing here. The topicality of subject we handle is an important factor and it will be an inspiration to whoever is watching it. There are some stories that will work cross markets, there are some stories that re unique to a market, but the fact is when you watch a story on television I want the story to stay with them long after even it’s been switched off.
Prior to joining Viacom 18 in 2011, Ravish was the Executive Vice President & Business Head – Regional Channels at Star TV and a Global Category Director at Reckitt Benckiser. He brings more than 23+ years of experience in building brands, driving innovation, creating high performance teams and delivering superlative business results across leading Fortune 500 companies in the US, UK and India. His stellar achievements include making Dettol the fastest growing global brand at Reckitt Benckiser and winning the President’s Award for phenomenal growth Bristol – Myers Squibb, Ravish was also on the Dean’s List at the prestigious J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management from where he graduated with an MBA in 1998.
His impeccable academic credentials also include a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College and an MBA degree from FMS, Delhi.