Ananya Saha
Jan 27, 2014

‘We know that it is about the brand and continue to invest in it’

Q&A with Ferzad Palia, SVP and GM - English entertainment, Viacom18, on Comedy Central that has completed two years of operations

‘We know that it is about the brand and continue to invest in it’

Comedy Central completed two years on 23 January. Ferzad Palia, SVP and GM - English entertainment, Viacom18, spoke with Campaign India about the channels’ highlights over the past two years, growth on viewership and revenues, marketing strategy and plans brewing for locally produced content.

What have been the highlights of the two-year journey of Comedy Central?

When we were starting out, there was always skepticism if a full-blown channel dedicated to a genre (comedy) would work. We were competing with channels who have been in business for 15 to 20 years, and trying to make our mark in the clutter. Many channels have launched in the interim, and many have folded up too.

We have done well in terms of monetisation too. We were pitted against many channels in the clutter but have managed to make our mark – we won several awards pitted against brands and agencies. From a brand perspective, we have managed to stand out with our line-up. We did not want people to come to our channel to watch one or two shows, but gravitate towards our channel. We can now clearly talk about ourselves in the top three channels in the English GEC segment.

Comedy Central has pushed itself fairly well when it comes to marketing…

Yes, we have pushed our marketing initiatives right from the launch campaigns. Whether it was Cool Cabs, ice-cream flavours based on our programmes, we have done cute and corny things to go an extra mile and stand out in the clutter. Even in terms of associations, we have created activations at relevant touch points, such as movie theatres, airports. It is fairly labour-intensive but cost effective. Our social media is also fired up with activities such as Destruct-o-Matic app for Anger Management. We have also tested consumer products with South Park. We have always travelled an extra mile to stay ahead of the clutter.

Has the channel been able to reach beyond top 10 cities, in terms of viewership?

Given that the only currency to measure ratings is TAM, we take a step back to say that we do not blindly believe in their numbers even if they work in our favour. It never reflects a trend in the viewership of English channels. That said, there is traction for our channel beyond metros since literacy in English language in growing and comedy as a genre is also gaining traction.

So far, we have not focused on those markets and are currently focusing on top 10 cities only. But as part of future push, we will focus on markets with population above one million.

And have the revenues seen a corresponding growth as well?

Ad revenues are increasing at a rate of 30 per cent year-on-year. We have had advertisements from day one, unlike channels that said they wouldn’t (take) advertise(ments) for the first three months. We have significant share of inventory as well. While with the 10+2 ad cap, broadcasters have gained and lost; we have only gained. It shows that when there is channel, which has strong differentiated content, people like to watch it and advertise on it.

What are the issues that worry you, then?

It will always be about the economic scenario and how do we give value to advertisers’ money. Moreover, the cost of content has sky-rocketed as the content is finite. We, however, know that it is about the brand and continue to invest in it.

What will be Comedy Central’s focus areas as it enters the third year?

There is a whole new line up planned, which we revive every quarter. There is House of Lies and Season 4 of Arrested Development. Around March, we will bring Brooklyn Nine-Nine. We will keep refreshing the line up.

We will focus on live shows. Currently, apart from getting better content on our channel, we are also dabbling with local production. Nothing has been finalised as of now, but we will be looking at it.

Campaign India