History TV 18, the factual entertainment channel from AETN 18, a joint venture company between Network18 and A+E Networks, has completed a year’s run. On the eve of the channel’s first anniversary, we caught up with Sean Cohan, vice president - international, A+E Networks.
How has the journey been so far in India?
It’s been a fantastic journey so far. Our partnership with Network 18 Group in India, by all means, has been a successful partnership. The team here has worked well together and it reflects on the performance of the channel. It has not only rated well, but also created a set of loyal views in a short span of one year. The channel reaches out to more than 72 million viewers and 55 million households. Our marketing has been on the mark, particularly in the social media space where we have about million fans on Facebook. I think on all fronts it’s been a success story for us in India.
How does India’s performance fare vis-à-vis global markets?
We’ve been consistent as far as the performance is concerned. In the US, History has been around for many years and is seen as the most successful pay TV channel. We’re the number one factual entertainment channel in Japan, but it’s again a market where we’ve been in for many years.
The thing which excites me about India is that we’ve adapted quickly and delivered results in a short span of time. Just a few weeks post our launch we were at a commendable position in terms of the viewership share. If you look at the size of the genre prior to our launch, it was about 4 per cent. Today that number has grown to 29 per cent. So we’ve contributed in expanding the genre in India, which to my mind is a phenomenal achievement.
Would you agree that it’s a growing category (genre), with many viewers switching over to factual entertainment in India?
Yes, it’s a growing category, no doubt. But you’ve grown viewership to the extent that the overall pie sees an expansion. We have the highest time-spent on the channel – about 20 minutes. To achieve that has been really gratifying.
Given that the channel has been fairly successful, what according to you should be the focus areas going forward?
Firstly, it is important to not get complacent. We will consolidate our leadership in India and look at increasing our reach. And continue doing shows that are tailor-made for the Indian audiences. The Greatest Indian, the show which we locally produced in this market did very well and generated enormous buzz on social media platforms. More than 20 million viewers across the nation tuned into the grand finale. Another focus area for the team here would be to create enough traction for the brand through marketing initiatives and engaging the viewers on a constant basis.
Would you say India is far more of a competitive market with established players in the space? Is it going to be a challenge to further make inroads in the market which is still seen as niche?
We do not call ourselves s niche channel. We see it as a men’s entertainment channel. As for your question on India being a competitive market, there is no doubt that the Indian market is competitive. There are players within the space that have the infrastructure and the bandwidth to really invest in the business and grow. But, we’re focused on what we need to do. We will further build the History brand in India, focus on providing relevant content and increase our distribution. We want to continue to grow viewership of the genre in India.
How has India done on revenue terms? Has the contribution in the year been significant?
I’m pretty happy with the contribution revenue-wise. I can’t give you exact numbers, but I’ll like to mention that the combined strength of Network 18 and A+E Networks has produced good results. I am certain that the country’s contribution will improve as the channel further gains momentum in the market.
Will we see other channels from the network launching in India?
We launched in India in a joint venture with Network 18 with the idea of bringing not one, but a few channels from our network. I think in the next one or two years, you will see that happening.