24 September 2020 00:12



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How do you plan to differentiate Lionsgate Play from other international players like Netflix, Amazon, Apple or Disney?
Lionsgate Play is a bespoke service meant especially curated for premium and edgy content cinephiles. We have been keenly following the kind of shows that are lapped up by Indian audiences and have created a curated library that Indian audiences will love. We want to ensure our consumer gets captivated in the world of bespoke entertainment, Instantly so there is less browsing and more watching

Any plans to produce content Originals for the Indian market?
Yes, we are prepping to produce some edgy and gripping shows in India. We will share further information shortly

Can you elaborate on your partnership with Indian telcos and the reason behind entering the Indian market through this partnership?
Lionsgate Play launched last year on Vodafone play and in the short span of a year we have been able to partner with all major telcos in the country and showcase our content to their audiences. As of today we are present on Airtel, Idea, Vodafone and Jio FTHH. We are also present on large screen formats like Airtel Set top Box and Jio FTTH. The strategy was to leapfrog the distribution challenge by utilising the strength of Indian telco partners, understand audiences and then launch our own asset.

There is an increasing affinity in India to local languages? How do you intend to cater to this Indian audience?
We have observed that Indian audiences does enjoy content in regional languages. We have dubbed many of our films in various Indian languages to ensure deeper penetration and break the barrier of languages. Currently a large part of our catalogue is present in Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Bhojpuri. We have received phenomenal response for our dubbed content and we plan to extend our dubbed content library to more Indian languages.

Due to shifting focus towards OTT, do you think theatrical releases will come down in coming years?
I think the experience of enjoying a movie on the big screen will always remain special. It also allows you 3 hours of uninterrupted fun and takes you away to a different world. The entire experience is very fascinating so cinemas are here to stay. What could happen is recalibration of the kind of movies that see a cinema release. The movies which don’t see a big release distribution wise might choose to go direct to OTT. While business models and scenario building on movie business will become more dynamic surely, however the importance of each medium will remain intact.

The goal of combining Lionsgate and Starz was to build a premium global subscription platform ? How has the strategy worked for you?
Globally both are giants in their own spaces. The OTT space is very hot as more and more consumers opt for it so it was a natural progression for Lionsgate to be in the streaming business. I would say it has worked really well for the organisation as we are already present in about 50 countries as of today and will continue to bring cult content to our users preferred screens, so be it at the cinema theatres or the mobile phones, we will provide premium content as per the demand and preferences of our consumers.

How big is India in your scheme of things at the moment?
We are committed to build a sustainable business in India. It’s a huge growth driver by the sheer number of people who want to watch content and are even ready to pay for it. We are adapting very fast, be it introducing content in Indian languages, launching originals or bringing the best of Hollywood films to India. We want to make sure we deliver best of premium content to our Indian audiences.

Could you share your marketing plan or mix for the Indian market?
We want to build a meaningful brand in India. We will explore mass media like outdoors, print as big announcers and also use social and digital media to drive frequency. We will follow the consumer in his decision making journey and touch base with him at different touch points to introduce a new show, movie or remind him about us.


According to a Brand Finance report, Covid-19 may cost 100 most valuable Indian firms a staggering $25 billion in terms of brand value. These are trying times. As people go into all-out protection mode, a dreaded sense of collective anticipation hangs over our everyday lives. Keeping socio-physically away from others and diligently following personal hygiene practices are even precipitating irreversible and lasting behavioural changes. Add to it the economic and income uncertainties and the psycho-emotional baggage that comes with them.

In such times of crisis, how do brands evolve their communication strategies to stay relevant and connected with their customers?

Reliability a top virtue

In a crisis, reliability and dependability are perhaps the top attributes that customers would expect in a brand. Brands must not only ensure that even in the face of crisis, they are there for their customers but must also communicate this message in time. Making consumers know that you are going all out to fulfil their needs and ensure their convenience at a time when they need you the most will certainly leave a lasting impression on their minds. Here both agility as well as brevity of response is important. When online grocery delivery service Grofers reassured customers through “Not to worry, we will still be key to your essentials,” it was an exemplary and reassuring communication at a time of crisis.

Make humanity quotient your differentiating factor

Instead of hard selling your product and brand through ultra-creative and loud advertising while giving that aggressive ‘buy-now’ call to action in times of crisis, your brand should radiate humanity and empathy. Through more sobering portrayals and actions, you should convey that you identify and relate to the ‘emotional disruption’ that people are going through and you are standing with them in this hour of need. The path ahead is to humanise your brand. Equally significant is that your altruistic action should not sound opportunistic at all. That you are taking responsibility in a time of need should shine through. After all, responsible brands mean responsible citizenry. For instance, when a leading hygiene brand while explaining how to fight the virus had exhorted users to use any soap they have access to and had even named competitor brands, it was responsible public service gone beyond individual branding. There are also several examples of brands pitching in to provide supplies and equipment meant for Covid fighters as well as patients. A popular biscuit brand had announced the donation of one crore packets every week during one phase of the lockdown.

Amplify brand integrity: principles above profits

While profit-making is a reasonable goal of companies, in extraordinary circumstances, the brand’s moral compass must show the way and not allow it to be driven towards blind pursuit of sales and profits. At a time when businesses and brands themselves are strenuously trying to remain feasible, it is not an easy task. However, in the long run it could yield a bigger pay-off than the short-term costs involved now. For instance, that Tatas and Wipro have not laid off a single employee during the Covid crisis adds infinitely to their already huge brand appeal. Or Google rolling out advanced Hangouts Meet for free to help businesses and schools during Covid times would have earned tonnes of goodwill for the technology giant.

Pivot to authentic & context-relevant messaging & product

At the same time, brands also have to show that they are acutely aware of the enormity of the crisis and clued into the state of affairs on the ground. Accordingly, they have to tailor their messaging with a view to project and place them as a solution within the context of the ongoing crisis. For instance, when QSR brand Pizza Hut adjusted its logo to Pizza Home instead of Hut, it was with an eye on conveying the ‘stay at home’ message. Similarly, when Fevicol came with the tagline ‘Ab sabse mazboot door – Indoor,’ it was to prod people into staying indoors. This tweaking adds to the authenticity of the messaging and the brand. Similarly, just as they alter the messaging, brands have to be ready to overhaul their production lines to manufacture new types of products necessitated out of the crisis. For instance, while several automobile companies switched to manufacturing ventilator and other equipment, many alcohol and personal care firms migrated to producing hand sanitizers and other related products. This brand resilience further connects them with their end-customers.

Adopt omnichannel tracking as well as engagement systems

With the whole family cooped up indoors, online, social media and OTT platforms would have been the ideal place to track as well as engage with customer conversations among the younger generations. However, the good-old television would still be the first choice of older generation customers. This requires for the brand to adopt an omnichannel customer tracking/engagement strategy which can take care of digital as well as traditional mediums of communication and sharing. Making good use of data analytics is crucial in this regard. While engaging, remember messages have to be very carefully designed and placed because in this age of instant social media and user generated-content, any slip-up can come back to haunt and hurt the brand for a long time in the future. This also implies that brands should communicate with customers more frequently providing regular updates on their positioning and offerings eliminating any scope for miscommunication or gap in communication.

So, standing up for a cause becomes as important as standing out for your brand during a crisis. In essence, spreading positivity while ‘walking the talk’ constitutes effective communication during a crisis. If you do it successfully through the crisis, it helps you build lasting brand equity.


Written by Ms Nikky Gupta, Co-founder & Director Teamwork Communications Group

Monday, 03 August 2020 00:00

Abraham Thomas, CEO, RBNL (BIG FM)

MediAvataar: Radio has become the new ‘comfort companion’ and a trusted source of information during the Covid-19 pandemic for its listeners. Your thoughts on this?

Abe: Radio has been reimagined in the minds of listeners, particularly in the last few months, as it has become the most trusted medium for audiences across the country. As we all grappled with the effects of the pandemic, radio helped listeners wade through the slew of unratified fake news and sensationalism that followed. Listeners were depending on the RJs to keep them informed, entertained, calm and motivated in these times thus becoming their ‘comfort companion’. As the strength of radio was re-established, advertisers too took note of the same. This has been reflected in the growing listenership and the corresponding rise in advertising.

As per the recent RAM report, women listenership both in reach and time spent has grown in the 4 metros, which has led to substantial growth in advertising volumes of cosmetics, hair products, detergents and appliances as corroborated by Adex. Male listenership too has increased significantly in the 4 metros resulting in consequent high growth in advertising targeted to men across various categories such as professional and financial services, retail auto, restaurants, etc. The recent TAM data also reveals a growth in advertising on radio due to increase in listenership in Sec A segment with categories like general insurance, anywhere banking, E-com auto rental services, cosmetic range and kitchen chimneys witnessing remarkable growth.

These resounding numbers reiterate how radio has grown exponentially and is the most reliable free-to-air medium, loved by the masses.

MediAvataar: How has the radio industry changed and adapted to the ‘new normal’?

Abe: Keeping the current situation and its challenges in mind, the entire radio industry is exploring various avenues and opportunities to reach out to its audience in ways they can best relate to. This has seen us curate offerings keeping in mind the renewed consumer expectations and their demands. The synergy of Radio and Digital is the new normal today. This has led leading radio networks to be more platform-agnostic as they curate content via various touch-points such as online concerts, Instagram gigs, RJ’s from different stations collaborating on content, and so on. There is already a lot of experiential content being rolled-out that will only get better with technological advancements. With fine margins deciding who leads and who follows, it is necessary to innovate and stay ahead of the game.

MediAvataar: COVID-19 has thrown major challenges. How are you re-attracting listeners to your radio station and finding new sources of revenue?

Abe: At BIG FM, we have always believed in curating content and properties that are innovative and thought-provoking. Keeping in line with our philosophy, we initiated various campaigns during the lockdown such as ‘Dilli Ke Dhaakad....Kehte Hai – Let’s Fight Corona Together’, ‘Dekh Kahin Yeh Fake Toh Nahi’ and V the Warriors amongst others to eliminate fear and spread positivity.

Since Radio plus digital is the future, our focus is on adding incremental reach through multiple touch points. So we are adding digital audio, podcasts and web radio to our offering. We have been creating a large volume of timeless non-music content which can be consumed as podcasts on audio streaming platforms, expanding the reach of our powerful content IP’s. With our property Big Café Online, listeners can enjoy a concert every day from the comforts of their homes just by tuning in to BIG FM. Through our initiative Big Small Shots, we are providing clients customized IPs that addresses a specific and immediate objective. We are also looking at taking a step further by making the concept of storytelling more hyper local and relevant to regional language market in order to convey various brand and product messages through weekly storytelling.

MediAvataar: BIG FM recently launched BuyadsonBIGFM.com. What was the idea behind the platform?

Abe: Our offering Buyadsonbigfm.com is a one stop destination for the long tail of advertisers to create solutions, create packages, buy spots and make payment at the mere click of a button. It features a dashboard for ad rates, invoices, broadcast certificates, etc. allowing advertisers to access a host of options instantly. With a host of challenges staring at us in the face, this is our way of staying ahead of the curve by adopting innovative solutions for operations to run seamlessly. By helping our advertisers to conveniently book ads, the platform plays a crucial role in fostering long-lasting alliances with them.

MediAvataar: How is Big FM tackling competition from online music streaming services?

Abe: We firmly believe that radio and the audio streaming platforms complement each other very well. Their rising popularity coupled with the trends in the growth of non-music content, makes this an attractive avenue for growing one’s listenership. With the world becoming more digitized and the disappearance of geographical barriers, the opportunities for distribution of audio content to global audiences are growing. We aim to leverage and globalize our IPs by making it accessible to a large group of new audiences. Being pioneers in the storytelling format of timeless shows like Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor and Yaadon Ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Misra, makes us an attractive partner for platforms like Spotify to offer our content for their listeners.

MediAvataar: BIG FM collaborated with Spotify recently for content partnership? How is the strategy working?

Abe: Through this collaboration with Spotify, their users have access to more than 15,000 minutes of BIG FM’s content spread across 13 marquee shows and 1,240 episodes. This includes shows like Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor, Yaadon Ka Idiot Box with Neelesh Misra, Actor Calling Actor and Once Upon A Time in Bollywood, that have had a loyal fan base for years and are now easily accessible to listeners, old as well as new at their fingertips. We wanted to explore the on-demand content medium for our marquee properties and are proud to have taken this step in our digital transformation journey with a major audio-streaming platform like Spotify that shares the same purpose and ethos as us.

MediAvataar: What are the major trends that will shape the future of the radio industry in India?

Abe: As digitization is the way forward, the big shift that we see is how radio is embracing digital to create multiple touch-points to engage its listeners. Understanding the importance of becoming a digital first organization, we at BIG FM recently forayed in the space of web radio with the launch of BRO - BIG Radio Online that serves as the perfect platform for the youth who seek content that is entertaining as well as thought-provoking. Through BRO, we wish to provide our listeners an immersive audio experience through podcast content coupled with music. Other formats like digital concerts are also gaining immense popularity and our property Big Café Online is a great example of it. Our very first digital concert, hosted in Gujarat, which featured seven artists over the course of seven days, went on to rake in 1 million + organic views, 1 million + reach and an engagement of over a lakh.

While embracing technology is the need of the hour, the radio industry needs to be attentive and adapt itself to the changing nature of choices that the consumers are making.

MediAvataar: A major issue for radio has been figuring out how to integrate digital and turn it into a revenue generator. Are stations still struggling with how to do it?

Abe: The ongoing pandemic has played the role of a catalyst towards making leading radio networks embark on a journey of digital transformation. At Big FM, we continue to be more agile and resilient by adopting digital led solutions. From creating multiple touch-points to reaching out to our audiences and communicating with them in a manner they relate to the best, to adopting remote work from home model across each of our 58 stations across the country, we are moulding ourselves with the changing times.
Through our initiative Big Partnerships, we have signed up more than 20 associations which include audio streaming apps, digital platforms, OTT platforms amongst others where clients can reach out to a potential audience of 15 crores. The recent launch of BRO and our association with Spotify are in line with our vision of bringing about a successful confluence of radio and digital.

Ready to take a break from your everyday routine and get transported into the world of drama, action and entertainment? Well, you’re in luck because &pictures is bringing to your television screens two films that promise to help you bid adieu to a boring weekend in perfect movie style! On 25th July, the channel premieres Thappad, a film that will get you to retrospect the true meaning of love and respect, and on 26th July, get transported into the thrilling world of cops, action and car chases with Bad Boys for Life.

Questioning ‘Bina Respect Kya Hai Pyaar’, director Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad is a journey of Amrita, a talented, educated and a loving housewife who was happy with her life being surrounded with her family and husband’s priorities until the day her husband slaps her in front of a crowd. Amrita’s perfect relationship is shattered, and she was reminded of all the times she downplayed her role as an equal partner in the relationship and questioned all that her marriage stood for. This heart-warming and striking film stars Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati, Dia Mirza, Ratna Pathak Shah, Tanvi Azmi, Maya Sarao, and Kumud Mishra in pivotal roles. Witness the most significant movie of the year on Saturday, 25th July at 8pm.

Taapsee Pannu shares her experience and says, “Working on Thappad has been an overwhelming experience for me. The movie sheds light upon a crucial issue that I always wanted to personally address. I feel any kind of violence can change a person completely either making you withdraw into a cocoon or emerge stronger and It’s the same with Amrita’s character. Getting into Amrita’s skin was quite a challenge and it got me claustrophobic. My impulsive mindset took time to attune to Amrita’s calm worldview. But, her righteousness, her maturity to handle every situation, and an infectious calmness on the outside made me grow as a person and made me look at things differently. Thappad gives voice to a topic that has been hushed for years now; with the &pictures premiere, we are hoping to bring notice, open conversations, help people identify and not accept those minor verbal ‘Thappads’ thrown their way.”

Elaborating on the experience of making Thappad, Anubhav Sinha said, “Thappad has been a challenging experience for me and It’s something that I am immensely proud of. The movie tackles plethora of issues in our society that have unfortunately been normalized. A whole lot of us indulge in gaslighting without realizing it. And, in order to correct our behaviour, we need to first know that it is incorrect. We have worked hard to encapsulate the right messaging and emotion throughout our film; it is important, now more than ever for the film and what it stands for, to reach as many people as possible. The response so far has been phenomenal. I am grateful to be a part of an era where storytelling as well as audiences, are evolved enough to embrace such movies that are against the tide.”

On 26th July at 1pm, sink your teeth into yet another blockbuster with Bad Boys for Life that chronicles the shenanigans of a zabardast cop Jodi. Comedy, larger than life action, adrenaline thumping car chases, and a drug mafia – the film has all the entertainment elements. Starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, the movie follows the encounters of detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett who team up for one last ride as they go up against the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel.

Drama ho ya action, Sabka Ek Hi Weekend Destination and we’ve given you enough reason to tune in. So this weekend, don’t miss watching these two blockbusters only on &pictures!

MediAvataar: What are the interesting trends and insights which are very unique to the Bhojpuri GEC/Movie viewership?

Amarpreet: Bhojpuri TV category is relatively nascent compared to other regional markets. The viewership is dominated by movie channels primarily. There is a very high appetite for movies and unlike other movie viewership landscapes it has equal presence of male and female viewership. In GEC there is high affinity for devotional, socio mytho content and dance & music based properties which makes it unique.

ZEEL has been at the forefront of refining and enhancing viewership in this category with the presence of leading movie and GEC brands.
ZEE Biskope has been launched to cater to the Bhojpuri movie affinity albeit in a curated manner. Built on the premise of offering hyper Bhojpuri entertainment 24X7, the brand has been at a strong leadership run since its inception.

Big Ganga caters to the need for original content beyond movies. The brand provides platform to the growing aspirations of the region. From talent based formatted shows to culture celebrating events, the leading GEC channel has given the Bhojpuri loving audience its own authentic regional content to take pride in.

MediAvataar: With viewers restricted to their homes owing to the nationwide lockdown, how do you plan to entertain your viewers?

Amarpreet: The pandemic has seen unprecedented impact on our lives as well as on entertainment consumption especially wrt TV viewership. TV remained the leading platform of choice for entertainment throughout the lockdown period.

In Bhojpuri category, movie viewership soared enormously during lockdown period, especially the non prime time viewership. ZEE Biskope super served the audience with a slew of movie festivals, premieres and original shows which saw it strengthen its leadership position throughout the lockdown period. For the upcoming Sawan month it is brining blockbuster premiere titles on Sawan Monday in a curated slot called Sawan Dar Somwar, alongwith two film festivals based on the theme of Sawan.

Big Ganga brought Sangeet Unlock, a shoot-from-home musical journey with regions most celebrated singers and celebs and it received a very positive response from the audience. With Sawan month starting now the channel is brining five new properties alongwith special offering of Live Aarti from Devghar temple as visits this year are restricted.

MediAvataar: It has been a few months since the launch of Zee Biskope. What are the major challenges that you have faced?

Amarpreet: ZEE Biskope has been created on the premise of offering curated content. Innovation and localization has been the filters to establish it as a differentiated offering in the category. The primary challenge had been to not to be seen as just another Bhojpuri movie channel in the category. The effort in creating curated library basis deep analysis of movie viewership over last 3 years, building brand pillars based on consumer affinity towards the genre and establishing an identity that celebrates as well as elevates the love for the genre had been the key focus to set us apart.

The channel opened at No.1 position with highest GRPs in the category, a rare feat by any channel in the TV industry, purely owing to this intense consumer centric approach.

MediAvataar: There is a growing demand in regional markets for disruptive content, both in fiction and non-fictions. What are your plans for Big Ganga?

Amarpreet: Big Ganga has always pushed the envelope when it comes to original and disruptive content. Be it creating a platform for housewives to showcase their talent through Memsaab No.1 or brining national IP SRGMP to Bhojpuri market the brand has always managed to serve the pride and ambition of the region. During lockdown the channel brought Sangeet Unlock which was regional singing sensations entertaining audience through shoot-at-home format. With the festive season onset the channel is bringing live aarti from Deoghar. Soon a multi-talent festive series will be launched which will span across the entire festive calendar from Aug to Nov, once again a first in the category.

MediAvataar: The growth of viewership among the HSM regional languages has been driven by Bhojpuri. What is your road map for growth both for Zee Biskope and Big Ganga?

Amarpreet: Bhojpuri viewership is growing significantly. With two flagships channels from ZEEL we have the lions share of this category and an aggressive plan outlined for both the channels.

ZEE Biskope caters to the masti and excitement of the region. It will bring forth hyper Bhojpuri cinema with blockbuster premieres and film based shows yet unexplored in the region. It further deepens viewership involvement with the brand and the category through category first engagement activities like Talent Camera Action and upcoming Emoji Day Special. The viewers will up close and personal with celebrities as well as earn fame for themselves.

Big Ganga caters to the pride of the region. It will be bringing forth completely new line up of syndicated fiction hitherto unseen in the region and non fiction shows that will celebrate the culture of the region in new formats and with biggest celebrities of the region. In the new scenario the channel will constantly facilitate access to cultural and regional celebrations through its innovative measures like facilitating Live Aarti during Sawan month etc.

Novelty and innovation will remain the core driving principles for either channels, in their respective genre.

MediAvataar: Share your thought process behind roping in all the three superstars of Bhojiwood for Zee Biskope?

Amarpreet: Bhojpuri category is primarily driven by male celeb fandom. Nirahua, Khesari and Pawan are like the three Khans of Bollywood. Each one has their exclusive fan club while also enjoying a wide popularity across. However, the three have never come together for any brand. ZEE Biskope in line with its core promise of Aathon Pahariya Loota Lahariya intended to drive the entertainment to its max quotient. Thus what better than to get the most loved stars under one roof and let the audience have maximum entertainment. The campaign received an enormous response with more than 90% awareness and intention to see scores on brand surveys conducted. This once again stood testimony to our differentiated and curated approach towards the category.

MediAvataar: Regional Channels may become the flagships of broadcast network. Your thoughts?

Amarpreet: Regional channels are growing across board. They are a major viewership and revenue drivers today. The appetite for content in own language and entertainment in own culture is an equal force alongwith broader spectrum main line entertainment. Bhojpuri viewership has seen a growth of more than 30% YoY in viewership across the years. With addition of new channels like ZEE BIskope the viewership has grown by an average 20% and has brought more viewers into the fold.

MediAvataar: On a personal note, what have been the highlights of your career so far?

Amarpreet: I had been associated with the media industry for long now. I have worked across radio, Hindi GEC as well regional GEC. Though there are many achievements across the year however the recent feat of ZEE Biskope being launched at No.1 position and sustaining its leadership position since then definitely stands out as special. This has been a rare feat for any channel in a long time, both in the TV industry as well as within ZEEL. We are very happy and proud to take Bhojpuri entertainment to the next level for our beloved viewers.

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