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‘Colors’ Begins Regional Foray

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The process of extending the Hindi general entertainment TV brand ‘Colors’ to the regional markets and consolidating a slew of ETV channels into the Network18 Group fold has begun. Simultaneously, Network18’s 50:50 joint venture partner in Viacom18, the US-based behemoth Viacom Inc, has voted for an expanding role in India with its decision to take a 50 percent stake in the 5 ETV entertainment channels. Prism TV is the holding company for the 5 ETV entertainment channels Network18 acquired in 2011 from Ramoji Rao.
 
Unveiling the consolidation and expansion plans for Viacom18, Sudhanshu Vats, CEO of the entertainment company, told BW that the ‘Colors’ brand of the flagship Hindi entertainment channel of the group will, over the next few weeks, be extended to the 5 ETV entertainment channels. The ‘ETV’ tag on the Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Bangla and Oriya channels will be dropped and replaced by the ‘Colors’ logo and brand. 
 
In early 2012, Network18 began the process of acquiring RIL’s majority stake in the ETV broadcasting network. The Rs 2,063 crore acquisition of ETV assets was completed as late as January 2014 by TV18 Broadcast Ltd, wherein the regional ETV news channels were grouped under a holding subsidiary, Panorama TV, while the 5 entertainment ETV channels were placed under Prism TV. 
 
As part of the new expansion plan for entertainment television into regional markets, the 5 ETV entertainment channels will be brought under the Viacom18 umbrella. To give the regional foray heft and financial muscle, Viacom through its subsidiary Nick Asia will take a 50 percent stake in holding company Prism TV, while TV18 will continue to own the remaining 50 percent. 
 
“Viacom has applied for FIPB clearance, and this could come through as early as in a month’s time,” Sudhanshu Vats said.  Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has given permission for a brand licensing agreement between Viacom18 and Prism for the use of the ‘Colors’ brand, Vats said. Viacom18 operates 10 channels currently. Apart from the flagship Hindi GEC ‘Colors’, the offering s also include MTV, Vh1, Comedy Central  and kids channel Nick. With the addition of the 5 ETV channels, Viacom18 portfolio broadcasting portfolio will increase to 15 channels.  
 
Vats also said an in-house research on the ETV brand had revealed that they were looking jaded with content catering to an older generation. “Colors, on the other hand, is seen as a younger, more appealing brand. By extending the Colors franchise to the regional channels, we hope to rope in a lot more youth for our viewership,” he said. 
 
Outlining the regional strategy of the group, Vats added: “As much as 59 percent of the country converses in regional languages as their primary language of choice. Today regional TV channels command the second largest viewership in India. The expansion fuels our growth strategy in building the Colors franchise.” Each of the 5 ETV channels will be rebranded over a 2 month period with the changeover pegged for each channel with a local festival. Colors Marathi for instance is timed to take birth on 22 March on the festival Gudi Padva. 
 
Vats was however non-committal about launching the Colors franchise for the other big regional markets such as Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telugu. ETV Telugu continues to be owned by the Eenadu Group, and perhaps the non-compete cooling off period is yet to end. “We are looking at those options too; but we aim to consolidate the existing channels first,” he said. 
 
The Viacom18 chief revealed a slow integration had been proceeding quietly over recent months with Colors programming and concepts being used by the regional ETV channels. The popular Big Boss reality show had been separately shot for ETV Kannada and Bangla, and it had done well in those markets. Similarly, the soap ‘Ballika Vadhu’ had been produced for ETV Bangla and ‘Uttaran’ for ETV Kannada. For the new Colors regional channels, Vats expects to ramp up non-fiction content along with some what he calls ‘marquee events’. 
 
The project to extend and market the Colors brand and integrate the 5 ETV channels in the Viacom18 fold is being headed by Ravish Kumar, Executive Vice President, and Anuj Bhullar.