Tarun Katial, CEO of the Rs 250 crore Reliance Broadcast Network, looks visibly relaxed. After struggling for over two years with his television channel business, Katial says he is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. The company-which runs the radio channel 92.7 Big FM and TV channels Big Magic, Big Magic Bihar and Jharkhand, and Big Thrill-got de-listed last year and also ended its association with US television networks CBS and RTL. It shut down the English entertainment channels CBS Prime, CBS Love and CBS Spark. Big Magic, which catered to the Hindi heartland, is now a national comedy general entertainment channel, Big Magic Bihar and Jharkhand (Bhojpuri), is soon going to be re-christened as Big Magic Ganga. In a conversation with Ajita Shashidhar, Katial shares the lessons he learnt in the broadcast business and the way forward. Excerpts:
Q. It has been a while since you ended your association with CBS and RTL. What has been the learning?
A. The biggest learning has been to create local content rather than dub international content in Hindi or other regional languages (the company had launched a Hindi feed of the CBS channels for the Hindi heartland) or just play music. Now that we are creating our own content, we have the ability to manoeuvre and tap into new ideas and opportunities. For instance, for Big Magic Bihar and Jharkhand, we have created a factual reality show, Big Bahurani (based on mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship). We also have a show called Police File, which contains local crime stories. Localisation has resulted in a huge spike in viewership.
Q. You have re-positioned Big Magic as a national general entertainment channel with a focus on comedy. You have also introduced lot of new shows. How has been the response?
A. Very encouraging. The ratings for the channel have gone up by more than 50 per cent. Our ad inventory is 100 per cent full. Our flagships show, Akbar Birbal and Ajab Gajab Ghar Jamai, are doing extremely well. We have increased our ad rates by 70 per cent. We have even launched Big Magic in the US, Australia and Canada, under the brand name Big Magic International.
Q. Are your TV channels profitable?
A. Big Magic Bihar and Jharkhand is on the cusp of break even. Overall profitability is not too far away. In a revenue of Rs 250 crore, television contributes Rs 50 crore and I am confident that this number will increase substantially in the coming years.
Q. Every large broadcast network is launching their second and third Hindi general entertainment channel. Do you also have similar plans?
A. No. There is no space for so many general entertainment channels. There will definitely be consolidation. I want Big Magic to be a good challenger and general entertainment comedy channel.
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