Beginnen Media to invest Rs 400 crore on rural entertainment brand Azaad

At a time when TV broadcasters are busy scaling up their digital presence with video-on-demand streaming services, former ZEE executive Bharat Ranga has identified a totally underserviced audience segment with a huge untapped opportunity – rural India.

And to capture the rural mind-set, Ranga’s Beginnen Media has launched a Hindi TV channel ‘Azaad’, which he claims is “India’s first rural entertainment brand”. The company has also earmarked an investment of close to Rs 400 crore in Azaad over the next three years.

“There are pay TV channels and free-to-air (FTA) channels, but everyone is confusing free viewers as rural. That is not the case. Rural is a mind-set and I would say 68% of the population is rural. Some may have moved to urban areas, and may be willing to pay for the content, but aren’t being served with the right content,” Ranga told ET.

After leaving as its chief content and creative officer, Ranga invested in regional channels, a film production company and an ad sales company to get acquainted with different facets of business before starting Beginnen Media in October 2019.

Ranga said that he has done market research for over three years, to identify the need gaps and potential market.

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The FTA genre alone has clocked ad revenues of over Rs 4,200 crore in the last financial year, and the number is expected to go up to Rs 5,500 crore this year.

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“Some of the findings of our research were astonishing and we realised that this segment is completely underserved. So we launched Azaad last month with some curated content, including some old shows and animated content. We have picked up a slot on DD FreeDish, which gives us an entry into 40 million households. We have also signed up with around 40 cable operators in the rural areas and are adding 4-5 new operators every month. Once we have good reach, we will launch original programming,” Ranga explained.

The company has also created a brand pitch for producers, which will be the guiding principle for the programming on the channel. “We will soon move from what the consumers are watching today to what they would love to watch. We have earmarked Rs 350-400 crore and have like-minded investors on board,” Ranga added.

On OTT presence, Ranga said at present the company has partnered with a digital platform and will take a call on whether to launch its own service or not at a later date.

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