Around a year or so ago, Mariam decided to launch Insight, a UHD or 4K channel, with the backing of General Satellite from Russia and other foreign investors. To start with she build up a strong management team: Qunita Baars (formely of Fox International Channels), Marjolein Duermeijer (previously head of international sales and development, Tuvalu Media) and Natalie Boot (2waytraffic and Sony Pictures Television interactive manager).
For production, she roped in leading studios and format owners such as Strix, Kiem, Zodiak Media, among others. For beaming the channel, she hired satellite operator SES Platform Services ( the bird it is beaming from is Astra at 19.2 degrees East), and for online and post-production she hired Dutch company, United4All.
“SES was challenged by our requirement of four feeds,” says Mariam.
More challenges awaited her. There wasn’t adequate 4K content being produced at a frame rate of 50p, most of the productions were at 25p. Additionally, technicians understanding cameras (one shot well underwater, but was not so well indoors) were few and far between. Online and post-production studios did not have the storage capacity or the processing and rendering power. All these meant costs, and costs.
But she did not let these hurdles deter her. Her enthusiasm got SES executives coming back to her with a solution within three months. And United4All decided to invest in post-production gear and storage in order to handle Insight’s high demands.
“The producers had no idea how to shoot in 50p 4K. Most of the UHD shoots were being done at 25 fps. We did 200 days of research and had workshops with them,” she says. “They went out and shots. And when they came back with the product, it looked good and my team gave it the go ahead. If we liked it, we were sure the audience would also like it.”
Programming includes original factual entertainment shows such as Spartan X (Strix), On The Run (Zodiak Media), Dracula (Strix), 7 Days (Kiem), and Power &… (Kiem). Shows already on air include Around the World in 80 Tricks, Diamond Geezers and Gold Dealers,
For Europe, InsIght is free to air and is available both as a linear live TV service and as an app for non-linear on-demand content and can be viewed on multiple devices. “Viewers can engage and shape the programmes they watch and they are very interactive,” says Mariam.
The company has partnered with joiz Global for this interactivity and big data and social management.
Insight’s grab and share interface which allows viewers to reduce the duration of the content they are currently tuned into as per the convenience is something Mariam is banking on. “Consumers can also button down their idea underneath the video and can also upload it on social media platforms. We want to showcase the current trends over technology and content and make it available for the young generation,” she says.
The channel went live in Europe on 5 October at MipCom in Cannes; and on 8 October in India. It has a 200 hours of 4K programming, most of it original and produced with only 41 hours being acquired. Mariam is looking to commission and have another 200 hours of 4K content ready by Q2 2016. Additionally, she has ambitiously expressed that she would like to produce a major sports event by October 2016.
The channel claims It is reaching out to 60 million homes courtesy its partnership with DTH service TriColor (which is linked to General Satellite) in Russia and Information TV Network in India and SES. In india she had a chat with iTV CEO Kartikeya Sharma, who was a college mate and a deal was struck.
While it is free to air and commercial free in Europe, it is being positioned as a pay TV service for India, Asia, Latin America.
“We are not looking for immediate revenues. I am against inserting advertising breaks for the first nine months in Europe. We will however offer drop down menus to advertisers. But India will have a different feed which will have ad breaks,” she says.
She is confident of revenues from India as it is a priority market for the business, along with Russia.