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For English GECs, rural pockets will be a section to look out for in the future, says Zeel’s Aparna Bhosle

BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Bhosle on various aspects of the English entertainment genre and about the launch of its new programming block Hollywood on Cafe and the earlier block BBC First

Aparna Bhosle

It’s been about three months since Zee Cafe, the English general entertainment channel of ZEE, launched 11 British shows through BBC First. Launched on June 26, the shows came at a time when the whole genre was telecasting a plethora of American shows.

Speaking to BestMediaInfo.com on a range of subjects, Aparna Bhosle, Business Cluster Head, Premium and FTA GEC channels, ‎Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), mentioned the success of the block BBC First. “We witnessed a high decibel launch. British dramas are growing all over the world and Indian viewers too are constantly on the lookout for new and different content. It gratified the voracious appetite of our viewers. In the week of its launch, our viewership increased by 600 per cent (from 4.76 to 33.74 GVTs) and the time spent per viewer (TSV) of the time band doubled (from 3 minutes to 6.3 minutes).”

The channel stood at No. 3 in the English entertainment genre in Week 40 of BARC data with 0.2 million Impressions. The channel has been trying to bring in programming changes and innovations in an attempt to reach the top spot in the genre. Recently, again, the channel has launched a new programming block – Hollywood on Cafe. Launched on October 16, it has brought in five drama series –The Young Pope, Taboo, 11.22.63, The Son and Guerrilla on weeknights at 9 pm.

Bhosle said, “It will see some of the biggest names from Hollywood like Pierce Brosnan, Jude Law, James Franco, Idris Elba, J.J. Abrams, Ridley Scott and Tom Hardy among others, headlining the five new shows. All the shows are top rated dramas with an average IMDB rating of 7.5. With award-winning directors, producers, screenwriters and actors, each show pushes the boundaries with its avant-garde content and stellar performances.”

Through this property, the channel has introduced the concept of ‘Rated H’ for the viewers who desire the grandeur of Hollywood on television. The channel defined Rated H as a viewing experience that stands for premium content for audiences who believe in only watching superior quality content on television. It is being considered to represent a benchmark for cinematic experience.

Just like the earlier block ‘BBC First’, the channel has a grand plan for marketing the recent programming block ‘Hollywood On Cafe’. Bhosle said, “Hollywood On Café has a high impact campaign, designed to reach out to discerning millennials who demand scale and top quality in their content. We’re aiming to engage through TV, digital, radio, trade, OOH and print media with engaging content and striking visuals. Each medium has been explored keeping in mind the scale of shows and the unconventional storylines.”

Along with the millennials who have had English entertainment as a staple diet for them, it has been felt that rural and tier II and III cities are also watching more English content. Right from the time when BARC started giving our rural data, the English genre was seen to be consumed fairly more in the tier II and III cities.

When asked Bhosle about the trend, she said, “Viewers from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata are core for us. While metros contribute primarily to the viewership pie, the rural pockets will be a section to look out for in the future.”

There are more audience trends and viewership patterns to see in the genre. One of these is the long-standing discussion of whether the audience is ready to go on a full subscription mode for the English entertainment genre. Bhosle said there is time for the genre to go ad-free. “Content consumption and consumer habits are changing every day. The future holds promise and potential for subscription-based content, but the present is geared towards a mix of advertising and subscription. Despite the interest in premium content created solely for subscribers, which is ad free, it could well be a while before it is adopted in India,” she said.

Also, there has been a growing demand of watching shows at the same time as these shows are released and telecast in the US. Usually, the English shows are launched in India after some time of their launch in the US. However, in the recent couple of years, the genre has seen some path-breaking initiatives. Star India had launched a channel with shows to be telecast ‘along with the US’. Sony Pictures Networks and Zee Cafe too have done similar things, with shows launching in India within 24 hours of their US launches.

How demanding is audience to watch the shows parallel to the US? Bhosle answered, “The English general entertainment genre, although very small in terms of viewership, is showing a consistent and an impressive growth every year. Owing to extensive social media conversations, viewers are now aware of which shows and seasons are being aired internationally. On Zee Café, we recently launched a property called ‘Along with the US’ where five of America’s biggest shows premiered within just 12 hours of their US premieres. Time isn’t too far when most shows will telecast parallel with US.”

Indian audiences have long forgotten the art of weekly telecasts. Even if one closely observes the Hindi entertainment genre, the broadcasters have moved from launching the weeklies to dailies. Indians’ love for binge watching is well known but is it time to promote weekly telecasts in the English genre yet? Bhosle feels that sometimes, the audience does support weekly shows. “Since the English genre offers a set number of shows, binge-watching over the weekend becomes easier as opposed to appointment-viewing. But if shows or new seasons are premiered along with the US, viewers will surely enjoy the weekly telecasts.”

Since advertising is an important source of revenue and the content on English genre is licensed and outsourced, it becomes difficult to use brand integrations. Everyone is talking about going beyond the 30-second ad spot, branded content and integrations look like a challenge in the genre. “We are in an industry where the consumers and business owners are looking for experts they can trust. Therefore, branded content holds tremendous potential. The aspect to keep in mind for branded content is the brand life cycle, the challenges it currently faces and the need to break clutter to leave an impact on the consumers. We have created specialised departments that handle the business of branded content. These teams help brands co-create content right from shows to on-ground activations to consumer engagement activities on the digital platforms.”

With all the pros and cons and challenges, the English genre is still flourishing well with nearly 8-9 players already operating for a small pie of about 1.5 million viewers. Within this, Disney has already announced its English GEC to be launched on October 29. Is the genre getting too crowded? Bhosle doesn’t feel so. She explained, “India being the second largest English speaking country in the world, the opportunity for this genre is tremendous. The category is fast widening its appeal across viewers who think and speak in English. We are sure that with increased exposure and accessibility, we will have more and more viewers looking at consuming English content. Since it’s a promising sector, more players will explore the genre.”

ZEEL too had recently launched &Prive HD, a premium English movie channel. Speaking about its performance, Bhosle said, “&Privé HD was curated for a niche segment of audience who are non-conformists enjoy nuanced cinema. In the first week of its launch, the overall relative share was 17 per cent, which is exceptional. The response to the channel has been great and we hope to continue to entertain our audience who feel the other side of cinema.”

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