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Zeel eyes Rs 700-crore Kerala market, to launch Zee Keralam

As the Hindi GEC market saturates, Zee plans to strengthen its presence in the growing south Indian market by launching a Malayalam GEC. The network, which sees the Kerala market as a Rs 700-crore opportunity, will launch the new channel next month

After marking its presence felt in four prominent South Indian states, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) has decided to tap the Kerala market with the launch Zee Keralam next month.

The channel will be Zeel’s fifth GEC in South India, helping the network to offer a bouquet of pan-India channels to its advertisers.

As Kerala has a large audience, contributing 33% of the viewership in South India, Zee believes it has a mature market of Rs 650-700 crore.

Zee Keralam will compete with the likes of AsiaNet (Star India), Surya TV (Sun Television Network Ltd.) and Malyalam Manorama.

The network already has language GECs for the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka markets and is launching Zee Keralam with the brand proposition: “Let’s Weave Wonders in Life” (“Neithedukkam Jeevitha Vismayangal”).

The channel will be available on Zee5 and DTH platforms and its programming line-up includes seven fiction shows, two non-fiction shows, one afternoon game show and one morning show. The channel has also conceptualised a cinema-based speed news show.

Zee Keralam will focus on progressive content narrated by different characters that are family-inclusive and culturally rooted to Kerala.

Talking about the competition, Siju Prabhakaran, South Cluster Head, Zeel, said, “Obviously, there will be challenges in any market you enter. The POP in these markets has actually grown. But you have to put the right kind of content. Take, for example, the Tamil cluster. There was Vijay TV and Sun TV but the general assumption was that people were not happy with the content. Then, Zee Tamil arrived. It found its space and grew from 4% share to more than 20% share. Kerala is much more accepting. There is greater consumption in this market. Zee Keralam is full of original content,” he said.

Commenting on Zeel’s strategy, he said the channel’s strong point of view, stories that inspire middle-class people and their aspirations, and the channel’s ability to find that gap in the market give them an edge over competitors. “In non-fictional shows, we had so many singing shows. So when Sa Re Ga Ma Pa came and created a difference, it was purely because it kept talent at the centre. Stay true to your content and storytelling,” he said.

Zee Keralam’s team is pitching for more local advertisers, Kerala-centric brands, including lots of food clients and NRIs as the launch date is near Christmas.

The target audience

Prathyusha Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer, Zeel, said the channel would mainly target the middle-class audience.

“We are not going for specific viewers but a large middle-class audience. It is about three big things: First is figuring out the cultural nuances, dialects of regions, sub-regions. It’s not about the language, it’s about the culture. Second is getting authenticity by having shoots in different places because people can see through and feel that this (show) belongs to their world. Third is to give space to characters, give them a stage for their talent, so that they can believe that they can be the hero. We realised it was not the content challenge but a habit challenge. If in Tamil the existing leader had a 67% of market share, we had to break the habit of the viewer through communication intervention,” she said. Aggarwal said the success mantra to beat competition in Kerala would be, “Take it (challenge) head on. Act like a leader and be relevant to the large middle-class population of the state. We have a great ground connection.”

Agarwal said Zee believes in showcasing progressive narratives through young and aspirational characters so that people can resonate with their situations.

The channel plans to make a splash on the regional OTT segment through the video streaming app Zee5. “We share of TV screens and other devices through binge-watching content,” Agarwal said.

The southern Sojourn of Zeel

Talking about the opportunity in the south Indian market and how Zee has made inroads, Punit Misra, CEO, Domestic Broadcast Business, Zeel, said, “The south market has played an amazing job in the leadership journey. We are no longer the channel that originated in the north; we are very much in the hearts of the viewers in south. We intend to respect and honour that by giving them better content.”

Multiple national channels have set foot in the southern market and exploited the opportunities by launching regional content. Considering the southern region as a gold mine for advertisers and the television industry, Zeel organised a road show “Extraordinary South by Zee” to share its growth story in south India. It started its journey in the south by entering with Zee Telugu in 2005, Zee Kannada in 2006, Zee Tamil in 2008 and Zee Cinemalu in 2016. It saw 19.1% as the overall network share, and south standing at a 31.8% growth over the last fiscal.

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