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Unaffected by slowdown and ownership change, Zee launches four new regional channels

Zeel CMO Prathyusha Agarwal decodes why the bet will work for the group. Touted as the first Punjabi general entertainment channel, Zee Punjabi and Bhojpuri movie channel Zee Bioskope will be launched on January 13, 2020. Two regional movie channels - Zee Thirai and Zee Picchar - will be launched by the end of February 2020

It has been barely a month since Subhash Chandra resigned as Chairman of Zee Entertainment Enterprises after the promoter’s family was left with 5% stake. And while the industry was speculating about the future of Zee Group run by financial investors on the driver seat and Punit Goenka, Chandra’s son, as the MD and CEO of Zee Entertainment Enterprises, the group has announced the launch of four new regional channels in the fourth quarter of FY20.

Prathyusha Agarwal

When asked if the change in ownership had any impact on new launches, Prathyusha Agarwal, CMO, Zeel, said, “The fact that we are launching four channels gives a lot away. The business is a profitable and delivering, and we are only ploughing more and more into growth. That is not really impacting the running of Zee as a business. Punit Goenka ensures that this ship is running tight and delivering as per market promise.”

Agarwal announced the launch of four new regional channels - Zee Punjabi, Zee Bioskope, Zee Thirai and Zee Picchar, in the presence of marketers and media agency professionals in Gurugram Wednesday.

Touted as the first Punjabi general entertainment channel, Zee Punjabi and Bhojpuri movie channel Zee Bioskope will be launched on January 13, 2020. Two regional movie channels - Zee Thirai and Zee Picchar - will be launched by the end of February 2020.

At a time when market conditions are not favourable, such a big bet by the most profitable broadcast network in India has left the industry surprised.

Playing down the impact of economic slowdown on the group's business decisions, Agarwal said, “There might be an economic slowdown but the consumption of TV is growing rapidly. From about 780mn individuals last year, this year the television will grow to 836mn people. The consumption, which used to be 183 minutes in 2015 is 223 minutes today.

The interesting bit is that TV penetration is very varied across India. In the South, it is greater than 90% vs East, which is about 60% in Bangla. It is about 30% in Bihar and UP. There is a huge penetration headroom and which is why it is growing. Last year, Bhojpuri genre grew about 171%, and Bangla grew around 39%.

When you have such a thriving and growing category, you will obviously have new products that you will want to launch.”

Agarwal claimed that Zee reaches about 70% of the total universe every day, having a market share of 17.2%.

“The split of national and regional reach is 50:50. Of the 50% of the regional markets, about 90% is coming from GECs. So we are looking at growing our movies share pie in regional markets. Which is why we are launching three movie channels - Zee Bioskope, Zee Thirai and Zee Picchar,” she said.

Zee Punjabi will have five original fiction shows, and the stories will reflect our positioning - ‘Kahani Punjabiyat Ki’ and Punjabi version of Saregamapa. Being a GEC, the channel will also have movies and music.

With Zee Punjabi, the network is eyeing to expand the category. There are Punjabi channels including PTC Punjabi, but they are movies, music or some sort of non-fiction. Fiction shows, which people come and watch every day for three to four hours on other regional GECs, do not exist in Punjabi.

“There are clearly two priorities for us in that market - building talent and creative ecosystem to give opportunities to local artists, and the category creation in Punjabi GEC. Currently, the viewers are scattered on Hindi GECs and movies, and they are lapping up any channel that is being launched, be it Punjabi movie channel Pitaara or TTV Punjabi. It clearly shows there is an opportunity there,” Agarwal said.

The New Tariff Order implemented by The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India was seen as a big disruptor for the broadcast industry and forced many broadcasters to rework their plans. However, Agarwal claimed that NTO worked in Zee’s favour helping them expand and grow further.

“Because we have such a strong regional network with many regional channels as number one in their respective markets, they have acted as an anchor to create pull for our national channels. For us, the regional advantage really helped in ensuring that our reach does not drop. Hence, we deliver. NTO has worked in our favour because consumers have made a conscious choice, and TSV (time spent per viewer) has been growing. The combination of strong reach and high TSV is always a good bet for advertisers.”

All four channels will have channel launch partners. Without revealing much about the launch partners, Agarwal said, “We have always had channel partners, and Zee Keralam has been the best example of a regional channel launch in many years. Launched with six brands as channel partners, the channel raced to 200 GRPs and broke 10% share within a year. It happened on the back of understanding the cultural nuances. We delivered more than we promised to our channel partners. We come with the history of strong deliveries to our channel partners, and we are hoping that we will be able to deliver the same in case of each of these new markets.”

She added, “When life is tight, you will go and invest in the most solid delivery platforms. Zee for a lot of advertisers has been that solid platform, and we always had that reputation that our deliveries on plans would always be at a certain stature. The overall economic slowdown is a market condition, but within that market conditions, Zee is doing fairly well. We always had a focus on sustainable long-term delivery, and that is delivering results.”

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