India's oldest satellite channel Zee TV, which has been struggling to capture the number two position in the urban market, wants to leapfrog to the top position on the back of strong and innovative programming.
The channel has lost steam in the last few months and is on the number three position in urban markets as per BARC ranking, lagging behind Star Bharat, the second rung entertainment channel of Star India. Colors is holding No. 1 position in urban markets.
The channel is now hoping to improve its viewership in the urban market, which has better advertising rates as compared to the markets in rural and the rest of India.
"We have been on top many times in the last year. Of course, we want to come out as a strong No. 1 and a strong leader. We are working towards finding out exactly what needs correction and are correcting on a day-to-day basis. We are working towards fixing this on a short as well as long-term basis. Nothing can be done overnight, it is a process,” Deepak Rajadhyaksha, Deputy Business Head, Zee TV said.
Speaking about the changes that the channel has identified, he added, “Content needs to be constantly done well. It is very subjective, while we are trying and planning to bring out the best content, so is the competition and that’s a good thing. Every channel has a persona and everyone is working towards building that. Viewers get a wide variety due to this. Whoever brings a refreshing approach will gain the maximum viewers.”
Two of the most-watched shows on Hindi general entertainment genre – Kumkum Bhagya and Kundali Bhagya — are both Zee TV properties. However, despite this, the channel has been struggling to stabilise and consolidate the leadership position. So much so that the channel’s fight for the No. 2 slot in the urban markets is against Star Bharat, the second rung GEC from Star India.
Asked why Star Bharat is often winning the No. 2 fight with Zee TV, Rajadhyaksha said, “Freedish availability has given them a huge advantage. Zee TV is a pay channel. Even in urban markets, it’s available on Freedish. They are getting a lot of viewership numbers from these homes. In terms of content, they are trying to address the viewers in a different way. They have a good mix of entertainment. It is a good competition, but the major reason of their success is their availability on Freedish.”
Zee Anmol, the FTA sibling of Zee TV, has been doing phenomenally well, so much so that it ranks No. 1 in the combined U+R markets. In the recent times, FTA channels are giving competition to mainline GECs in terms of both viewership and revenues.
Rajadhyaksha pointed out that this is a larger issue on the organisation and industry level. “All broadcasters are discussing this internally, externally on various forums and trying to find how to address this.”
The broadcast network had recently launched its new philosophy of ‘aaj likhenge kal’. Rajadhyaksha said the viewers are appreciating this and noticing the differences in terms of concepts, stories and storytelling. “Gradually, viewers who had moved out of the channel are now coming back to Zee TV. We have seen this in ratings, and very soon we will be No. 1. There is no science behind good content.”
In an effort to understand the viewers’ preferences, the channel keeps talking to the viewers about what they like/ don't like and what are their expectations from Zee TV’s content. All the new content is being built with these feedback and insights.
“Gradually, the characters become a part of viewers’ lives and families. That's a fascinating journey. But there's no formula to this. Even when we are making the shows, we don't know how will it work. We can only check for relatability, relevance and if they would find hope in these characters and stories,” said Rajadhyaksha.
He agreed that the characters who talk about and fight against social issues and taboos are easier to get closer to the viewers. “This ‘apnaapan’ works well for the viewers. If you try to tell an alienated story, viewers might not accept it all,” he added.
The channel had recently launched two fiction properties – Aap Ke Aa Jane Se and Kaleerein – and has plans to bring three more shows in the next two to three months, replacing the existing ones. In addition, the channel will also be introducing a new programming slot, though the time band is not yet confirmed. “There will be a lot of experimentation on the fiction front,” he added.
Other than Kumkum Bhagya and Kundali Bhagya, another show that has topped charts in the recent times was Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs. However, for a long time now, the reality shows aren’t really getting the kind of eyeballs that they used to attract a few years back. On the other hand, the kind of investment that goes into making a reality show is still way more than that of a fiction show.
Rajadhyaksha gave two clear reasons for this. “One is that the number of shows and channels has increased. Weekends have too many options of reality and nonfiction. Viewers get scattered. Secondly, viewers are not ready to wait longer in terms of judging the show and sampling. They try all the options and try to watch everything.”
Other than these two, there might be other reasons that the channel is trying to figure out, through research and focus groups. The channel, which has been a firm believer of original formats of reality shows, is planning to launch another new format in this year. Rajadhyaksha said there are no plans to get an international