18-25% viewership of GECs comes from movies viewership: Ashish Sehgal

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) recently unveiled four new channels: Punjabi GEC  Zee Punjabi and three movie channels – Zee Biskope (Bhojpuri), Zee Thirai (Tamil) and Zee Picchar (Kannada) – to add to the extraordinary kaleidoscope of cultures. 

ZEEL is currently present across 8 regional languages – Marathi, Bengali, Oriya, and Bhojpuri in HSM and all four southern languages, boasting of 12 SD and 8 HD channels, reaching almost 200 million people every day. With the new launches, the broadcast major will be expanding into the 11th language – Punjabi, while further strengthening its presence in Kannada, Tamil, and Bhojpuri languages. 

Also read:
ZEE launches 4 regional channels to cater to Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Tamil and Kannada audience

In conversation with Adgully, Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, ZEEL, speaks at length about the broadcast major’s strategy around the four new channels, strengthening presence in the regional markets, marketing plans and much more. Excerpts: 

GEC viewership is already high in the South markets. Are you building movie channels to create reach or prevent a drop off?
When it comes to GEC viewership, we don’t see any trend of it dropping. In fact, the viewership has been on the rise. Having said that, the supply of movies across the southern markets has been increasing. Earlier, there were only star driven movies, but now there are many other movies with good content being showcased. As a channel that caters to the entire family, it becomes important that along with GEC which caters to large audiences, there is need for movies channel where the TG is a little minuscule. 18-25 per cent viewership of any GEC comes from the movies viewership space. These are complementing spaces in the business of storytelling. 

You have been in the market for quite some time. Is it too late to launch two movie channels? South markets are very progressive and a lot of OTT consumption comes from there. Is it a wise decision to launch 2 movie channels now?
Absolutely! ‘Simbarrati’ is the No. 1 show in the Tamil market. While it is a GEC show, it is also one of the top shows in OTT. The OTT audiences are pretty much the same. People who watch TV also watch OTT content. Moreover, people still love to come together as a family and watch a movie. This is still relevant in the south markets, especially during festive season. We had a show in the Karnataka market that touched 20 TVR, which meant 1.5 crore people were watching the show. There is an audience that waits for movies to come on TV and then watch it. This applies to the OTT audiences as well. There are audiences of all kinds in the market. 

Movie consumption on TV is high in Tier 2 and 3 markets. For them, TV is the cheapest and best form of entertainment and movie content plays an integral part. We are a mass channel and this compliments both our metro and rural audiences. 

What is the composition of the audiences in the South markets? How are you looking to woo them for your new movie channels?
The OTT guys are more of an urban and big metros players and that’s the audience that they have. Still OTT data shows that 70-80 per cent of the consumption is done by male viewers. While women do consume more of YouTube content, ZEE’s content isn’t available there. This is because of the sociology involved when it comes to OTT and its payment. I’m sure if given a choice, even women would like to consume the content on OTT as per their convenience. OTT is a convenience driven platform and is here to stay and grow. 

However, our audience is a mass audience, which can be found in both metros and smaller cities. The GEC audience is a composition across markets. 

What is the overlap of GEC and movie audiences in your market? Do you believe launching regional channels has increased the time spent in your markets?
Movies do increase the reach of the channel primarily. Non-GEC audiences come to GECs when that channel is showcasing movies. When we acquire a movie, we keep in mind both the mother channel and the movie channel. We would acquire movies only for the new channel, however there will be titles that we want for our primary channel, which will then be showcased on the secondary channel. Although it will increase the time spent, it will mainly increase the reach of the channel. 

What is the marketing strategy for both the channels?
The best part is the way we have built our GECs in these markets. Zee Kannada is the No. 1 channel with 36 per cent market share. That becomes our biggest marketing space, because we have about 70 per cent reach coming from that channel itself. We will use Zee Kannada to promote Zee Picchar. Similarly, we have Zee Tamil, which has 65 per cent reach and will be our go-to for that market. Apart from this, we will be looking at digital in a very big way. We will be using social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote our channels there. We are also looking at our big events in these markets, which will happen in Q4 FY2020. Zee Cine Awards and other events will also be used to promote these channels. 

How has content consumption evolved over the years in both Kannada and Tamil markets?
When it comes to GECs, we have definitely seen a change in the consumption preferences of the viewer. There was a time when a serial could go on forever. However, the patience level of the audience has come down and they want faster paced storytelling. They also prefer realistic storytelling, something that they can relate to. Audiences are changing and channels need to take that leap of faith. 

When it comes to movies, there is the cinema audience that wants to consume different types of movies. People do feel proud watching good content in their own language. We see many new filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of storytelling and execution when it comes to the film space. These are complementing spaces and we are here to capture the good stories to showcase to our audiences. 

How many hours of content are you going live with?
For our movie channels, we start with 5-6 movies a day. We have the primetime at 7 pm. Evening movie starts 4 pm, which follows the afternoon movie at 2 pm. Afternoon movies will be without a break. 

Will you offer dubbed content to bolster your movie offering?
The market is slowly opening up to dubbed content. There were markets where dubbed content wasn’t allowed, but that has been changing. Movies in other languages are being dubbed and released in theatres. Earlier, there was resistance from the authorities. Now, law is allowing it and it is a dynamic that is changing. 

Will you factor in the global audience too for this content?
Zee Kannada is in other markets like Sri Lanka, South East Asia and markets in Europe. Movie lovers are present across the globe. Tamil and Kannada content have substantial global audiences, especially in markets like the US. Showcasing such movies will only make our position more formidable. 

What has been your observation of the South markets when it comes to content, consumption, trends and audiences?
The states in the South are much more prosperous when compared to other states in India. Education levels, per capita income, gender equality, etc., have all been higher in the southern states. This has reflected in the content being made and its consumption. High TV penetration is something that stands out in the southern markets. Movies and television have always had an intertwining relationship in these markets. There are personalities in the South markets from the entertainment space who are looked at as big influencers in these markets. 

When it comes to content itself, the South markets have much more hours of original content available to the right audience. People have a big appetite for content and hence, people consume a lot of content here. These are big and flourishing markets which will continue to grow. 

Do you think post NTO, people will subscribe to channels with premium movie content?
Movie as a category has been commoditised for quite some time. The movies category has only spoken about the ‘What’ of cinema. Nobody has spoken about ‘Why Movies’. Movies have a much more emotional engagement with the audiences. Movies are always going to be a part of people’s lives and they will always be willing to pay for good movies. As part of our acquisition strategy, we are buying titles that will live the shelf life and be as per the taste of the local audiences.


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