Culturally relevant entertainment boosts consumption: Prathyusha Agarwal

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) has announced that they are strengthening their channel portfolio with 4 new launches. They strengthened their GEC offering by launching a new channel for Punjabi speakers called Zee Punjabi. The channel is also bolstering its movie offering by launching three 24-hour movie channels for Tamil speaking, Kannada speaking and Bhojpuri speaking audiences, called Zee Thirai, Zee Pichar, and Zee Bioskope respectively.

Zee Punjabi and Zee Bioskope are slated to launch in early Q4 FY2020 on January 13 and 14 respectively. The south movie channels will be launched closer to the end of the fourth quarter. The broadcaster will reveal the pricing of the channels closer to the launch date.

Lay of the Land

Regional channels contribute 50% of ZEEL’s viewership and 90% of that viewership share comes on the back of GEC content. ZEEL has maintained leadership the region of Maharashtra for 7 years where they command 50% viewership through Zee Marathi, Zee Talkies and Zee Yuva. With 5 south channels, they command 15% viewer share in the south market. The channel is No.1 in Bangla, Marathi and Kannada languages. The newly launched Zee Keralam has raced to 200 GRPs and gained 10% market share which the broadcaster claims has been one of the most successful launches in the last 5 years.

Nationally, ZEEL holds a 17.5% share in the overall broadcast pie which spans across 183 million households and reaches 836 million individuals.

Now, with the launch of their new channels, ZEEL intends to grow their market share in existing markets and serve GEC content to a Punjabi audience where consumption is driven by movies and music content alone.

Prathyusha Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.  and Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, ZEEL illustrate the growth story in regional markets that impelled ZEEL to take the initiative and launch 4 new channels in Q4 FY2020.

The excerpts have been edited for clarity and brevity

How did broadcast consumption fare in 2019?

PA: In terms of consumption, you couldn’t have asked for a better year. In 2018, there were 170 million households with a TV, now it is 183 million households. TV reach used to be 786 million individuals which has gone up to 836 million individuals. In terms of time spent per user, it used to be 183 minutes a year ago, now it is 223 minutes almost touching 4 hours.

When entertainment becomes culturally relevant, we see an increase in consumption.

Contrary to popular belief, the people using television (PUT) is growing and we believe it will continue to grow in the coming year with the growth coming from multiple pockets.

The penetration is fairly spread out, you have 88% penetration markets like Punjab in the North and 90% penetration in the South markets. Then you have the states of UP and Bihar where penetration is 30%. However, Bhojpuri viewership has grown by 171% which is an obscene expansion.  Bangla, which you might say is a reasonably large market, has grown by 39%. Marathi viewership has grown by ~50%.

Why have you chosen to launch a GEC channel in Punjab?

PA: These 4 channels launches are to capture the growth in the North cluster and in the South cluster. We saw a huge need gap in Punjab, where there is an 88% market penetration but 18.5 hours of consumption. If you compare that to a Marathi GEC which is 4 hours more, or any of the South channels where time spent per user is much higher, there is obviously an opportunity.

There is a huge need for original content in their language ‘Boli’. Also, there isn’t an original fiction show offering in that market. As we go into 2020, we are primarily looking at category creation and growing that market.

You have been in the Bhojpuri market for a while. What potential are you seeing?

PA: If you look at Bhojpuri consumption, there are 13 million people who are watching that content across metros and mini metros. With Bioskope, we are hoping that audience will come into our kitty.

AS: For the last 2-3 years, the consumption is growing by 30% YoY. The movie titles that are being produced there are travelling outside of Bihar. We consider Bhojpuri as a national language because viewership is coming from almost all parts of the country. Like HSM, we see viewership for Bhojpuri content coming from Punjab, UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, and the highest viewership is coming from the states UP, Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

Are you factoring in a global audience for these channels?

PA: Whenever we launch a channel, we have a simultaneous briefing that goes out to ZEE5 and all our International teams because there is a whole audience spread across the diaspora at large. We see it as a video share across multiple screens and platforms. The split is effectively linear broadcast in India, OTT catchup and International channels.

AS: Bollywood is being doled out to International consumers. Channels in countries like Germany, UK, and South Africa are all dubbing Bollywood content and showcasing it. The No.1 channel in Africa today primarily shows Bollywood and Indian content dubbed in African languages.

A lot of people are talking about the growth of OTT. Do you feel a threat?

PA: Whenever I hear praise of OTT, I feel the need to share on statistic to bring some perspective. There are 836 million TV viewers and 68 million OTT viewers on ZEEL platforms. While it’s good to talk about new things, TV still has a reach which is 10 times that of OTT.

TV reaches 90% of urban India whereas digital reaches 44%. If you look at rural India, TV has a 70% reach and no other media even comes close. So, when I hear people say they are investing in digital, I ask where is your ROI and ROC? Ultimately, the advertiser is going to ask ‘show me the money’.

What is happening on OTT and digital is an exploratory ad hoc consumption. There is a top funnel and a lower funnel. To reach the lower funnel, marketers would have resorted to direct marketing 20 years back. This last mile performance is shifting to digital but for large scale announcements there is no medium better than TV. Marketers who have an awareness consideration deploy the right media for the right task.

What will be the marketing strategy for these new launches? Are you ramping up your budgets?

PA: There will be no ramping up of spends, as we always commit right for purpose spends. We have a large GEC support in each of these markets. Video is the best platform and our network, which gives us 70% reach and 1 hour of consumption daily, is the best there is. So, we will invest in our own channels in a big way.


Also Read:

There is massive headroom for growth for TV in India: Prathyusha Agarwal

TV industry is taking baby steps with demand-led pricing: Prathyusha Agarwal


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