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In Conversation | Zindagi's strength is cross border content & finite shows: Datta

Over the last few months, the Indian broadcasting industry has been witnessing many changes, right from legal to financial. Adding to the heat of these situations was new channel launches. While MSM Pvt Ltd launched women centric channel Sony Pal, ZEEL Media launched Zindagi offering content from across the border.

Adgully caught up with Priyanka Datta, Business Head, Zindagi who spoke at length about the content of the channel, the rationale behind launching a channel of this nature, marketing strategies and more. Edited excerpts below:

Adgully: To begin with, while the Hindi GEC space already has many players, what was the rationale behind launching a channel of this nature?
Priyanka Datta:
Well, you are right! There is a plethora of channels available in Hindi GEC space, but unlike the English space, which caters to a specific audience, in the Hindi GEC space we don’t really have a channel catering to progressive mindsets which we at Zindagi wanted to cater to. In Hindi space, you have segments like free-to- air, youth genre channels and other, which left this particular category vacant and why should we not make the first move!

Adgully: You mentioned about progressive mindset as your audience base. Please elaborate on the TG you cater to?
Priyanka Datta:
The TG we are looking at is about 15 – 40 years in SEC A, B. Also, with changing times, a viewer’s choice of content is also changing and that is reason we are looking at progressive mindsets who are ready to accept concepts like finite shows, stories and shows from across other country. With finite shows, our lives change every 17 – 23 days with new shows and new stories; and since not all the sections in India are used to watching such fast paced story-telling, an open mindset is what we are looking at.

Adgully: In case of finite shows, considering the relatively shorter shelf life of shows, are your marketing spends more than others in the Hindi GEC space?
Priyanaka Datta: Spends are comparable to what any A run Hindi GEC player would do, which is huge any way. In case of finite shows, one has to market it more intelligently since the audience we talk to is not mass, unlike the other Hindi GECs which need to appeal to the masses and hence their spends are high from that perspective. Comparing spends on digital and other mediums; digital plays a big part for us; hence there is not essentially a demarcation in terms of more or less. For example, for our recently launched show Humsafar, we are taking the 360 degree, where there is also a lot of focus on print and other mediums, including digital.

Adgully: So you see acceptability of cross border as an issue or audience mindset as a challenge?

Priyanka Datta: Honestly, I don’t see it that way. Today content is not viewed with the eye as to where it is shot, which country is the land for storytelling etc. It’s the story that matters and the way it reaches the audience. Hence more than acceptability, it’s about relatable content, where content is liked irrespective of others factors or completely discarded for factors best known to them! With Zindagi, the advantage is the Pakistani content or the lifestyle the shows depict is socially or culturally is similar to Indians that everyone watching the show can easily relate to it. Right from the language and mannerism to the social issues or conflicts the shows try to talk about, Indians relate to it beautifully since it is not too different from what happens here.

Adgully: As far as production value and style of making the shows is concerned, they are very different from ours in India. Share your take on the same.
Priyanka Datta:
Rightly said, the way the shoot is very different from us, right from capturing the outdoor locations or a teary eyed heroine, shows from across the border are a huge source of learning for all in our industry. Also, since these shows are smaller in length, they need to be told in a different manner, unlike the shows on other channels where a story takes years to complete. With regards to cost of production, with the prices rocketing daily, at the end of the day, the cost is quite similar to what we pay here in India.

Adgully: Will you always focus on shows from across the border or is there any scope for India-produced shows?
Priyanka Datta: While currently we just air syndicated content, we are also in talks with production houses to produce shows from India. Our focus is content which is high quality, irrespective of from where it is coming. So, initially we thought Pakistani content made sense since we could relate to it; also considering production is a mammoth task, we went the way of just procuring the content and airing it. So while Indian television does have very bright script writers, however, their talent is consumed in working on multiple projects running simultaneously, the quality we are looking at is not matched up.

Adgully: Do you think multi-media and multiple screen content consumption is a challenge?
Priyanka Datta:
Yes it is! While we hunt for solutions in this area, there are also certain deals that are happening to offer this content online. The other challenge is that, since it is syndicated content, we also have to see if the original channels back in Pakistan have already had deals with online players to stream it, thus influencing our deals.

Adgully: Tell us a bit about the distribution of Zindagi?
Priyanka Datta: It is a hugely distributed product of the channels not only from the Zee family, but also in the space. We were available on all major DTH platforms from day one; there were huge amounts of investments that went into making this possible since the formats and the TG we intended to cater to called for it.

Adgully: Which are the markets you think are stronger performers for the channel?
Priyanaka Datta:
It is mostly the northern parts of the country where the language connect is better than other parts of the country. We have also received good response from Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Adgully: How has the advertiser response been so far? Also, shed some light on the ad-rates Zindagi works on.
Priyanka Datta:
The good thing is that the advertiser today, is also a viewer. There is more relatability between the advertiser and the content. While, like other channels, there is questions raised on the relation between performance and delivery of the channel and the advertisers spends; but today as the advertiser relates to the content, we see many of them coming to the channel. Of course, since Zindagi is a premium channel catering to a certain section of society and a certain price range that we work on; the brands coming advertising on the channel may not be the same as on other channels. Speaking of the ad-rates, we need to understand that Zindagi does not essentially have a competitor in this space it operated in; hence the scale may not be as high and large as other GECs. However, since it’s a niche TG, the rates (in CPRP terms) are comparable and sometimes much higher than others, just like the English GECs.

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