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

As Chief Marketing Officer at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), Prathyusha Agarwal has been overseeing key strategic initiatives in the company with regards to the promotion of each channel under the ZEEL umbrella. She has been a part of the ZEEL family since January 2017 and leads the marketing function for the Domestic Broadcast business while also assisting in driving the marketing capabilities of the company. 

In a freewheeling conversation with Adgully, Prathyusha Agarwal speaks about why TV continues to show impressive growth in India, scope for monetisation, multi-screen consumption and much more. 

On the massive headroom for growth for TV 

TV is large, but there is also huge headroom for growth. If you see the CII-BCG report, we’ve been growing at 9 per cent CAGR in the last 6 years and it is one of the highest in the world. At the same time, if you look at the TSV, we are still at 4.6 hours while China is at 6.5 and USA at 11.8. That’s one of the biggest reasons why there is massive headroom for growth. 

Before telling you how we tick our numbers let me tell you how TV ticks. First comes the sheer need, in any category where you have to force the need versus where the need is natural and it keeps growing, it is a good category to be in. How Zee does it better is that penetration is at varied levels. So, in the South, we have a penetration of 80 per cent; in states like West Bengal or Odisha, the penetration is 50-60 per cent; while in a state like Bihar the penetration is 25-30 per cent. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, it is 50 per cent. So, there is a good amount of penetration task here and consumption too. 

The task is how to break down this headroom and grow to that point the way Zee does it, ensuring that you are big in these big consumption markets. We get a good amount of share gain in the Southern markets – take for instance, Zee Kannada is No. 1, while Zee Telugu has always been strong. Even in the markets which are not that big in penetration and consumption, we have been doing well, such as Zee Bangla in West Bengal where we are No. 1 and are growing the market. It depends on what kind of content investments you need to make or what kind of reach penetration activities you need to do to grow the category. This is what works for us from a fundamental need-demand- supply perspective. 

On scope for monetisation 

Next big thing and the reason why TV works well is the content or product. The ease and affordability with which you are able to make quality content is why TV has been able to survive for 25 years. TV has mastered the art of churning out content daily, which is unlike other places like the US. Content production is mastered and delivers at certain quality and scale. The third reason is that it is one of the most monetisable businesses. The advertisers love it because it is a synchronised reach to any set of audiences they want to get. It is also because there is a certain high level of engagement with less friction. For example, any of the campaigns that we run, if you compare the digital vs TV aspect, people only watch ads continuously on TV because on digital their mindset is that they have come to watch content and not an ad. Instead of an ad if I put a content sizzle, people tend to watch that more. That’s why advertisers invest more on TV and the fact that we have the lowest CPC, which is measurable by universal standards. 

There is a very well-balanced portfolio in the regional markets where we’re going to grow – in terms of share in these markets and putting out original content hours. The more culturally relevant content you put out, the more will the market grow. Hence, investing in original content hours to grow the market is how we’re looking at to power our growth. 

Finally, I think we have a rock solid team in monetisation. They are obsessed about client ROI and client solutions. Most of the clients now want to win in “Many Bharats”. Because there are regional jewels that are delivering there and you can take one campaign and customise it for multiple regions. As category leaders, growing the newcomers to TV is important. Advertising in the regional markets is another way where we are looking to grow in the regional market. 

On consumer culture to content 

This whole thing of consumer culture to content is something we have been following continuously through our journey. This involves a lot of traveling and meeting with consumers. It is not like research in the traditional sense, where you have to figure out what is being liked in the show and what isn’t, but understanding how the cultural view is changing, what are the symbols, rituals and what are the upcoming themes and how to induce it straight into content as a whole story or “kathan” or characters that are quirky enough or very representative of that culture, and then the boli and dialogue baazi. Thus, culture-to-content is something that I champion and something that we are really focused on at ZEEL. 

On the Media Mogul of tomorrow 

For me, a Media Mogul is someone who can come up with audacious solutions that is at the cusp of creativity and technology, because both creativity and technology are changing in a big way. The primary challenge is providing quality content. There are so many more people trying to build that hero content and are spending heavily on it. So, how you retain your talent and look at creating that hero content sensibly is a big challenge. 

Secondly, I think the new tariff order (NTO) of TRAI is really a blessing, because people weren’t purchasing consciously. That was a challenge because you couldn’t monetise the subscription revenue side; only ad revenue could be monetised. It was a very low involvement, opaque value chain. This move by TRAI has singlehandedly opened that. It is a challenge currently because everything is in a transition stage, but I feel that once people get used to making a conscious decision, the value that it will unlock for this category is massive. 

The third aspect is multi-screen consumption. People are meshing and stacking all across screens and, therefore, we need to figure out how to serve across these screens. The more critical thing is what do we give the consumers and why do they want a certain type of content. With the plethora of content options available today, how do I continuously tune into the viewers to understand new cultural factors and new questions that are being raised, and at the same time tell entertaining stories? 

It is often said that viewers are very whimsical and we don’t know what will click with them. But I feel getting to know what people want and why do they want it is not rocket science. Being very methodical about this is what will work. With the multiple screens available today, it is important to rethink our frontal interface. We need to develop the ability to see all these interfaces coming up and gauge whether the consumer will go to TV for long and medium form content, or go to an OTT platform to binge watch or for certain medium form content. Consumers are also accessing short form content on social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook. Thus, we need to decide how to repurpose or rethink our content being deployed across these platforms. 

In the backend, it important to re-think about the tie-ups with production houses and content creators. Having teams to deploy content across various platforms is very important. 

On the mantra for staying agile 

Personally, I like to take up projects that are at the cusp of technology and finding out if there are creative plus tech solutions. For example, we have this project called Culture Sparks. We are trying to create the Yammer of Facebook equivalent. Imagine Yammer-meets-Pinterest-meets-brand tool kit! We are creating that for all our channels, where they are able to put in their cultural understanding. Imagine an interface which I can dip into where I get the in-depth and nuance understanding of the Marathi consumer, which is available to brands as a platform. 

The next is the conversations with the consumer that have been important in any category that I’ve worked in. Working in multiple categories is another way in which I keep agile. Learning becomes very exponential because you have to rethink every primary principle you’ve learnt before. When it is a massive portfolio like ZEEL, you are always rethinking the principle while entering a new market. I consciously talk to young people. While everyone feels that Gen Z isn’t the focus, what I have found is that it is the generation which is able to connect the dots and hold complexity in a very beautiful way. This is a generation which is about opening up and connecting the knowledge you have. The more you connect with Gen Z, the more ideas you will be able to build as they are tuned into the current trends.

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