With Zee Keralam, we intend to take on competition as a leader: Prathyusha Agarwal

Tapping into the immense growth potential of the Southern region, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) is all set to launch its 5th dedicated channel in the South market – Zee Keralam, a General Entertainment Channel in Malayalam to consolidate its overall position in the region. Launching in Q3 of 2018, it is one of the most ambitious and significant moves by the network this year. 

Deepti Sivan Pillay has been roped in as Business Head of Zee Keralam: Having been in the M&E industry for about 23 years now, Pillay has been an influential leader across various media platforms with expertise in Media Strategy, Production Design, Content Conceptualization and Development. 


In conversation with Adgully at a roadshow to highlight Zee’s presence in the South markets, Prathyusha Agarwal, CMO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, and Siju Prabhakaran, Cluster Head - South business, ZEEL, speak at length about the strategy drawn up for Zee Keralam, the dynamics of the television market in the South, and much more. Excerpts: 

With Zee Keralam, what is your strategy for the Kerala market?
Siju Prabhakaran: What gives us confidence is our performance in the Tamil market, where Sun TV was at a 67 per cent share when we entered that market. In the Kerala market, AsiaNet currently is at a 45 per cent share. As far as consumer choice is concerned, Kerala is much more open to accepting anything new. There are two channels that have been launched in the last five years and they have gotten on to an 11-15 per cent share. The bigger challenge for them is that they have not been able to breach the 12-14 per cent share and that is where you really start building your channel and start bringing in the revenues. The challenge is how fast we can reach that percentage of market share. From a choice point of view, it is much more open. People are giving channels more opportunities. What gives me hope is that the No.1 channel is at a 1000 GRPs, while all the other channels are at 250 GRPs. If that is not opportunity then what is? 

Prathyusha Agarwal: We are not defining our TG by looking at our competitors’ TG. We intend to challenge them head-on as a leader. Secondly, you have to consider the fatigue that sets in, where the consumers are asking for someone to tell a new story. Content discovery is not a new challenge in Kerala because we faced this same challenge in Tamil Nadu, where some audiences did not have a TV. Outdoor, digital and print are some of the mediums that are really saturated and that makes a difference. There is a magic mix between doing ground activation and digital, because both are very word of mouth platforms and that takes off. I’m quite confident that the disadvantage of not having all the mediums will be overcome by this combination. 

Siju Prabhakaran: AsiaNet Cable is as much an independent player, so we can get our distribution there and that is not a challenge. Fundamentally, it is a 3 crore population market, compared to other states that have a population of 7.5-8 crore. That way you can sharpen your choices in content discovery on a population of 3 crore than for 7 crore. 

When is the channel launch? Is the distribution and advertising in place?
Pratyusha Agarwal: Zee Keralam will launch in November end. 

Siju Prabhakaran: We are already in the process of inking deals with all the distribution platforms and on day one of the launch, the channel will be available on all DTH platforms. We are a very P&L focused company and have a very strong team that is already out there propositioning advertisers and sponsors from day one itself. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: Because the launch is at the end of November, NRIs should be back for Christmas and some of them would have missed Onam this year because of the floods, so advertisers have not had high spends. Christmas is big in Kerala and we are launching at the right time to capture the whole Christmas cycle. ‘Vishnu’ will launch in April 2019 during the festival of Vishu and that will obviously carry on. Apart from Punjab, it is Kerala that consumes the most luxury vehicles. 

Siju Prabhakaran: In Kerala, 2 per cent of the population has 12 per cent of the premium car consumption. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: There are national brands that are looking at a good solution provider and because local consumption is so high, very Kerala centric brands among national advertisers will also be coming in. 

Siju Prabhakaran: Because Kerala is a land of spices, a lot of food category clients are already there. Jewellery and retail categories are also coming in. 

What is the pricing model for Zee Keralam?
Siju Prabhakaran: Since we are just entering the Kerala market, currently we are introducing a very nominal pricing model to get our reach right and get the channel into place. As the channel becomes a brand that has pull, we would be looking at pricing our channels at the same price in other markets. 

How many hours of content will the channel have?
Siju Prabhakaran: The programming line-up includes 7 fiction shows, 2 non-fiction shows, 1 afternoon game show and 1 morning show. In addition, the channel has also conceptualised a cinema-based speed news show. 

What is the growth potential that you see in the South markets?
Prathyusha Agarwal: South has a large audience and contributes about 33 per cent to the viewership. Ad revenue wise it is still a 23 per cent market. There is a huge scope for the entire category itself to grow there. In terms of duration of viewership, it is about 4 hours, whereas the national average is 2 hours. We are present in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages and will soon launch in Malayalam. 

Siju Prabhakaran: Almost 25 per cent of our network share comes from the South. Today as a cluster, it is one of the largest, along with Hindi movies. This growth has primarily happened in the last 2 years. In Telugu, we have been the No. 2 channel with 26 per cent share. In Kannada, we have been leading as the No. 1 channel. Tamil has been a growth story that has happened over the last 18 months or so. Now with Kerala, we are in a strong position to increase our portfolio of channels and going forward, we would be definitely having more channel launches in Kannada and Tamil, depending on the opportunity we see in that space. 

What are the challenges presented by a saturated market?
Siju Prabhakaran: Time after time we have seen that whenever more content is given, and if you give the right kind of content, the output of those markets has actually grown. The best case is the Tamil market in the last two years, prior to that there was Sun TV and Vijay TV and the general assumption was that people are happy with whatever content is being served to them, but then came Zee Tamil which found a space for itself. It grew from a 4 per cent share to a 22 per cent share. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: We have to identify the viewer’s content need gap, and we clearly saw a gap in the fiction genre. We have been going strong in the Kannada space for the last 8 weeks and that is because of a strong fiction staple. 

What has been the content strategy for the viewers in the South?
Siju Prabhakaran: Like Prathyusha said, whenever you enter any market, you look at the consumer. While every channel has their own fiction shows, we felt that the whole regional flavour of these fiction shows was missing and across all markets what we’ve been doing is a culture deep dive and getting that piece right. We saw that the market leader’s storytelling patterns had gotten a little stale and wanted to change the whole narrative. As a result of that, the market itself has changed because once a challenger brand tries to do that, I’m sure the other players will also follow. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: Across every show it is no longer about language, but about culture. You have to figure out the cultural nuance of sub regions, sub dialects and reflect that. 

Siju Prabhakaran: In Tamil, the market leader had a 67 per cent share. Sun TV is obviously a very strong brand and we realised that it was more of a habit challenge than a content challenge. You have to get the viewer out of that habit loop which he is used to. We had to figure out the areas that we could do better to break that habit. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: When we did the Jyotika campaign in October 2017, we communicated that you need to break the habit and that consideration got us top of mind awareness. One thing about the Tamil market is that modernity has always been in step with tradition. 

Siju Prabhakaran: We have done differentiated stuff in the Kannada market. We have 45-46 per cent non-differentiated market share. The challenge there was that we were never a serious fiction destination, it was Colors that had very strong fiction at that time. Last year, we had a complete revamp in our fiction offering. Of course, to grow in any market, your competitors need to leave a gap for you to enter, but in the Kannada market they were really hyperactive. We launched ‘Naagini’ in the market that was not dubbed but shot in Kannada and that’s when we gained momentum. Then we launched another show called ‘Mahadevi’ and once some traction started happening, we got on to the family space. Today, if you look at ‘Kamali’, our latest offering, it started off at 4 TVR or so and has gone on to 9 TVR. Of the top 10 slots, we are No. 1 in five of the slots in the fiction space. For fiction, our GRPs are 370-380, whereas it used to be 150-200 GRPs last year. Today, the channel is at 620 GRPs or so and the whole growth has come on the back of fiction content. 

When ‘Bigg Boss’ did well on Vijay TV and they were gearing up for a second season, we thought practically about what we could do to increase the viewership of our weekend shows. Hence, we extended our fiction offerings to the weekends in the Tamil market and saw an increase in viewership. When you look at the Bangla and Marathi markets today, there is fiction on the weekends as well. 

We do original movie content on the afternoons on weekends. One of the biggest premieres that we did was actor Vijay’s movie ‘Mersal’. We have the television rights of Rajnikanth’s ‘2.0’, which is going to be the biggest movie this Diwali. For us, movies is not just a TV play, we also look at it from a digital standpoint. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: We are launching the biggest fiction show in both Tamil and Kannada, called ‘Vishnu’. We are super excited for this as it is equivalent of a ‘Baahubali’ production for us. It is being produced by Creative Eye and is being shot in Mumbai. 

Which of Zee’s Hindi shows have been dubbed in South languages?
Siju Prabhakaran: Our flagship show, ‘Kumkum Bhagya’. 

What percentage of your revenues comes from the South markets?
Siju Prabhakaran: Our network share is at 19-20 per cent in the South cluster, because we do not have a portfolio of channels like our competitors have; there we are at 17 per cent viewership share. The South market is under-indexed in terms of revenues and that is something we are working towards. The only way you can price your channels at a premium is after you do shows like ‘Vishnu’ and have a good collection of fiction to non-fiction strength and ratings. There is also an industry thing where leaders need to come in, because South is a great market, a B1 market for most of the FMCG companies. Great consumption happens in each of these markets, so why should television be left behind? I think premium pricing in television should also be at par. 

Prathyusha Agarwal: If I was to give a TV AdEx GDP kind of number, the overall national average is at 0.16, while South is at 0.12. Even ours is under indexed and so as an industry and as a category it is our task to grow the category, because if I look at FMCG, consumer durables, e-commerce, telecom – then these five states contribute significantly to these sectors and they are over-indexed. We are trying to capture the consumption surge and the affluence that is there in the South markets as well as the choices that are made and hence, you need media solutions. The AdEx side of that has not really grown very well. The question is how do we lift the overall category value? There are good isolated markets where you can reach a very specific kind of TG, but how to lift the overall AdEx is a challenge. 

Siju Prabhakaran: There are two challenges. First is the industry challenge and the second is for us to increase our market share and to reach a level where we are in a dominant position. Only then can you go to an advertiser and explain your point of view. 

What is your estimate of the TV ad spends in the South?
Prathyusha Agarwal: It is about Rs 2,400 crore - Rs 2,700 crore. We have a target of Rs 5,700 crore. In the next two to three years if we all do considerably well, we should be able to take it there overall. 

What about Kerala’ AdEx?
Siju Prabhakaran: The Kerala market has an AdEx of Rs 50 crore. However, this year it might take a beating because of the floods. But since Kerala has a strong Middle East influence and category penetration is high, we expect to see a faster growth of categories in Karnataka and Kerala as compared to Telugu and Tamil because they are more mature markets.


News in the domain of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Business of Entertainment

More in Media