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Zee Café eyes the new with BBC First; 11 new shows in the pipeline

Zee Café, which has been topping the viewership charts in the English entertainment space, is looking to further consolidate its position with the launch of award winning premium British dramas in India in partnership with BBC Worldwide. Starting June 26, 2017, Zee Café will host the BBC First content block with 11 brand new shows set to air every weeknight at 10 pm. Maruti Suzuki Nexa has come aboard as the advertising partner for the BBC First programming block.

In a television space cluttered with American shows, Zee Café aims to break the norms of the industry with the best from the world of British dramas for its constantly evolving viewers. The new line-up of shows on Zee Café includes ‘War & Peace’, ‘Fleming: The Man who would be Bond’, ‘Class’, ‘SS-GB’, ‘Maigret’, ‘Doctor Foster’, ‘Top of the Lake’, ‘The Kettering Incident’, ‘New Blood’, ‘From Darkness’ and ‘Thirteen’.  

Talking about the association, Punit Misra, CEO - Domestic Broadcast Business, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), said, “ZEE is recognised as a pioneer in the broadcast industry for delivering great content to viewers across the world. Similarly, the BBC is known for its world class entertainment. In an unprecedented age of TV drama, we believe we can connect with audiences who are hungry for nuanced storytelling that will immerse and entertain them.” 

“This rich catalogue of unforgettable dramas is in line with our brand promise of ‘All Eyes on New’ and will significantly enhance our channel portfolio. From edgy new perspectives to shows that immortalise classics, we believe that this block of BBC First will be irresistible to the discerning Indian viewer who values premium content,” he added. 

“We are delighted that Zee Café is bringing BBC First to India, which will bring the best of British creativity to an appreciative audience. This is a curation of critically acclaimed and award-winning original British drama, that will challenge perceptions though surprising storylines and unforgettable characters,” commented Julia Kenyon, Director, Global Brands and Content Marketing, BBC Worldwide. “BBC First has been very successful in countries where it has already launched across Australia, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.  We look forward to connecting with Indian audiences who know and enjoy premium drama.” 

When asked why Zee Café and not any other English GEC to launch BBC First, Kenyon answered, “The channel came to us and since it is already a leader in the space in Indian market we thought it would be a bonus point for both of us to bring some of the British hits here and expand the viewerbase. As rightly said, there is an audience for such content here as well. It all started just two months ago. 11 shows is quite a lot of content and they will are the fantastic ones. It’s and all new content and no repetition of shows will be done.” 

Considering this as the appropriate time to bring British content to India, Kenyon explained that BBC has witnessed over the years that it have fans all across the world. ‘Sherlock’ is a perfect example and also because digital is all about Netflix, as we all know, the additional content can go anywhere. She added, “We love a share which is very British at the heart and yet no one sees us as a barrier. According to us, great stories, great people can work and that’s what people love. Great content is great content, doesn’t matters where it comes from.” 

She added, “I think there is a kind of merging of tastes across the world and in a way surprising that British content hasn’t been bigger here before because we have such a strong cultural connection. I mean you speaking brilliant English. We have great connections from across the world with cultural perspective. So it feels right and a good time to bring these new stories.” 

According to Kenyon, linear TV Is still the biggest platform. On not considering an online platform for the launch of the block, she observed that TV is absolutely where the audience is coming from. It is more about bringing in new content that no one has seen before on any platform. “India is a very young and dynamic market and we know people around the world love this content. So, Zee Café is a perfect partner. Wherever people will find good content, they will watch it,” she further said. 

Explaining further on the kind of individual strength that both the channels bring to the association, Kenyon said, “Zee Café being the No.1 in this space is really important to us. They have some of the beat content and know how to connect with the audiences. I think they have very good taste. Our partner really shares the same amount of passion for this content. And for the premier we have got some high-quality time bands as well. The curation that she (Aparna) is bringing in with her team is something we would embrace as a brand. What we believe from our side is that we bring really some of the best of British dramas to the market. That’s our job to think out of the world.” 

When quizzed about BBC not launching a different channel altogether instead of a programming block, Kenyon stated that Zee Café is already a very successful channel. “They approached us and said lets create a creative collection and we thought that was a great idea,” she said. 

Speaking on the partnership with BBC First, Aparna Bhosle, Business Cluster - Head, Premium & F.T.A GEC Channels, Zee Entertainment, said, “We have signed for years and years, of course it’s an exit clause. We are a general entertainment channel, but we are in English. So if you are a GEC, your job is to provide viewers different genres. From talk shows to thrillers to comedy – everything. We are going to try and find horror also for 11.30 pm on the channel. We are trying to get the best of everything. You may have a lot of strategies, but good content is limited, which is why we are trying our hand on British. We had to expand the English content coming in. I think the quality of content has picked up because the competition at par.” 

The channel is also contemplating to start binges three weeks later. Elaborating further, Bhosle said, “The shows have to play out. We are launching these shows as weekly and then we will start binges on the weekends. We are doing 11 shows for 12 weeks to start with. We will take a break to do more of the binges of the content and then we will launch the new lot around October or November during Diwali.” 

As per the information shared by Bhosle, Zee Cafe is doing extremely well in the 7 pm slot. Premieres like ‘House of Cards’ have also worked in the channel’s favour. She added here, “At 9 pm comes the ‘Bing Bang Theory’. 8 pm is again ‘America’s Funniest Videos’. If we see the prime time starts 7 pm onwards but 8-9-10 are the bigger ones. People watch till 12 am as well. For BBC First, we have kept it at 10 pm because it is one of the most crucial spots in English entertainment, the core prime time. If it does well, we might also take more shows, extend the slots and make it 9-10 pm and so on.” 

On the factors leading to Zee Café topping the viewership charts, Bhosle was of the view that there are no bad stories around. Everyone has good content in place. What is very important is to understand how is your audience, what age group is available at what time. She added, “Your FPC, which is your grid management, is at the core. You have to get that right. You have to understand who comes at what time and wants to watch what. And that takes a lot of analysis to look at over the years- how many people came in, what age group left at what point. The channel carried out all of these and sorted out.” 

Although the channel possesses the OTT rights for the block, it would like to hold back for a while and take the wait-and-watch approach. “It’s just that I am running a broadcast station, I want people to tune into my channel,” quipped Bhosle. 

Sharing her views on the growth of Hindi GEC space in India, Bhosle stated that after TAM, BARC shrunk the numbers a bit of this space, however the revenues didn’t dip with those numbers. “Maybe because this content is mostly consumed on HD. We would technically be NCCS A. So it might be difficult, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that a lot of people are watching and a lot of the clients recognise that. It’s not purely on numbers,” she said. 

‘War & Peace’ will premiere on June 26, ‘Fleming: The Man who would be Bond’ on June 27, ‘Class’ on June 28, and ‘Maigret’ on June 30.

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