I don’t expect the digitisation deadline to shift but implementation on ground will have its challenges. From the knowledge I have, I don’t see the stakeholders ready for the January 1 blackout
Punit Goenka, MD and CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd (ZEEL), is a busy man at the moment. Managing the media and entertainment business of Essel Group since July 2008, Goenka has spearheaded the recent launch of channels in the ZEEL bouquet. The company reported advertising revenues of R8,433 million in the second quarter of FY16, recording a growth of 35% over Q2 FY15.
While competition remains high in the Indian television industry, ZEEL is constantly trying to up its game. The latest addition to its portfolio is Living, an extension of the Essel Group Living network, which exists in international markets, and will be distributed by ZEEL as its local licensed entity. BrandWagon’s Meghna Sharma catches up with Goenka to get an insight into the world of ZEEL and how it is preparing for the next phase of digitisation.
With three GECs in the portfolio—Zee TV, &TV and Zindagi—would you say your strategy to create differentiation has really worked for both viewers and advertisers?
The three channels are very distinct in their offering. Zee TV, the pioneer channel, addresses the mass of India which is traditional in its thinking whereas &TV addresses contemporary India. The kind of content we have on &TV cannot be put on Zee TV because that’s not what our loyal audiences expect from us. Therefore, we chose to launch the ‘&’ brand. Zindagi is a very premium channel.
For each, we conduct an extensive amount of research on what the audience wants from us. For instance, &TV, from ideation to launch, took us more than 18 months whereas for Zindagi, which is not very investment heavy, it took 8-9 months. Advertisers understand these differentiators and therefore, there are certain advertisers which are exclusive to each channel and some spread across.
The year 2014 saw four new channels from your bouquet. And now with the Living Entertainment brand, what message do you want to give to audiences?
With Living, we intend to make global content for global audiences. This will be for the first time ever that original content from India will be available to audiences across the globe. We have talked about how niche content or factual content was lacking in our portfolio. Though the Living brand is not owned by ZEEL, we are the licensing company here and therefore, it will complete our portfolio.
As for the target group, different products under the Living Entertainment brand will have different audiences.
Living Foodz, for instance, will have mass appeal and since we have a 3:1 ratio between national and international content, it will have a larger audience. Living Travelz will have a niche audience.
With Sarthak’s buy, ZEEL has entered the rapidly expanding regional market in Odisha’s general entertainment category. Other networks too have been investing in regional channels. What is your strategy on this front?
Everyone wants to consume entertaining content in their own language because it is far more relatable. ZEEL recently acquired Sarthak TV in Odisha which is a leading GEC with almost 25% viewership share in that market. We believe that this acquisition is an important addition to our already fast-growing regional portfolio.
In the South, we currently have a presence in three out of the four states. We will evaluate the fourth state, Kerala, once our Tamil channel gains market share and has stabilised. Out of the remaining regional markets where we are not present, we are exploring the Hindi heartland region, especially on the Bhojpuri side. Over the last 12-18 months, most of our regional channels have gained market share and are either number 1 or 2 in their respective genres. So obviously, they are picking up good traction in terms of revenue and are a critical part of our overall growth strategy.
We will look to invest in these markets as and when the opportunity presents itself.
Do you see the rollout of phase III and IV of digitisation meeting its deadline? How do you see it benefitting the TV industry?
There will be some delays, but not in the deadline. I don’t expect the deadline to shift but implementation on ground will have its own challenges. From the knowledge I have on the work in progress, I don’t see the distributors and stakeholders ready for the January 1 blackout. It will have its own teething problems just like Phase I and II. Phase III is the key market. Phase IV in my opinion will largely be DTH-heavy because there is not much scope for cable to go to these terrains.
You said in 2014 that if MSOs are not willing to agree to your terms, you will opt for RIO. What is ZEEL’s stand on RIO now?
We are still working on our RIO strategy. We are in talks with most of the MSOs and closer to the end of the next quarter, we should be taking a decision. RIO is a loose term; the only RIO out there is that of Star. The RIO we are working on is very different from Star’s. I think the à la carte strategy we are going to adopt is the term I would prefer to use.
We are working with cable companies to find a way how it can be beneficial to both and that’s how we plan to decide