Last week's Independence Day celebrations had special significance for Zee Marathi as the day marked a decade of the channel's existence in the Marathi general entertainment channel (GEC) space, having debuted exactly 10 years ago on August 15, 1999 as Alpha Marathi.
At the time of its debut, the only other player in the Marathi entertainment space was the government backed GEC, DD10 Sahyadri. Since then, the number of channels in the Marathi regional space has increased to six, including ETV Marathi, Mi Marathi, Saam Marathi and STAR Pravah.
He claims that in 2003-04, Marathi enjoyed a category share of 8 per cent, with Hindi enjoying a share of almost 30 per cent. However, currently, Marathi's share in the entertainment pie in Maharashtra has increased to 20 per cent, thus bringing down Hindi's share to 26 per cent.
The other channels, DD10 Sahyadri, Mi Marathi and Saam TV, command channel shares of 8 per cent, 5 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.
Sane adds that over the years, the Marathi genre as a category has seen expansion and Zee Marathi has been a beneficiary of this development.
In 2004, the channel had a makeover and came to be known as Zee Marathi. According to Sane, since the inception of the channel, it has constantly had its eyes on the Marathi speaking audience. The GEC has been catering to diverse entertainment needs of the audience, with a dose of Maharashtrian culture, values and art, by offering a mix of fiction, reality, events and movies.
Zee Marathi began its 10th anniversary celebrations in July when it launched new properties such as Hafta Bandh, an unique game show that pays off the participants' Equated Monthly Instalments; Constable Kamna Kamtekar, a weekly comedy show; and Kunku, a daily soap with an interesting rural backdrop. The month of August will see a fresh lineup of programmes with shows such as SaReGaMaPa, Zee Marathi Awards and another daily.
The channel, being the first private player to enter the Marathi regional space, claims to be the pioneer in creating new genres with a strong local essence. It boasts of original properties such as Zee Gaurav Puruskar - the film and theatre award show in the Marathi industry and Zee Marathi Awards - a viewer's choice television award. Last but not the least, the channel also boasts of the dance talent hunt show, Eka Peksha Ek, along with singer talent hunt show SaReGaMaPa.
Zee Marathi has always believed in innovations. The channel's prime time starts at 6 pm and continues till 11 pm from Monday to Saturday, unlike other players in most of the genres following the 5 day pattern.
"The Marathi TV genre is expanding tremendously and as a network, we have ensured our presence in all the genres with Zee Marathi (GEC), Zee Talkies (movies) and Zee 24 Taas (news). This gives the audience a variety that no other network can offer. So, for an informed Maharashtrian, we have entertainment, news and movies," says Sane.