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ZEEL to launch Hindi GEC 'Zindagi' with content produced overseas

The new channel with the tagline 'Jode Dilon Ko' aims to unite people with shows produced overseas.

In June 2013, Subhash Chandra's Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) adopted a new brand positioning statement, 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - The World is My Family'. Five months later, it went on to launch a corporate brand campaign communicating the same message.

The network has taken yet another step to unite people in India and across the world with shows produced overseas.

ZEEL has announced the launch of a new Hindi general entertainment channel for the Indian diaspora, called 'Zindagi'. The channel, that is set to go on air on June 23, will start with the best of content from Pakistan. The channel will be launched with four Pakistani shows acquired by the network. The hourly shows will provide four hours of content to Zindagi.

ZEEL has appointed a separate team for the channel. While Priyanka Datta wears the hat of business head of Zindagi, Vanita Jain is programming head of the channel. Rahul Sharma has been appointed national sales head; Sumona Roy Sen is brand head; and Akash Chawla is marketing head for national channels of the network. Shailja Kejriwal is the chief creative head- Special Projects, Zeel for Zindagi.

Punit Goenka

According to Punit Goenka, MD and CEO, ZEEL, Zindagi is the first Hindi GEC, launching nationally. The company believes that the stories showcased on this channel will have an appeal even in Southern India. "The channel is for people with a progressive mindset and such people do not have a language barrier. They understand Hindi also. We expect people down South also to watch Zindagi."

For content, the channel will get into production immediately, both in India and in Pakistan. One will see a mix of acquired and produced content over a period of time. Ideas and concepts can also be borrowed from other markets such as Turkey, Egypt and Latin America.

"The reason why we are focusing on content from these regions is that these are the places where the content is already being made to suit the needs of the audience that we are targeting," Goenka adds.

ZEEL owns Zee TV, one of the leading Hindi GECs, and could have easily introduced a band dedicated to Zindagi's philosophy, 'Jode dilon ko'. However, it preferred to launch a new channel. Goenka explains, "Currently the mindset of the Zee TV viewers is defined as traditionalists and for Zindagi we are chasing viewers of a different mindset. The problem is like mixing Chinese food with Indian. That's the reason there is a distinct identity of the channel, a distinct offering."

The content acquired from Pakistan has a different treatment and production value, says the channel. The language spoken, predominantly Urdu, is a more sophisticated version than the one spoken here in India. Interestingly, the research conducted by the channel revealed that people appreciated the content rather than finding it difficult to understand.

"Though India and Pakistan are two countries partitioned by boundaries, their stories, setting, relationships are the same. That's what we want to highlight. That's our strategy. As far as the language is concerned, more or less people understand words when used in a sentence, in a situation," Goenka avers.

Zindagi will cover all genres including drama, telefilms and comedy. The telefilms created by the channel will be centred on the theme of 'Jode dilon ko'. Eventually the channel will be launched overseas for the NRI audience and South Asian audiences. ZEEL has acquired the broadcast rights of the shows for the other markets, too.

People outside India may have seen the Pakistani shows, acknowledges Goenka. "While it's true that some of the content might have been seen by them, the beauty is that the best of all of that content will be seen together on Zindagi. Overseas, whenever this content was aired, it was aired on Pakistani channels, that way it's original content for Indian people," he explains. However, since it's a language restricted content, it falls into the South Asian category.

The shows will also have music (mausiki), created keeping the storyline in mind. The music will also be kept pure to retain the USP.

On the distribution front, Goenka says that the network will give the channel a full push on cable and digital. The network targets more than 90 per cent channel availability on the launch day. The subscription fee of the channel is Rs 25.81. The price of the channel is high as he feels that the product has been designed for class, and not for mass.

There was a need gap to provide content to this audience base, that over the years has developed a critical mass. Zindagi, according to Goenka, will not compete with Zee TV, Star Plus or any other Hindi general entertainment channel. It has been made for a particular segment.

"The market share of GECs has increased from 34 per cent in 2008 to 40 per cent in 2013. Last year, when we launched Zee Anmol in the FTA space, it expanded the FTA share within Hindi GECs from 6 per cent to 8 per cent, with other networks following its success. Extensive research conducted across cities in India for Zindagi has revealed that audiences are ready for alternative content, as has already been demonstrated in film viewing, and we aim to bring this fresh alternative to our viewers on television," he adds.

Through Zindagi, the network wants to break the stereotype of getting 24 minutes of content at the end of every day. The new channel's aim is to tell good stories. The channel has acquired and will continue to acquire best Pakistani work from the past two years.

The network recently launched a marketing campaign after Zindagi's test signals went on. It has earmarked Rs 80-100 crore for the launch campaign.

Is saving on cost of production a strategy to break even early? "Break even doesn't relate directly to cost of content. You need to keep in mind that you are creating a new category altogether. Our focus is on that, hence all the other expenditures we incur are equivalent to a GEC. Just by saving a little bit on programming doesn't give it much larger edge on trying to break even. It's a full-fledged GEC strategy and will take its own time to break even and make money."

For the record, Zindagi is the third Hindi general entertainment channel from the Zee Network stable after Zee TV and Zee Anmol. The network also runs GECs like 9X and Zee Smile. Another GEC from its sub-brand '&' is expected to be launched by the end of this year.

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