ZEE TV attempts an overhaul once again

By , agencyfaqs! | In | October 07, 2002
The No 3 entertainment network has plunged head on into the race for the No 1 slot and this time the channel seems serious about it

The last time ZEE attempted a revamp, it met with miserable failure, to put it quite bluntly. But that was a year ago, when the channel under the tutelage of newly-appointed group broadcasting CEO Sandeep Goyal seemed to be in great haste to regain lost ground. A new logo, new slogan and above all 24 new shows spanning soap operas and interactive game shows were launched at one go in August 2001. But that was, as we said earlier, a year ago.

Cut to the present. ZEE TV is once again overhauling its programming line up, except that this time it seems to have got its priorities right. At least on paper, say media analysts and industry observers.

Beginning October 10, 2002, ZEE will telecast blockbuster movies every Thursday at 8.00 pm. These include, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Humraaz, Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hain, Om Jai Jagdish, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, Road, Hathiyaar, and Style to name just a few. In fact, the channel has slotted 16 movies for the first 16 weeks and seems gung-ho about the move. As Goyal puts it, "We have slated movies like Humraaz almost concurrent with their run in cinema halls. Also, movies such as Road and Hathiyaar will be telecast in November only a couple of months after their release in movie theatres."

If its Har Ghar Par Premiere initiative is something to watch out for, the channel's move to rejig its weekend programming is no short of intriguing. Starting October 12, 2002, ZEE TV's prime-time programming line-up will switch to a Sunday to Wednesday format from the current Monday to Thursday one. In other words, viewers will see the same programmes at the same time but from Sunday to Wednesday rather than Monday to Thursday. Explaining the reason behind the new schedule, Apurva Purohit, president, ZEE TV, says, "Our analysis of viewership data shows that the absolute universe of audience available on a Sunday is as large and as substantial as on any other weekday. We therefore plan to give audiences an interesting line up for Sunday evenings rather than leave them to chase niche channels or cable movies."

It is this fragmented audience that ZEE TV is planning to hook. According to TAM Media Research, average time spent watching TV on a weekday is 114 minutes whereas on a Saturday, it is 110 minutes increasing to 129 minutes on a Sunday. This shows there is a 13 per cent increase in time spent on a Sunday over a weekday (for C&S homes, four years and above in Hindi speaking markets).

Individual markets follow a similar trend. In C&S homes in Mumbai, for audiences in the four-years-plus age group, the average time spent is 122 minutes on a weekday, which falls by a minute (that is, 121 minutes) on a Saturday, consequently increasing to 136 minutes on a Sunday. This again implies there is an 11 per cent increase in the time spent on a Sunday over a weekday.

Interestingly, the figures for Delhi are much lower with the average time spent on television on a Sunday registering a mere 3 per cent increase over a weekday. Individual figures for C& S homes (four years and above) are as follows: 118 minutes on a weekday that falls to 101 minutes on a Saturday increasing to 121 minutes on a Sunday.

Though a quick scan of the weekday versus weekend viewership figures imply ZEE has got its premise right, many analysts maintain that it is actually the blockbuster strategy that could get fickle audiences to finally sample the product and stay on with the channel.

As a senior media planner based in Mumbai reiterates, "It all began with the telecast of Gadar on August 14, 2002. ZEE realised that big movies could swing the tide in its favour helping it record high viewership figures. And that is what they require right now - a high-TVR programme that can get viewers back to the channel." In fact, this is what rival STAR Plus did two years ago with Kaun Banega Crorepati - first get a high TVR programme and induce viewers to watch it, and then promote its other offerings on that platform.

Though the channel is treading on familiar soil analysts insist that ZEE's options are pretty limited in a scenario where much hinges on a hook, quite literally. "ZEE is actually hoping to create a wave of disturbance in people's viewing habits through a film. With an interesting and divergent line-up of programmes, they are counting on the fact that viewers will soon get bored with the saas-bahu format and sample its products, which they will obviously promote aggressively during the course of the film," claims an observer close to the channel.

This divergent programming mix is the third weapon in ZEE's armour. In recent months the channel has launched soaps such as Love Marriage, Kittie Party, Kammal, Lipstick, Aati Rahengi Baharein and more recently, Aa Gale Lag Jaa - each one different from the other but all aimed at one primary target audience, the woman. Explains Purohit of ZEE TV, "Prime-time viewership (viewership between 8.00 pm to 11.00 pm) is controlled by a woman and invariably family viewership is driven by her choice because most households are single TV households."

Which explains why ZEE conducted a field research in the months of March-April this year hoping to understand 'what women want'. According to Purohit, a number of ideas emerged from this exercise that has helped the channel construct an interesting programming mix. "For one, we realised that women feel fulfilled playing the role of a daughter or friend, which is explored by the serial Kammal, telecast between 8.00 pm and 8.30 pm on weekdays. Kittie Party was born out of another research finding that tracked the widespread phenomenon of unconventional support groups going by the same name among women in the age group of 30 years and above. Moreover, younger women seemed intrigued by the concept of love marriage, which is again explored by the serial with the same name. Lipstick is about Bollywood with an up market packaging designed to cut across socio-economic classes. Aati Rahengi Baharein has a male protagonist who loves life to the fullest whereas Aa Gale Lag Jaa completes the line-up with the story revolving around a handicapped boy."

Despite a clever and well-timed strategy, much will depend on how audiences finally react to its mix of movies and women-oriented programmes. As a media planner, who wishes to remain anonymous, states, "It would be foolish to assume that viewers will throw out characters such as Parvati bhabhi in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki (on STAR Plus) or Ganga in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or Komolika in Kasauti Zindagii Kay. It will have to be a slow and sustained effort on the part of ZEE, and for all you know, it could be worth it." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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