There has been much activity at ZEE English and ZEE MGM in recent times. All to grab a bigger chunk of the viewership and advertising revenue.
According to Ajay Trigunayat, vice-president and business head, the on-air packaging and graphics of movie channel ZEE MGM from the ZEE Network has been revamped in keeping with the changing needs of the English film viewer. "We have brought the lion back," says Trigunayat pointing at the famous mascot that symbolises Metro Goldwyn Mayer or MGM. "It is the starting point, which evolves according to the time slot," he says. Hence the 'Lion's share of Hollywood' could be the 'Lion's share of Romance' or the 'Lion's share of Woody Allen' at different points of time.
Apart from the on-air look, the channel's programming has seen an overhaul in recent months. "The effort began in August," claims Trigunayat. "Research showed that competition was playing a title-led game interspersed with B and C grade movies. In reality, however, there is a lot of impulsive viewing of English movie channels and there is great demand for unknown and unreleased flicks in India."
This consumer insight led the channel think-tank to zero in on a single-minded proposition - "good movies anytime of the day - which, according to Trigunayat, is really what the English movie viewer is looking out for. "They want good fare as opposed to mere title-led appointment viewing," he asserts.
To kick start the effort, the channel telecast some of the best movies in its library in the month of August including the Michael Douglas-Catherine Zeta Jones starrer Traffic as well as the Jodie Foster-Anthony Hopkins thriller, Silence of the Lambs. This was followed by a creation of six fixed and two flexible movie slots in the month of September. These included Romantic Mondays, Thrilling Thursdays and Man Fridays at 9.00 pm, Sizzling Saturdays at 11.00 pm, Sundown Show on Sundays at 6.00 pm and back-to-back feature presentations between 9.00 pm and 11.00 pm titled Twice As Nice Sundays. The same month also saw the channel telecasting the entire Carry On and Pink Panther series during weekends and weekdays.
October was dedicated to Hollywood legend, Woody Allen. November saw thematic slots, Terror Tuesdays and Wacky Wednesdays going down well with the audience, especially the horror flicks on Tuesday, which has the channel brass seriously considering a regular slot for the same. This month has Cool School Tuesdays and Wild West Wednesdays with the movie, The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeremy Irons as one of the bigger draws.
ZEE English, claims Trigunayat, "is a very strong channel". The challenge, according to him is to "reinforce and build on its programming strength", which includes properties such as Friends, Seinfield, The Sopranos and Mad About You, apart from 2002 Emmy award winners, ER and The West Wing. "We have primarily two programming bands on weekdays during primetime including the comedy band from 8.00 pm to 10.30 pm (on Fridays, it is reduced to an hour), and the drama band from 10.30 pm to 11.30 pm."
Weekends, he claims is a time for catching up especially for those viewers who have missed out on particular episodes during weekdays. Hence, Sunday afternoons have a two-hour exclusive on Friends featuring episodes of the previous week apart from The Sopranos, Seinfield and Mad About You telecast during primetime on the same day. "Our aim is to balance superlative and popular appeal programming with what our main target audience - the English programme viewer - really wants."
In keeping with this philosophy, ZEE English also telecasts concerts such as the one featuring Bryan Adams - Live in Slane Castle, which premiered on December 14, 2002, at 8.00 pm. In the pipeline are shows featuring Elton John (on December 25), and the 36th Annual Country Music Awards 2002 on December 29.
But for all their noble intentions, both ZEE MGM and ZEE English have been grappling with the image of being slightly jaded, when compared with the other English movie channels. One reason could be that ZEE MGM has at its disposal the entire library of a single Hollywood studio (MGM) as opposed to rivals HBO and STAR Movies that have tie-ups with multiple studios. "We do telecast movies outside the purview of MGM and we are focused on acquiring more movie titles,"claims Trigunayat.
Despite its claims ZEE MGM's run on the popularity charts is nothing much to write home about. A quick look at TAM data for the period October 2001 to October 2002 (as compiled by Zenith Media) highlights the following. The weekly channel GRPs or gross rating points of both HBO and STAR Movies stand at 26 (October 2001) and 32 (October 2002). ZEE-MGM, though showing an increase over a year, is still way down on the list at 10 (October 2001) and 15 (October 2002) respectively. The cumulative reach for the three channels is as follows: HBO - 23 per cent in October 2001 and 26 per cent in October 2002; STAR Movies - 22 per cent in October 2001 and 26 per cent in October 2002; and ZEE MGM - 10 per cent in October 2001 and 13 per cent in October 2002.
On their part, both ZEE English and STAR World have single digit figures to AXN's double-digit figures, though AXN has shown a marginal drop in weekly channel GRPs as well as cumulative reach over the last one year. Weekly channel GRP figures for the three channels are as follows: AXN - 18 (October 2001) and 17 (October 2002), STAR World - 6 (October 2001) and 7 (October 2002) and ZEE English is steady at 3 for both periods. The cumulative reach figures go as follows: AXN - 19 per cent (October 2001) to 15 per cent (October 2002), STAR World - 7 per cent (October 2001) to 6 per cent (October 2002) and ZEE English - 3 per cent (October 2001) to 2 per cent (October 2002) respectively (Target Group: Audiences in the 15-plus age group in SEC ABC C&S households in 10 cities).
Trigunayat however is optimistic that the renewed focus on the two channels will pay off. He says, "While every loyal English programme viewer is watching ZEE English, we have had moderate success with ZEE MGM. So now we are toying with the idea of promoting Indian English movies such as Bend it Like Beckham, American Desi, Monsoon Wedding and Guru to draw a larger chunk of the English-viewing audience in India." © 2002 agencyfaqs!