Prachi Srivastava

"In Two Years, Zindagi Will be a Sought-after Brand": Bharat Ranga

Zindagi was launched three months ago with the brand promise 'Jode dilon ko' and content that was premium, finite and catered to a niche and elite audience. Though there is anecdotal reference about how successful the channel and its shows are, Zindagi hasn't exactly set the GRP/TRP charts on fire.

In this interview, Ranga presents his views on the performance of the channel, the changing dynamics of Indian television and viewer behaviour. Excerpts:

Edited Excerpts

Despite getting viewer acclaim, Zindagi has not been doing well on numbers. Why?

Zindagi, as a proposition, is a revisit of Zee TV's journey when it was launched 22 years ago. The viewership has a metro skew and we were clear about it when we positioned it as a premium Hindi GEC.

As per the TAM numbers for Zindagi, in the last 8-9 weeks, we have more than doubled. While the numbers may look low in comparison to mass channels, like Zee TV, Star Plus and Colors, we have to take into account that the latter has multiple kinds of viewers.

Zindagi opened with about 7-8 per cent reach, which has gone up to about 13-14 per cent (overall HSM). It is higher in Mumbai and Delhi. The stickiness is 55-60 minutes on a weekly level, which is good.

Who is watching Zindagi? What is the feedback from the viewers?

Opinion-makers and influencers, those from the entertainment, political sectors, advocates, teachers, professors and housewives, watch Zindagi. The channel is clear about its audience and the mindset it is attracting. The genre is pretty well defined and people will turn out in large numbers, but it will take some time.

It is pertinent to note here that many of these households will never have peoplemeters at their homes to capture viewership. We are aware of the limitations that the TAM penetration has.

When will Zindagi start airing content that will be co-produced by the company?

Zindagi started with syndicated content but after six months, we will have co-produced content, that will be commissioned. There is going to be a creative pool and we shall pick different kinds of literature as well as performing talent from India, Pakistan, West Asia, the UK and Turkey. Having said that, the stories are going to be the ones that are going to bind hearts. We have also commissioned two- and three-hour-long telefilms.

We are, however not going to change the positioning. In two years, Zindagi is not just going to be profitable, it is going to be a very sought-after brand too.

How is Zindagi doing on the advertising front?

It is driven more by advertisers than agencies. We have 15-28 advertisers at present. It's a happy sign that the owners of the brands trust us, but the numbers are still low. The reason is that we have premium content and have created a new category. We will continue to make investments and convince advertisers that there is a fair price we are expecting.

All the shows on Zindagi are finite series. We have other examples like '24' and 'Yudh', which have not worked well. Why do you think finite series are not working in the country?

It's not just about the length of the show, but for certain stories or characters, one wants to see a definitive closure. Right now, based on TAM's parameters, you can term such shows as 'finite flops'.

Our on-ground research and the one from international markets told us that finite series were working well abroad and people in India were complaining about long formats. The point is to keep offering new content to the audiences. Now what the optimum length of a show remains a question.

In a finite series, a basic switch is required. The audiences need to start falling in love with the story and the performer, not the character. That will take some time.

What do failures of finite shows tell you about the audience?

When we say that the numbers for finite shows are low, which shows are you comparing them to? Jodha Akbar? KBC? That is a wrong comparison. SAB TV, for example, cannot be compared with other channels.

It also tells us that segmentation is coming, and it must be measured and followed well by advertisers. We must have enough patience to market our shows within the segment.

Why do Hindi movie channels air dubbed South Indian movies?

Audiences at home behave very differently when it comes to movies. This is the only genre that works on repeats. And not all movies are watched twice, some not even once. So, if there are 10,000 movies traded amongst all channels, the number of movies that get shown repeatedly in a year are less than 750.

South Indian movies break certain norms and hence do well (whether dubbed or remade). For example, Nayak (starring Anil Kapoor), was based on a South Indian movie. They tend to take the audiences in another world. They help you do what you can't do for yourself at times. We find that younger audiences love South Indian movies. All said and done, dubbed South Indian movies are not more than 15 per cent.

Jodha Akbar and Jhansi Ki Raani have been two of the most popular shows in the genre. Do you think ZEEL has managed to crack the formula for successful historical shows?

I don't think anyone has any formula. Some of these shows have worked well, primarily because there was a beautiful connection between the story, characters, performances and production. We have consistently picked up not only great historical characters but also part of their untold stories. In the case of Jodha Akbar, who could have been more handsome than Hrithik Roshan and more beautiful than Aishwarya Rai? We saw a great human story there.

How do you see free-to-air channels working in BARC's universe?

FTA will be a critical component of the overall offerings. While on one side we see a huge opportunity in the measurement going into rural markets - all those homes consuming FTA will become a unique set of audience. On the other side, FTA will start existing even in the metros and smaller/mini towns.

How encouraging is the environment for a new channel launch and its growth, post-digitisation?

In the digital environment, both distribution and marketing are important for the success of a channel. Seventy per cent of TAM homes are digital now. Here, people don't really remember what the channel number is if they are not used to watching it. A new channel has to go through a journey to catch viewer attention.

Pre-digitisation (in the analogue era), paying more carriage fees could place a new channel near any popular channel. It would then get sampled and there would be instant reach for it. Then, if the programme is good, it will be viewed.

Have news to share? Write to us