Benita Chacko

With elections around the corner, Zee Media to launch three channels

Chief business officer Abhay Ojha highlights the network's plans for this year, rebranding and impact of exit from BARC.

With at least seven states set for elections this year and Lok Sabha elections next year, news channels are expecting a spike in viewership. Keeping this in mind, Zee Media Corporation will be launching three channels soon - Zee News HD, and two others in Kannada and Telugu. 

In January 2022, Zee Media had launched four digital channels - Zee Kannada News, Zee Tamil News, Zee Telugu News and Zee Malayalam News. It's now converting two of them into linear channels. This is well-timed, as Karnataka will go for polls in May and Andhra Pradesh in 2024.

Meanwhile, the launch of an HD channel is to reach a more premium audience and attract advertisers who target this niche audience. 

Keeping the elections in mind, Zee News also unveiled a redesigned look last month. It added a new colour palette, created clear visuals and brought in more breathing space for a better viewing experience.

In an interview with afaqs!, Abhay Ojha, chief business officer, Zee Media, says it conducted scientific research through a third-party agency to ensure a better viewing experience. The idea was to create a unique identity for the channel that will help it stand out from its competitors. 

Edited excerpts:

How has the year been for Zee Media and what are your expectations from this year?

Last year, the news industry faced numerous challenges, including a decline in revenue due to low traction, absence of major elections, except for Gujarat and Delhi, and a lack of compelling content. Brands shifted towards digital media, resulting in the industry experiencing major changes.

However, the industry settled towards the year-end, and the coming year looks promising, especially since it's an election year. In terms of revenue, things are looking bright.

To stay ahead, we looked inwards and identified our shortcomings. We sought feedback and, through scientific research, have created a clutter-free look. As a pioneer in the industry, we aim to lead the way by creating new and innovative content that differentiates us from others. People want to go beyond the breaking news into the background and analysis of the stories.

We're focussing on the informative aspect of news and are producing more stories about people, society and health to provide real-time analysis and understanding. Our flagship show, DNA, exemplifies our commitment to giving our viewers the best and most relevant content. So, when we strengthen our content, our revenue will also grow.

We're also working on our innovation studios to offer branded content. Our focus is on providing maximum leverage and RoI to brands.

We will also be launching a few channels soon - Zee News HD, and two channels in Kannada and Telugu. These are our digital channels that will soon be available as linear channels. Additionally, Zee Media will also be offering podcasts on multiple platforms.

Are the HD channels to reach a more premium audience?

HD channels cater to niche markets that many advertisers and brands are targeting. The Hindi-speaking audiences have a high spending power, especially outside metros. They're consuming content on HD channels. This viewership was missing from our bouquet. We aim to target these audiences, who have 4K and HD TVs. These audiences are the future of viewership.

Also, it's an audio-visual medium. So, we want to give our viewers a better experience.

What is your growth expectation for this year?

For growth, our objective is to focus on content, and revenue is just a byproduct. We expect a significant increase, especially being an election year, with multi-times growth across the network. Our goal is to become number one, in terms of revenue.

What was the thought behind the rebranding?

We wanted a fresh look for the channel, especially before the elections. All channels looked the same and there was no differentiator for viewers. We conducted scientific research through a third-party agency to create something unique and got good traction after implementing it.

Zee Media pulled out of BARC last year. What has been the impact?

There has been an impact, but it's minimal. The lack of a currency has made it difficult to convince advertisers. But we're doing it through the power of our content.

Currently, there's only one currency. However, it was created in 2011 and is now outdated. BARC needs to upgrade its system. As a content creator, our content is consumed on multiple platforms and the data is different across platforms. I'm now relying on other data sources, such as YouTube, where the same content is being appreciated.

How are you reaching out to digital audiences and leveraging your TV content for it?

News consumption has increased with the rise of mobile devices. To cater to digital audiences, we're creating new formats for social media platforms like Zee News Social. These formats are different from the TV format and include longer coverage and documentaries.

We also create explainer videos on current events. Our aim is to differentiate our content from what's been happening in the industry. While changes take time, we expect news channel content consumption to increase this year.

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