Suraj Ramnath

"We would be a challenger brand within 6 months of launch": Siju Prabhakharan on Zee Keralam

ZEEL's new channel - Zee Keralam will go on air from November 26.

While the Kerala market is currently dominated by Star India's Asianet followed by Flowers TV, Mazhavil Manorama, Surya TV, and Asianet Movies, according to the BARC data for week 46, it means that Zee Entertainment Enterprises' work is cut out for them when they launch their GEC (General Entertainment Channel) Zee Keralam, on November 26.

"We would be a challenger brand within 6 months of launch": Siju Prabhakharan on Zee Keralam

According to data provided by ZEEL, Kerala contributes 3.70 per cent of national viewership and Malayalam GEC contributes 57 per cent of total viewership. The same data also shows that TV ownership in Kerala is at 90 per cent with almost everyone subscribing to paid channels.

"We would be a challenger brand within 6 months of launch": Siju Prabhakharan on Zee Keralam

Siju Prabhakaran

Zee Keralam will be launched with a line-up of original content including fiction shows like Adutha Bellodu Koodi, Kuttikurumban, Chembarathi, Swathi Nakshatram Chothi, and Alliyambal and non-fiction shows like Dance Kerala Dance, Super Bumper, Tamasha Bazaar, and Good Morning Keralam to name a few. The channel would also air two new movies every weekend (Saturday and Sunday). Channel partners include Chungath Jewellery, Fogg, Nerolac, Palmolive, and 7UP.

In a conversation with afaqs! Siju Prabhakaran, south cluster head, ZEEL and business head, Zee Tamil, speaks about the challenges his new channel is going to face in the Kerala market and much more:-

Edited Excerpts:

What challenges do you see for Zee Keralam and how do you plan to overcome them?

There are existing players who have been there for long. There is a certain kind of content being provided and therein lies the opportunity, a space to provide new kind of content which the market hasn't seen yet. That's what we are going to focus on. Our understanding of the audience, after the research and the strong fiction line-up, is what we feel is going to be an edge for Zee Keralam in the Kerala market. While there are existing players, Zee Keralam will have its own space and will grow the market further.

Where do you plan to see Zee Keralam in the next six months?

Currently, the idea is to have a proper launch. We would be available via all cable and DTH operators and have an extensive campaign which has been planned because we're entering the market with as many original hours of content as the leader in that market. So, all this, along with the creative execution the team has done, gives us immense confidence that we should be in a position to be a challenger brand in the next six months.

Obviously, once the ratings come in and we understand where we stand, we will take the game to the next level.

How are you promoting the launch of the new channel?

There has been a 360-degree campaign which includes print, outdoor, TVC, radio, digital, and PR. Kerala is a literate state, so print is a big component of our marketing. Apart from that, we have worked on the brand proposition which is 'Neithedukkam Jeevitha Vismayangal', i.e. 'Let's weave wonders in life'. Stark Communications is the creative agency that has worked on the entire campaign and we are also launching a brand film. We would extensively be promoting the seven new shows as well as the brand campaign.

You experimented with dubbing Kumkum Bhagya in Telugu and it worked; will there be a Malayalam version as well?

During the launch we are focusing on original content. We will have one hour of dubbed content and go on air with shows like Nandanandanam and Aarnee Sundari. With Zee there comes a repertoire of good content across our markets. We can, of course, dip into that as and when we require.

A lot of households in Kerala have subscribed to Asianet's cable service with the Set-Top Box having some branding on it. How will you penetrate that market?

Asianet is as well an independent player so, we are free to go and get our placement in distribution. What gives us immense confidence is that Tamil Nadu is a market where Sun TV had a 67 per cent share when Zee Tamil entered there. Asianet, today, has a 45 per cent share. So, as consumer choice, Kerala is much more open to accepting anything new. There are two cases of channels which have been launched in the last five years and have gotten to 11-14 per cent share; let it be Flowers TV or Mazhavil Manorama, but the bigger challenge for them has been not to breach the 12-14 per cent share and that's where you start building your channel and revenue and start making money. So, our target is how soon we can reach that 20 per cent share.

People in Kerala are giving new genres opportunity. I think the challenge is to get the content right. Marketing, specifically, is the biggest challenge in that Malayalam Manorama is a big giant and it has that kind of readership. So you have to look at other print mediums for the reach. But I feel there is a good gap because Asianet is at 1000 GRPs and others are at 250 GRPs. If that isn't opportunity then what is!

Since a lot of regional, original content in coming on OTT, do you see it as a risk for TV in the long run?

There is no data to support that. Rather, the latest report says that the time spent on TV is at an all-time high and regional TV is growing, but digital consumption is also growing. Just because new content is being made available, it doesn't mean that it is being shifted from one medium to the other.

Brands from which segment are likely to advertise on Zee Keralam?

This year Kerala missed its Onam because of the floods hence, advertisers have either not spent or postponed their spends. Christmas is very big in Kerala, so the whole cycle kind of shifts and we are launching at the right moment so that we would be able to catch the Christmas cycle. Then, obviously, Vishu, which is in April. Kerala is a land of spices hence, food brands would come on board. Kerala has been a destination for jewellery too. Retail sector brands are also expected to come on board.