Benita Chacko

“Bhojpuri audience is hungry for original content that represents their life”: Amarpreet Singh Saini on Zee Ganga’s launch

Saini, senior vice president, Bhojpuri cluster, ZEEL, said that the channel aims to plug original Bhojpuri content gap in the GEC category.

After entertaining Bhojpuri audiences for five years as Big Ganga, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) launched its new Zee Ganga avatar yesterday. It aims to plug the original Bhojpuri content gap in the general entertainment channel (GEC) category.

Big Ganga used to offer a combination of syndicated and original content. While the syndicated content was dubbed in Bhojpuri, the original one would include non-fiction and events.

In an interview with afaqs!, Amarpreet Singh Saini, senior vice president, Bhojpuri cluster, ZEEL, says that the audience has now evolved and wants more relatable content.

“Bhojpuri audience is hungry for original content that represents their life”: Amarpreet Singh Saini on Zee Ganga’s launch

“There is an absence of original Bhojpuri content. While other regional audiences have their own language content that represents their life, aspirations, culture and world, the same is not available to the Bhojpuri audience. There are no fiction shows or regional prime time, only movies. In every category, the consumer evolves with time,” mentions Saini.

“We have noticed that the consumer is now ready to be served with slightly better offering than just mere content placement. There is a hunger for original content to see the stories of their own life. Hence, the evolution of Big Ganga to Zee Ganga. It will create the kind of content that they will relate to,” he adds.

ZEEL acquired Big Ganga from Reliance Broadcast Network (RBNL) in 2016. Saini says that the journey to become Zee Ganga began in 2016-17 itself. The first step was the launch of Zee Biskope, a Bhojpuri-language movie channel, in 2019, as the audience was conditioned to movies.

“The first attempt was to understand that if we start targeting, is this consumer ready to evolve. Zee Biskope was the first attempt to test the water. In the second layer of evolution, we are building original content as well. The thought had been there right from the beginning,” he informs.

So far, the channel was providing original content, in terms of events and non-fiction. For example, it organised the International Bhojpuri Films Award (IBFA), which was a phenomenal success.

“It was a validation that now, the consumer is ready for more. With IBFA, for the first time, people saw their culture being celebrated internationally. Even Bollywood stars like Sunny Deol and Sunny Leone were coming to a Bhojpuri event. They felt proud that their culture was being respected. So now, they want more of their culture to be represented on television in an original format,” mentions Saini.

Zee Ganga will be a hybrid channel. There will be an afternoon as well as an evening band. The prime time will have only original content, and syndicated shows will no longer exist on the channel. The fresh slate of content comprises 14 hours of originals- 10 hours of four fictional shows and four hours of one non-fiction show; 500+ titles featuring blockbuster and latest Bhojpuri movies; and a line-up of some of the biggest events in the category. With this, Zee Ganga becomes the only channel in the category to launch original fictional shows.

With the new slogan, ‘Har Pal Aviral’, the channel aims to celebrate the unstoppable Bhojpuri spirit.

“After interacting with the consumers there, we figured the core spirit of a Bhojpuri (person). One thing about these people that struck us is their tenacity. The environment has a lot of limitations and constraints due to a lack of resources. Yet, we see marvelous success stories emerging out of this region. The people are unstoppable,” reveals Saini.

“This region is known for high migration - to other cities and countries. Even in those unknown cultures, they emerge successful. They have this zeal to deal with the challenges of today for a better tomorrow, and that is what makes them resilient souls,” he said.

Zee Ganga's brand ambassador Nirahua aka Dinesh Lal Yadav
Zee Ganga's brand ambassador Nirahua aka Dinesh Lal Yadav

This slogan will be amplified across the channel with a 360-degree experience of that unstoppable spirit. As part of that they have roped in Nirahua aka Dinesh Lal Yadav as the brand ambassador. He represents the unstoppable spirit of the region as the Bhojpuri superstar comes from modest backgrounds and despite his circumstances has attained fame.

Since its inception in 2013, the channel has seen several name changes. It was launched as Big Magic Bihar and Jharkhand. A year later it was rebranded as Big Magic Ganga. In 2016 it dropped the ‘Magic’ to become Big Ganga. And finally now, after Zee’s acquisition, it has become Zee Ganga. What do these constant rebranding efforts do to the channel?

“Every time a transition happens, though the equity of the previous fold has to be retained, new layerings have to be added. Efforts have to be taken to handhold the consumer to the new world and also make them understand and appreciate that this change is in line with what they were seeking. Consumers today are very sharp to note if it is merely an outward change of packaging. So if you have not evolved as per the consumer truth and you are not showing it in every fiber of your existence, then it does not become a success,” he added.

According to the BARC universe estimates for 2020-21, Bihar and Jharkhand are among the highest TV base increase markets with 23% rise in Television Household (compared to 2018). Saini said that this stems from the fact that so far it has been a media dark and underserved market. But now with the consumer evolving, economically, socially and culturally, there is aspiration.

“As the original content is increasing, the TV penetration is also increasing and slowly the category is also growing. More Bhojpuri channels are being launched. There’s a desire for original content and there are channels to provide it as well. It's kind of hand in hand- sometimes the consumer leads us and sometimes we lead the consumer,” he said.

After a GEC and a movie channel, ZEEL is now considering other genres as well. “For ZEEL, Bhojpuri is a key focus market. This category has a lot of potential and we want to grow it. We would be looking at venturing deeper into this market. We believe that the appetite is much higher than what it is looking at the surface level,” he signs off.