Living Foodz, the international food and lifestyle channel of Zee Entertainment & Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), will soon turn one. Piyush Sharma, ZEEL’s CEO – Initiatives (India + APAC region) and Living Foodz Business Head Amit Nair were in Delhi to be a part of the channel’s first Power List Awards.
In an exclusive chat, the duo discussed about the journey of the channel so far. Sharma cited the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) ratings to assert the complete dominance of Living Foodz in the realm of food and lifestyle programming. On the other hand, Nair mentioned that the channel’s earnings would soon take them to a break-even position.
It’s been almost twelve months since Living Foodz was launched in September last year. Looking back, what have been the big achievements?
Piyush Sharma – The first is an absolutely unassailable leadership position. For 48 weeks running not a single day has passed when we would not have that BARC rating in our favour. I think on an overall level we should be commanding around 40% market share. That means all the other four players combined in the lifestyle category which includes TLC, Fox, NDTV Good Times and Food Food are almost at the same level at which we are positioned. I think the BARC rating is one very big indication of that success.
The second biggest success is our ability to include advertisers who go beyond the hygiene category which is that of food. Almost 55% of our total advertising market share today is coming from such profile of advertisers. It establishes the fact that the brand is today placed as an upmarket lifestyle brand and not simply as a food-food brand.
The third will be the overall imagery associated with the brand. Every single brand is looking at getting associated and the traction that we are getting with the fraternity whether it is or chefs or audiences is absolutely mindboggling. Today marks the day for the launch of Power List Awards. This is our foray into activation space. Also, in another fifteen days time, we will be launching the digital venture which is livingfoodz.com, a site whose beta version is already live. Those are our new initiatives.
Zee is a family of over 40 channels. How does Living Foodz manage to stand out?
Piyush Sharma – The business of broadcast is very clearly split into three divisions. There is the category of news and sports which is where the news channels you talk about and sports foray that Zee has gets played out from. There is the fiction space which is where 35-odd channels across region, entertainment, cinema, movies etc play out. The third space is that of factual entertainment. Living Foodz marks the foray of Zee Entertainment into the space of factual entertainment. Living Foodz is the first channel and hopefully we will have many more such offerings to bring in.
In order to get the ratings, you need to get the right content. Tell us a bit about the kind of content that you’ve been offering.
Amit Nair – Right from the beginning when we started planning about this channel, what we said to ourselves is that how are we presenting food as lifestyle. What is happening is that there is this bunch of new age Indians who are looking at more ways of expressing themselves, more and more ways of experiencing lifestyle which is part of their own well being. We clearly divided our content into two kinds.
One is the premium instructional shows that we have which essentially are shows that teach you certain things. They are informative in nature and also help you to replicate something like this at home. Anybody from a homemaker to an amateur cook could be replicating this. The second types are the lifestyle shows that we have made. Essentially the idea behind these lifestyle shows is that India as a country has so many varied things to offer. As a channel, we have to bring forth the Indian context in the lifestyle space. What you have in the lifestyle space are a lot of international channels who just bring in the international content and play it out here like Fox.
We wanted to create original content which will appeal to the new age Indian. Hence, we have done shows like Pickle Nation which is something like a very entertaining journey where Chef Kunal travels to various parts in India and meets up people. We have had interesting shows which combine food plus entertainment like Ranveer’s Cafe. It has music plus food into it. One of our top shows this year has been Ganga: The Soul of India. We have moved a bit away from food yet keeping food as the central theme. In almost every episode, you will find Dia Mirza, the presenter, undertaking a journey but also connecting with food at various places.
These shows have had a major connect with our viewers. They found it compelling, original and as something new that they have not experienced before. It was told to them in a format that it is entertaining as well as informative. That is what has got us the numbers and viewers sticking to us. We also follow a very close audience tracking method. What happens is that we always seek audience feedback which helps us better our shows. In fact many of our shows have also come in because audiences demand certain kind of shows. That gives us cues as well. This is what Indian viewers are looking for in the factual entertainment space. That has helped us define the space. In the coming months, we are looking at two to three shows similar to Ganga which has a celebrity angle to it or a well known face to it, probably within food or moving a little away from food, venturing into newer formats like reality and fiction within the food space. Those are the ideas.
I think the entire space is just opening up and there is a whole lot more to be done. Given the TV context, if you look at the US, you have Food Network as one of the biggest channels. In this country of 1.2 billion, you have this channel which is taking food as one of the key components into Indian homes. Everybody connects with food and it is a universal point of discussion. Food is an integral part of conversations. Food is present everywhere and that is what we want to bring to the forefront.
You talked about audience engagement. We are living in the digital age. How are you utilizing social media platforms to increase audience engagement and beef up your brand online?
Amit Nair – Currently, we have a very healthy fan following on Facebook and Twitter. They constantly write and talk to us. The engagement levels are very high. Whenever we have new shows, we get direct feedback about the shows. We actually solicit feedback from the bunch of people who regularly write to us. Social is a very important part of our entire engagement with the audience. We do not necessarily do a lot of mass campaigns because we are not exactly a GEC (General Entertainment Channel). We necessarily need to focus on the audience that loves us the most. The listening posts that we have help us in discerning what works, what doesn’t work and what kind of chefs are more connecting with these people.
I have one question that several business heads tend to treat as the big elephant in the room. What are your revenue numbers like?
Amit Nair – Zee Group does not disclose individual channel numbers but what I can say is that our growth has been extremely healthy since our launch. We are very satisfied. We should by the end of this year break-even. That’s something that I can confirm. I cannot specifically talk about revenue numbers.
Where do you see the channel four years from now in 2020?
Piyush Sharma – The channel would have extended and realized its vision of being brand centric. The vision is to be able to create this business into a brand centric, multi-platform business model wherein the brand would be the number one brand in each of the manifestation categories it is present in. As far as television is concerned, we are already there. We have proven beyond doubt with forty eight weeks of undisputed leadership that we are the number one.
On the digital front, I would like to see the digital foray as being the aggregator of the largest food enthusiast community on the digital domain. We have an app launching very soon. We would wish to see that app, which is a B2C app, doing as well as Living Foodz’s other channels. In the live foray, we are looking at not only such B2B felicitations (Power List Awards) but also going beyond to look at certain very large scale IP’s to be created in the B2C space. If all of that is realized, I would think that the three years have been done well.