Digital & technology transformation key to stay relevant: Swaroop Banerjee, Zee Live

Banerjee, COO, Zee Live, talks about their Supermoon Drive-in & It's a Girl Thing initiatives and more

e4m by Eularie Saldanha
Updated: Sep 28, 2020 12:07 PM
Swaroop Banerjee

Since the coronavirus pandemic put an end to all on-ground activities, we saw several events go live virtually. But now, for the first time, the magic of cinemas will unfold in our four-wheelers. Zee Live has partnered with Zee Studios to make it possible while adhering to all safety precautions. This viewing experience, called Supermoon Drive-in, is aimed at giving one the feel of a theatre, in their very own car through a drive-in at locations in Gurgaon and Bangalore. Swaroop Banerjee, COO, Zee Live, tells us more about the initiative, the hardships faced by the experiential sector, the company’s new association aimed at teenage girls and more…

Excerpts from the conversaton

The Supermoon Drive-in launch sounds like the kind of experience a consumer who miss the outdoors would want to have. What was the insight behind its launch?

We want to bring back out-of-home entertainment and the joy of viewing a movie on the big screen. Due to the Covid-19 situation, we have had to adapt and think of innovative ways to entertain our audience. Through the Supermoon Drive-in experience, we wish to enable our audiences to enjoy watching a movie like they have always done in a multiplex or a theatre, but in a socially distanced environment. We are glad to be at the forefront of introducing one of the safest means for our audience to watch a new release on the big screen. 

Tell us a little about your partnership with Zee Studios for the same.

We are delighted to partner with Zee Studios to bring in two exciting movies with a supremely talented and popular star cast to our audience. Being a part of the same company, we are always looking for opportunities to collaborate internally and drive synergies, to innovate and provide our audiences one-of-a-kind experiences. The launch of Supermoon Drive-In and the release of Khaali Peeli and Ka Pae Ranasingam have permitted us to be able to do just that. All in all, it has been a great pleasure to have been able to pull this off together.

How exactly would this work? Will the experience of watching a movie in a car match up to the viewing experience at a theatre?

We aim to replicate as much of the theatre experience as we can by providing a state-of-the-art sound and viewing experience combined with F&B (contactless and safe). In addition to this, all patrons will get pre-allocated car parking to meet with the social distancing guidelines adhering to the safety protocols.

Although the drive-in will also have contactless ticketing and F&B process, what other provisions do you have to ensure that the safety protocols are being rigorously followed?

We have a detailed list of guidelines that include pre-allocated parking spaces for the audience coming for the drive-in, adequate social distancing, and sanitized equipment to enhance the viewing experience, and compulsory use of face masks for all patrons. Our on-ground support staff is trained to address the situation and all necessary precautions and safety guidelines will be taken care of.  

Any specific reason for choosing Gurgaon and Bangalore to screen the two premieres?

The Supermoon Drive-in is a pilot project for us. We wanted to be present in an environment that has the most favourable testing conditions. We had to be mindful of the safety and security of our patrons. The two cities seemed to be the best choice owing to current situation, the availability of space and resources needed to make this experience possible. 

Experiential is one of the sectors that has been hit the hardest due to the pandemic. How has Zee Live stayed relevant in these times? 

There is no denying that the pandemic has had a massive impact on the live entertainment industry. From on-ground, events have now moved on to a virtual format. However, Zee Live has been quick to adapt to the new normal. We have been continuously innovating and widening our horizons by introducing two of our flagship properties Supermoon and Arth - A culture fest, digitally. Under Supermoon, we launched Supermoon Live to Home, Supermoon House Party and Supermoon Life to Home International. All these gigs saw massive traction online as well as an interest from the market. So while avenues for on-ground events have been temporarily stalled, we have been opening up newer avenues with various virtual events to ensure our audiences have something to look forward to. With the upcoming Supermoon Drive-in, a first-of-its kind drive-in theatre experience, and 'It's a girl thing', a global platform aiming at empowering young teenage girls, we are optimistic about keeping the momentum of the live entertainment industry in the new normal.

Zee Live is also hosting the global three-day festival 'It's a Girl Thing' (IAGT) for the first time virtually in India. How did this association come about?

IAGT is a purpose-driven digital media platform designed to inspire, inform and empower a global community of young women. The platform aims to empower young women through an innovative and engaging platform with panel discussions, virtual meet and greets, and workshops on body positivity, mental wellbeing, self-love, food, fashion, health, and education. Typically, IAGT has been an on-ground event where influencers meet and interact with their fans. However, in the current scenario, we are hosting the event digitally in India. The festival has seen great success in Singapore and Manila, and we want to extend this strong global community to young girls in India. We are reimagining multiple phases of this festival across regional Zee markets.

Your target audience for the IAGT festival is young teenage girls. What are you doing to make this virtual experience as good as on-ground for them? 

IAGT has been an on-ground festival when earlier held in Singapore and Manila. However, keeping in mind the unprecedented pandemic, we decided to host it virtually. Leveraging the strong network leadership that Zee has, the virtual experience will allow many audiences to attend the festival from their homes. The festival will be hosting talks, panel discussions, performances, and virtual meet and greets to enable fans to engage with the influencers across various topics. 

What role will technology play in helping the live entertainment industry in India champion newer formats?   

The pandemic has brought in multiple changes in the way businesses have been functioning for years. While companies have been digitally-abled, very few have been applying it to its fullest. Upgraded technology and constant innovation are the two critical riders for us as we aim at creating memorable experiences for audiences across age groups. Live streaming has become the new norm these days, and the industry is seeing that pay per view is becoming increasingly popular for this digitally dependent industry thus making technology and a digital-first mindset of extreme importance. This has also enabled a lot of international artistes now being open to performing in India from their countries. The kind of viewership and engagement that the virtual events we hosted received is a testimony to the fact that a 360-degree digital and technology transformation is the key to stay relevant.

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