In 2020, ZEEL's focus will be to grow the Hindi market: Ashish Sehgal

Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer - Ad Sales, ZEEL, speaks to exchange4media about the focus on going beyond GRPs and TRPs, & the network’s plan to take a consultative approach to advertisers

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Dec 23, 2019 11:16 AM

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Ashish Sehgal

After a bleak year for Hindi content, 2020 will offer a ray of hope, says Asish Sehgal Chief Growth Officer - Ad Sales, ZEEL. Despite the disruptions caused by NTO and the recession, he is confident that the year will see the revival of the overall Hindi content. The good news, he says, is that the network is still growing along with the overall advertising industry. 

In conversation with exchange4media, Sehgal, shared insights on the economic slowdown’s impact on the broadcast industry, ZEEL’s four new channels, the English cluster and vision for the year 2020.

Edited excerpts:

How difficult is it to sell the four new channels that ZEEL has launched in this current scenario of economic slowdown?

There was a need gap for such content, which is why we have launched these four channels in the regional space. At first, we will go for the consumer with content. And once they come to the channels, the advertisers will follow us automatically.

Also, it helps us to expand our bouquet at Zee as the new money will add to the total top line

In Punjab, we are reinventing the market. There has been a complete gap in terms of content. Only when consumers consume the content will the overall market develop. But due to the lack of opportunities in that market, advertisers are not very keen to put in money. Once we start to put in more money into the market, and we begin to perform and connect with the consumers, we can attract the advertisers who will invest.

How has the year 2019 been for the TV industry?

The year 2019 has witnessed a slowdown, and a low single-digit growth is expected out of this calendar and financial year as well. News and cricket primarily will be the drivers of this growth. Entertainment has contributed 1 per cent to the overall growth.

At the beginning of the year, the new TRAI tariff regime disrupted the industry, which has now started to settle down. The GRPs are coming back, time spent has gone up, and the broadcasters have more clarity now than they did before. Also, the regional market has grown during this period. Actually, in the entire entertainment category, the growth drivers are the regional markets and GECs. And in this regime, the Hindi GEC business has suffered.

I now feel 2020 will be the year which will see Hindi GECs and the overall Hindi content coming back. In the last three years, there have been disruptions in the advertising industry, starting with the demonetisation in 2016, followed by GST in 2017. This year it began with NTO coupled with the recession. Despite all these setbacks, the good news is that along with the overall advertising, we are also growing.

Apart from Hindi GECs, which are the genres that were impacted post NTO?

There are other genres too, apart from Hindi GECs that were impacted by the NTO. I call them unique content channels. They comprise English GECs, English movie channels, infotainment, English news genre and lifestyle channels. The NTO has affected genres that have lesser reach. Naturally, when advertisers start reducing their budgets, they cut down on these genres. Also, the advertisers wrongly believe that the audience consumes content more on OTT or digital platforms. But TV still has its consumer strength, and viewers continue to watch television content.

Do you see things getting back to normal for the English Cluster in 2020? And what will be the main drivers for the growth?

It is hard to comment until the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) starts representing it rightfully. Now we can justify to the advertisers that these channels are being watched because the consumer pays much more than what it is willing to do so for the other mass Hindi channels.

Content is the king, which will drive growth. Also, I think Tier I and Tier II towns beyond metros will also be responsible for the consumption growth. Earlier, advertisers used to target metros cities or towns with a population strength of 10 lakh to one billion, thinking that English content is being consumed only in these markets.

However, the aspirations in Tier II and Tier III cities have also grown. Since ambition is growing, the choice of content is also changing in these markets. There is an increase in English content consumption, which will primarily be the second leg of growth for these channels. But more volumes are necessary to increase consumption in these markets. If we price English content differently in these markets, things will change because the consumers in these markets are still price-sensitive.

What are your plans for ZEEL’s English cluster for 2020?

We are in the process of revamping one of our English movie channels by renaming and re-strategising it from a content offering perspective. It’s in the strategy stage right now, and currently, we don’t really know the timelines.

What would be the key focus area for 2020?

The focus is definitely to grow the Hindi market back and continue to consolidate developing regional markets. Like before, we will continue our focus on launching channels wherever there are need gaps. These new launches are going to impact us in the next financial year. The whole idea is to create a fresh pie without eating into something. With Punjabi GEC, we created a new pie.

Similarly, we have also launched a new movie channel in Bihar and Karnataka since the consumers don't have many options available right now. In Tamil Nadu, we are entering a crowded market, but I think that will help us add to the ZEE pie. These will be adding on the overall top-line basis. However, the focus again has to be on the Hindi channels, both GECs and movie channels. We will try to bring back the growth with substantial numbers. Our focus will be on improving our performance, irrespective of the level we have achieved today.

Secondly, from the advertising or sales team’s perspective, we will focus beyond GRPs and TRPs. We are taking a consultative approach to our advertisers, engaging with them more in terms of their need and their expectations from us a communication partner. We will present them with solutions instead of just selling GRPs to them. We don’t want to commoditise our product any further and would like to use our assets to create value for our advertisers.

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