'Our line-up across markets is testimony that we are looking at a strong festive season'

Siju Prabhakaran, EVP & Cluster Head South Business, ZEEL, discusses the South cluster's strong comeback after the lockdown and their strategy ahead

e4m by Simran Sabherwal
Updated: Sep 10, 2020 10:19 AM
Siju Prabhakaran

In June first week this year, Zee Keralam and Zee Kannada viewers tuned in to watch original content on the channels, after nearly two months of lockdown, which stalled production of original content. Zee Telugu and Zee Tamil started airing original content by the end of June and July respectively. While the lockdown significantly impacted viewership and revenues, it also gave channels the time to garner consumer insights and relook their offering.

Reflecting on the lockdown period and the subsequent airing of original content, Siju Prabhakaran – EVP & Cluster Head South Business, ZEEL says, “The lockdown was a difficult period with a dip in advertising. Channels, in general, could not monetise fully despite growth in viewership in certain genres and channels. Our Content Palette had to be changed to cater to the viewership change, which happened during the lockdown.”

He adds, “Consumer Connect is at the heart of our business and every channel had their own understanding of the consumers, and new learnings were obtained. We used those learnings as insight, which helped in a strong comeback in each market, backed with great content.”

A Strong Comeback

Assessing the performance of the channels in the ZEEL’s South Cluster, Prabhakaran highlights that Zee Kannada is the leader in the Kannada GEC space across fiction and non-fiction shows and time-bands. He says, “Zee Kannada is the slot leader during the prime-time band. In addition, we recently launched the new season of SaReGaMaPa on Zee Kannada with 9.8 TVR. Zee Kannada has around 36% - 37% market share and is the number one channel in Karnataka.”

Looking at the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana market, Prabhakaran mentions that Zee Telugu was on a recovery path and was growing strong even prior to lockdown. To announce its comeback, the channel launched a  campaign called “Vinodaniki Aahvanam” meaning “Welcoming back the entertainment” with brand ambassadors from its prime time shows. It finally launched 14 fiction shows in a single day. The recently-launched “Hitler Gari Pellam” opened an impressive 8.0+ TVR.

Speaking about Tamil Nadu, a market that was most affected in the initial phases, Prabhakaran says, “Post comeback we are a strong Number 2 channel, gaining slot leadership. We have two shows amongst the top five; four shows amongst the top 10. We are also the number one channel in prime time and leaders in the fiction genre.” 

While ZEEL had a strong comeback in all the three markets -- AP, Telangana, Karnataka and TN -- where it has had a long presence, in Kerala Zee Keralam has managed to consolidate and grow its market share. The channel has around 13% share in the Kerala market, built on the back of fiction shows. 

Looking at the Movie channels in ZEEL’s South cluster, the Telugu movie channel Zee Cinemalu benefitted from the spurt in interest in movies genre during the lockdown and the channel’s market share increased 22% to 27% to become the number two channel. Prabhakaran says, “Zee Thirai in Tamil and Zee Picchar in Kannada were launched (in January and March respectively) prior to the lockdown and grew to a strong position during the current period. Zee Picchar is at Number two position and Zee Thirai is at No. 3 position in Tamil Nadu with 20% share in Chennai and 17% in urban markets.” 

He adds, “Across the southern markets, today, we have a great cluster story. As a network, Zee has 20% share of the all-India viewership and 1/3rd of the viewership comes from the South cluster. The South region has gained prominence and in times to come with the content line-up these would be strong set of channels.” 

Advertisers Back On Board? 

While April & May was a washout with ad revenues down by anything from 60-75%, what is encouraging for Prabhakaran is that since June revenues have been growing MoM. While there was uncertainty leading up to Onam, the festival was reasonably good for the broadcaster as things picked up in the last week.

He says, “We see September with the festival buoyancy push ad revenues up to November & with business coming back with retail outlets opening up, it presents a conducive environment for people to go out and shop given the general opinion that we can co-exist in the current situation till vaccine is found. Therefore, we see the comeback of advertising as a positive sign.” He continues, “While the recovery in the initial month was volume-driven, since July with original content back on air, ad-rates have seen an uptick. With festivals coming in, we see the ad-rates go back to pre-covid levels in October. From there we will see a steady increase post-Diwali if the situation on-ground improves.” 

A lot of categories did not advertise in Q1 and Q2 and postponed media investments in Q3 and Q4. While FMCG continued to advertiser during the lockdown, what also helped TV was that categories that traditionally are strong on Print and OOH started looking at TV in the recent past. Prabhakaran says that categories such as auto, telecom, e-commerce are expected to be aggressive during the festival, while categories like real estate, education and retail could take more time than anticipated. “Matured brands which have been built over the years are the ones that continue to advertise and they have taken great dividends out of TV advertisements during this period.”

Festive Season: New Launches Galore

Looking ahead, ZEEL is gearing up to launch multiple shows across the South Cluster in the run-up to the festive season.

For starters, the impact IP property, Zee Rishtey Awards will be launched across three markets –Zee Kudumba Awardsin Kannada, Zee Kutumba Awards in Telugu and Zee Tamil Kutumbam Viruthugal. Zee Kannada will also see the launch of Comedy Kiladigalu this weekend while Zee Telugu will see two new fiction shows as well the film Saaho, starring Prabhas. 

Zee Tamil will launch two new fiction shows- Suryavamsam and Dr.Ambedkar story during the third week of September as well as movies Ennai Nooki Payum Thotta and Saaho while Zee Keralamwill also launch two non-fiction shows during the festive period. Says Prabhakaran, “In terms of our festive plans, during October-November, all channels are doing three to five launches of their own in their own markets in Fiction & non-fiction. The line-up that we have across markets is a testimony to the fact that we are looking at a strong festive season.”

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