ZEE Keralam has always maintained the essence of the Malayali audience: Santosh J Nair

Santosh Nair, Business Head of ZEE Keralam, speaks about the channel’s one-year journey, challenges faced, marketing strategies and more

e4m by Neethu Mohan
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 9:08 AM
Santosh Nair Zee Keralam

ZEE Keralam is the latest regional GEC offering from ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL). The channel was launched in November 2018 and since then it is catering to the unique entertainment preferences of Malayalam audiences across. With the brand promise, “Neithedukkam Jeevitha Vismayangal” translating to “Let’s weave wonders in life”, the channel stands for progressive content that will bring together generations of Malayalis through endearing stories of ordinary people challenging circumstances and crafting an extraordinary destiny. Within a short period, ZEE Keralam is one of the fastest-growing GEC Channels in the country. The channel crossed 260+ GRPs with 11% Kerala GEC Market Share in a year of its launch and attained 2nd position in Kerala Fiction Genre.

Santosh Nair, Business Head, ZEE Keralam, speaks about the channel’s one-year journey, strategies followed, challenges faced and marketing strategies and more.

Edited excerpts:

One year of ZEE Keralam, how has been the journey so far?

We had a fantastic last year. As a broadcaster, ZEE Keralam has been one of the most successful launches in India (not just regional specific, but while taking into consideration any channel that has been launched in the last decade). We are living up to our channel’s tagline and staying true to its essence. After our successful channel launch, we have followed up with many more successful launches in both fiction and non – fiction genre that has been very well received in the market. Before the launch of ZEE Keralam, we have done detailed research and that has helped us a lot in terms of understanding the kind of content watched by the Malayali audience. We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the other GEC channels in Malayalam. So, most of our shows whether it's fiction, non-fiction or reality are different in terms of scale, storyline, budget and talent.

We need to thank the people of Kerala for taking us into their drawing rooms and giving us the most important thing - their time. If you see the market share in the last year we have been clocking around 11% market share. In the last seven weeks, we have become the number two fiction channel. Within a year, we have been ranked fourth from the top among all GECs in the market in terms of rating. These are some of the key achievements that we have attained in the last one year. From marketing, research to programming, we have an excellent team and it has been a good journey. Our promise is to maintain that and grow from here.

Within the span of a year, ZEE Keralam is among the Top 5 Malayalam channels. What factors do you attribute this growth to?

All ZEE GEC channels aim to replicate the cultural nuances and lifestyle of a region on the screen. The stronghold of any GEC channel is its fiction. ZEE Keralam has one of the strongest fiction line ups with progressive storylines. We have done extensive research on what a typical Malayali is all about. That is something which we have maintained in all our shows. ZEE Keralam has always maintained the essence of a Malayali. The fiction shows have travelled from other languages and we have adapted it for the local market. 'Maha' episode for our fiction shows was one of the great strategies which really worked for us. Keeping the audience engaged and representing them accurately on screen is one of the core objectives of our fictions. The majority of GRPs are coming from fiction shows.

What according to you are the challenges faced by ZEE Keralam in the last year?

Being a new player in a market where there were channels with 22 and 25-year-old legacies, we planned our launch in such a way that our original content hours in fiction were at par with the competition.

ZEE Keralam faced a major challenge of TRAI’S new regulation for the Television and Broadcasting sector within 1 month of its launch. We took up a pricing point of 10p and integrated the same across all our native and non-native promotional mediums. This helped us sustain and increase our reach over the following weeks.

By analysing the existing trends in the market, we reworked our strategy to favour fiction by replacing two core non-fiction slots with fiction shows. This helped us gain over 250% rating growth in the same hours.

Tell us more about the marketing and advertising plans of ZEE Keralam for 2020

Primarily our target is the urban audience. We are doing remarkably well in that market. We are very clear about the content and the ways in which we need to communicate to the audience about our programs. ZEE Keralam as a broadcaster has got into a completely new way of working. If you look at any of our show launches, we will have a 360 degree marketing activity surrounding it. During the day before our show launches, we do free bus rides. We built a strategy to hire private buses across Kerala which offer free rides to passengers from morning till night. We do branding inside the buses, program promos will be played inside the bus. We distribute small gifts and brochures to the passengers. During the festival of Onam, we have branded a traditional Kerala boat as part of promotional activities. These have been very well received. I believe we are directly getting access to the audience and it is a good way to get connected with them.

ZEE Keralam's SaReGaMaPa is a hit among the Kerala audience and is garnering huge viewership numbers in the Digital media platforms. What are the strategies followed?

SaReGaMaPa is ZEE Network’s biggest flagship show and holds a legacy of being one of the grandest shows ever aired on television. SaReGaMaPa Keralam is one of our biggest successes on Television and Social Media. The show has crossed the 2+ TVR mark and over 70 clips of the show have garnered a viewership of more than 1 Million+ views each on Facebook. We currently have a bunch of talented contestants who have already started singing for films during the course of the show. There is a standard quip among our teams that it has become a competition of playback singers instead of normal contestants.

The attention span of the audience on social media is usually shorter than television. On social media, we follow a strategy where we especially edit and upload crisper versions of content. It’s important that we keep the viewer engaged and make them part of the content. We actively read trends, look for what our audience on social media want to see more of and tailor the content accordingly. At ZEE Keralam, we constantly explore Digital exclusive ideas and new content formats. One of our Digital exclusive projects combined Fiction and Non-fiction genres into 7 fiction title song videos sung by our SRGMP contestants. This was the first time a Digital exclusive cross-promotion of this scale combining both genres was carried out. When the audience sees content exclusively tailored to their interests, a consistent follower base will build.

What are your hopes for the upcoming dance show Dance Kerala Dance? Kerala has various art forms out of which, dance has always held a significant place. Dance Kerala Dance is one of the flagship shows of ZEE Keralam. It aims at creating a grand stage for young, unseen talent across the state. In this second season, Dance Kerala Dance – Li’L Masters, the show is exclusively for kids aged 5 – 15. Dance Kerala Dance has always been a stage that transforms regular contestants into stars. Kerala is known for its great reception of kids reality shows. Various kids reality shows have been extremely successful by garnering their own loyal audience base. We are anticipating the same audience base build for DKD2LM.

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