Zee would be at forefront to get ad pricing right for regional channels: Siju Prabhakaran

Siju Prabhakaran, Executive Vice President & Cluster Head, South Business, ZEE, talks about the cluster’s performance last year, content strategy for each market, focus areas for 2019 and more

e4m by Neethu Mohan
Published: Apr 1, 2019 8:26 AM  | 6 min read

Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd (ZEEL) has witnessed enormous growth in the southern region in the last few years. The network expanded its footprint in South last year by entering the Kerala GEC market with Zee Keralam. The Southern region contributes 33 per cent of the network’s viewership and 23 per cent of its adex share. 

In a conversation with exchange4media, Siju Prabhakaran, Executive Vice President & Cluster Head, South Business, ZEE, spoke about the cluster’s performance last year, content strategy for each market, focus areas for 2019 and more. 


How was the last one year for Zee South Cluster?

Zee as a group has been growing consistently. Today, we are the largest network in terms of viewership nationally, and South has been one of the largest contributors. The share of growth has come from our existing channels. We have launched Zee Keralam as our new entity. 

In the Tamil market, we are very strong at number 2 with the top shows belonging to Zee Tamil. The shows are the leaders in 3 slots in prime-time. It has been a wholesome growth in the Tamil market. 
In the Kannada market, Zee Kannada became the number 1 channel in a good part of the year. We were always number 1 in the non-fiction category and the shows we launched this year have got great start. 

In the Telugu market, we maintain number 2 position with Zee Telugu and our viewership shares have been constant. Among the Top 10 shows in Telugu, Top 5 belong to Zee Telugu. Zee Cinemalu has been the fastest growing movie channel in that market. 

Zee Kerala crossed 100GRPs in Malayalam GEC market and is poised for a good growth in the coming year. 

In one of your media interactions earlier you had said that Zee Keralam will be a challenger brand within six months of its launch. It’s been four months since the launch, how has Zee Keralam grown as a brand?

Zee Keralam has a very aggressive content strategy. We have 50+ hours of original content in Kerala. Compared to what the market has to offer, our content offering is of good quality and quantity. We do see good traction coming. Today, we have crossed 100 GRP rates, which I believe is the first step. The growth strategy in the Malayalam GEC sector will continue. We have very exciting programme line-up for this year. We are launching Saregamapa in Malayalam. We are increasing our fiction content. From an existing market standpoint, it is something which is exciting for the viewers. We do see these elements getting converted to numbers sooner or later. 

Zee has been launching a wide variety of programmes across the South channels. Tell us more about it and the ways in which it has helped in the brand growth of Zee South?

The best part of good content is that it travels from one market to another. Sembaruthi, which is the number 1 show in the Tamil market, has been made in other languages also. Storytelling is universal and good stories travel. Another hallmark of Zee is that we have great stories residing in each region. Zee can pool into these stories. Saregamapa, which was launched in the national market, attained success in their regional versions also. We have launched a show named Gattimela in Zee Kannada that has opened to a good start and feedback from the viewers. We launched a show named Satya in Tamil which has a very different theme and has opened to a good GRP rating in the first week. Every market is witnessing good traction and that will contribute to Zee South’s brand value. 

According to you, how will TRAI’s new tariff regime impact regional channels and their ad rates?

It is the first time that the choices are with the viewers. The viewers are having an option of paying only for the channels they want to watch. The brands that have been built on great content and consumer understanding over the years would always be there in the consumer’s selection list. With Zee’s content strategy, we are witnessing positive results. Obviously, something of this magnitude will have issues in the initial stages. But we see those issues settling and soon consumers will get into the habit of selecting what they want and paying for the channels of their choice.
Tell us about the marketing strategies of Zee South Cluster for 2019?

We do look across mediums. But each market possesses different challenges in the light of the MRP regime. The idea is to communicate to end consumers about our offering and what is new about our offering. We emphasise lot on ground events. I believe the biggest marketing platform for the channel is the channel itself. We always want new audiences to come to our platforms. Today, digital plays a big role in how we look at promoting our shows. We usually have multimedia campaigns which has print, OOH and other mediums statically. But, digital is a big part of it and as I mentioned earlier, ground event activations also become important part of our campaigns. 

The growth of regional channels has opened new opportunities for advertisers. Still the ad rates in this segment have not matched up to the growth. What are your thoughts?
For the viewership that regional channels provide, the ad rates have not matched up the growth. But there is a growing trend in that, although a lot of work needs to be done. Zee would be at the forefront for getting pricing right for the viewership deliveries we provide. We will work closely with our advertising agencies and clients putting across our case. Definitely TV is the most cost-effective medium for mass brands. Still there is a huge scope for increasing the rate, but it will be done taking all our partners into consideration.

What are your key focus areas for South Cluster in 2019?
According to industry reports, advertising in India would grow anywhere between 12% and 14%. Zee has always beaten industry targets and South cluster is amongst the fastest growing spaces within the Zee portfolios. It will be a wholesome growth coming from every region. We need to ensure that we are leading in terms of content and understanding consumer needs. We have lot of content lined up in each market and based on consumer understanding, we will keep refining our content palette.  

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