It was in 2017 that Shaurya Mehta joined Living Foodz, a three-year-old lifestyle channel from zee-entertainment-enterprises_1328.html">Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) bouquet launched in 2015. Mehta, who took charge as the COO of the channel, has over 13 years of professional experience across diverse sectors.
Living Foodz has consistently led the genre across all categories since its launch in 2015. In week 9, the channel led the space with 1206 million impressions followed by TLC, FY TV18, Food Food and Fox Life.
In conversation with exchange4media, Mehta shares his journey with Living Foodz, plans for 2018 and also about digital expansion. Excerpts:
How has the journey been with Living Foodz since you joined?
The journey has been great and it's been about nine months now. We already had a team which was set up when the channel was launched in September, 2015. The team was already doing a lot of things right, in terms of content, direction, positioning and understanding the consumer needs, etc. so there were many things doing well. After I joined Living Foodz, we continued to focus on things which were doing well, in addition to strategically focussing on how we position ourselves in the future, how to build on the leadership we already have in terms of reaching out to the newer audiences, new formats, content ideas, our ambition on the digital front and TV and our growth in terms of other IPs.
How do you see the overall lifestyle space in India?
The Indian market is different from other markets. It's a niche market in the country but it's growing. When we think about lifestyle and food as India's middle-class population grows, aspiration grows and definitely, their liking towards lifestyle will grow. From that perspective, the viewership is growing. However, strictly talking on the television front, there are always boundaries on how much can a TV channel grow in the lifestyle genre within India. If I have to compare with other geographies, the lifestyle polls are a very premium spot in terms of content choices available in the markets like the US and Europe. They generally hold a very premium spot and have a very defined audience and we're still getting in the space. Meanwhile, the advent of the proliferation of digital, smaller screens and cheaper data plans has opened up a new segment of consumers who never tune into TV to watch lifestyle shows. Those are the new beginnings. As a content creator and channel, our outlook, irrespective of screens and platforms, is that we want to grab viewers and serve them irrespective of screen size. So the space is promising in India.
Is it still under-indexed?
You can say that it's under indexed but it's moving quickly. Also, we had some ups and downs in the last few years for the media industry overall. However it's improving and I think the outlook for the industry in the coming year will be far better.
How was 2017 for the channel?
It's been the best record in the year but it's just a three-year-old channel. Compared to last year (2016) , we have grown in terms of revenue, content we put out and the shows we have created. On all fronts, it has been a great year despite difficult record conditions, demonetisation and GST which were difficult from an industry perspective. We are proud that we have grown irrespective of how the broader market has been. Our ad revenue has grown from 40-45 per cent YoY and it's still a remarkable achievement.
How has the digital growth impacted TV viewership?
This is a very complicated topic. There is a broader concept of cost-cutting. We started seeing that in developed countries like US where people have stopped watching TV altogether and are switching to digital formats whether it is YouTube, social media platforms or Netflix.
India is not there yet. However, India is picking up a lot of steam in shorter formats on spaces like YouTube or Facebook. Within that, lifestyle features very heavily. However, none of the numbers that we evaluated suggest that current TGs are moving towards or viewing only that. The TG that is consuming is not directly correlated to the TG which is there for us on TV and that is the TG we want to tap into. However, the broader theme for lifestyle channels that the content is snackable and appointment viewing is a bit of challenge in this category. There is no question that to be a market leader, you need to have a good digital footprint and that's the direction we will work in.
What are your plans for digital?
We re-launched our website a couple of months back and that will be the foundation pillar for all our digital ambitions. We are investing heavily in our technology platform, creating content which is digital exclusive and which will not only be on our platform but will also have a deep plugin on social platforms. Group-wise, we have launched our OTT platform Zee5, so even our exclusive content will be available there.
What are the categories of brands you have on board for the channel?
It's a wide gambit. I am glad that you asked this question because people think that Living Foodz is a food channel but we are a lifestyle channel and the advertisers that work with us are from across the gambit. We have jewellery, automobile, FMCG, consumer durables, e-commerce and more.
When are you launching the other four lifestyle channels?
The plan for launching more channels was always there. We want to be positioned as a bouquet of lifestyle and that's in the pipeline. We will share that information over time.
What are your plans for TV and what growth are you expecting this year?
One thing we are proud of every year is creating newer concepts. We work with some of the most celebrated chefs in the country and at the same time, we work with the upcoming chefs. This time also, the trend will continue. We have a show like Station Masters' Tiffin with Ranveer Brar coming up and this is a unique concept exploring food across the country through the railway journey lens. We have a show called Snack in the Box with Shipra Khanna and there are many more shows that we're exploring and will share more information as we go along.
The coming year will be the biggest Living Foodz has had. We will be investing in our digital footprint in a very big way and have new offerings for our viewers which would be monetised as well. So in terms of purely business, we are clearly looking at doubling our business this year.
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