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How Zee Anmol marked its journey to the top

MUMBAI: When BARC started reporting rural data in October this year, the industry expected the free-to-air (FTA) channels to gain in a big way as they have been targeting these markets all along. Among these was  Zee Anmol that emerged as the strongest FTA. This is due to a combination of distribution, scheduling and content changes the channel has been implementing for quite some time now.

Zee AnmolZee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) cluster head for Zee Anmol and Zindagi Priyanka Datta says that the growth is a result of concerted efforts by the marketing  and programming teams of the channel.

“It has paid off very well. Fifty per cent of the market is rural. I think the channel is beautifully distributed. It is available and penetrated deep, which is a positive sign. It is pretty well distributed in the urban market as well,” she says.

One of the changes that Zee Anmol undertook was to extend its fiction band from Monday to Sunday. Thus, now all its fiction shows air seven days a week with the exception of the primetime slot on Sunday, which is reserved for one non-fiction property. As a result, the channel has reduced its dependence on movies and non-fiction content.

Priyanka DattaDatta believes that one format property is enough to satisfy the need of its viewers. Hence, it follows a continuous format pattern where they have one non-fiction property immediately replacing the other once it culminates. Its most recent being &TV’s ‘India Poochega: Sabse Shaana Kaun?’ which replaced ‘DID Super Moms’.

“We were consciously working to see how we could reduce dependence on movies. Therefore, now that we have made it daily fiction, I do not have space for movies on Sundays at primetime. But I still have one movie that plays on Sunday compared to the 2–3 movies per week earlier,” she states.

This is because in rural markets fiction works the best. Non-fiction does not attract them as much.

“Non-fiction is a nice change so we intend to keep it. Surprisingly, in rural stars do not matter because whenever we aired Zee Cine Awards or other star-studded properties in the past, it did not fare well. The celebrity pull doesn’t hold,” she notes.

Sabse Shaana KaunThe channel has managed to increase its fiction content supply due to new additions to the ZEEL library with the launch of &TV and Zindagi. Moreover, the channel has been syndicating content from the now-defunct Imagine TV and Sahara. Presently it airs ‘Bandhini’ and ‘Baba Aiso Varr Dhoondho’, both from Imagine.

While Anmol has brought in one show from &TV, it is yet to syndicate a show from Zindagi. Bringing in content from Zindagi will take a while because it is just rolling out the original fiction series. Anmol will not air Pakistani or Turkish series because such content is for a mature and evolved audience and the FTA channel is in a different space.

In comparison, there will be a language connect with the original fiction series, and depending on the nature of content, a few of them will be aired on Anmol. Similarly, shows like ‘Badi Devrani’, which has ended on &TV, and some non-fiction content will soon find its way on Anmol.

jodha-akbarInterestingly, unlike some other FTA channels, Anmol does not have any show that runs simultaneously on other network channels (Zee TV or &TV) and prefers airing it once the series has ended its run on the network channels.

When it comes to afternoon programming, Anmol, like its pay counterparts, believes in airing repeats because expanding the primetime also means giving exposure to such content through the day.

For Zee Anmol, the highest PUT is seen between 7:30 to 8:30 pm, which starts going down by 10 pm. The 8 pm show ‘Ek Se Bhale Do’ is performing well for the channel and is among the top 5 shows as per BARC. Besides, even the 8:30 pm show ‘Jodha Akbar’ and the 7:30 pm show ‘Chhoti Bahu’ also rate well.

In a bid to increase its audience base, the channel recently launched a kids slot from 4 to 5 pm with syndicated content. Two shows presently airing in the band are ‘Chacha Choudhary’ and ‘Hukum Mere Aka’. The kids slot will primarily target children aged 4–14 years.

“The kids shows are not from the network as we don’t have such a strong base for them. ZeeQ is relatively new. The two shows run all seven days as well. We are not looking at expanding the kids slot in the early primetime presently, but we might look at the morning band where you have higher kids PUT,” she asserts.

Chhoti BahuWith so many changes in content and the introduction of a new band, one cannot help wondering if there are plans for original programming. To this Datta replies, “It is at a very nascent stage and there won’t be any overnight changes. But once we see a consistent graph, we will take a decision on original programming.”

She adds that all of these recent changes were in the works prior to BARC releasing rural data. Needless to say, the repeat content the channel airs has a novelty factor for rural viewers.

The efforts have started bearing fruit, giving the channel a chance to make its business healthier. The response from advertisers is positive and the channel is anticipating a hike in ad rates on the back of growth by Q4 2016.

According to Datta, FTAs are currently under-priced and she does not see any major drivers except for the big-ticket non-fiction shows that will move from the mainline GECs to the FTAs. “Even without those spikes, I hope in future even for fiction they get the right price in the FTA space.”

FMCG remains the largest spender on the channel, and Anmol presently runs a full inventory of 14 minutes in an hour including promos of shows.

BARC’s rural data has thrown up some surprises by placing all the FTA channels of the top 4 broadcasters in the top 10.

While Anmol is performing well in rural, Datta adds that at least 70–75 per cent of urban viewership comes from LC1 areas, while in metros it is the least with 5–8 per cent and towns with population of 10–75 lakh probably give another 20 per cent.

Prior to rural data reporting, the FTA channels were primarily getting viewership from LC1 and that trend continues even now.

“There are many brands and categories that want to enter the rural market and FTA channels are the platforms that help you get there. Therefore, the revenue dynamics and the change in ER will not happen overnight.”

Grihani-No1_AnmolThe total revenue size of the FTA GEC pie is reportedly around Rs 450–500 crore (excluding DD), and is expected to see a steady increase within the first year of rural data reporting itself due to organic growth.

“We need at least 13 to 20 weeks of data to see how things are moving and what is happening. We will have a strategy only after that. I don’t see things change immediately and re-runs will continue on the channel with occasional doses of original content. Hence, we will have seasons of shows like ‘Grahani No. 1’,” Datta notes.