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Zee TV chalks out weekend strategy

MUMBAI: With four of its fiction properties in the top 10 list, Hindi GEC Zee TV is chalking out a strong weekend programming strategy. The channel is particularly looking to build its 8 pm slot where it has been struggling for quite some time now.

In 2013, Zee TV had opened up its weekend 8 pm band with a comic fiction show titled ‘Bh Se Bhade’. But the show had to be taken off air within a few months as it failed to garner much attention. It was replaced by yet another comedy show called ‘Gangs of Hasseepur’ which attempted to give a hilarious take on the political situation in the country. But that, too, went off air a few months back only to be replaced by a light-hearted slice-of-life drama titled ‘Neeli Chhatri Wale’.

Namit Sharma - Zee TV Programming Head at the launch of Neeli Chhatri Waale

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, Zee TV programming head Namit Sharma said, “8 pm is a very difficult slot historically, but it’s a slot that we would like to address and build. It’s an important slot and if required, we will make an effort every three months to create content for the slot till the audiences say they like it.”

Airing at 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday, the fiction show attempts to break the cycle of non-fiction reality shows to bring in fresh content for the viewers to consume and connect with as a family.

Pradeep HejmadiZee TV business head Pradeep Hejmadi said, “Every form of content has a different level of pay-off for the viewer. There is also the probability of a natural fatigue. Now you see every other celebrity dancing and people just want to wriggle as much as they can out of it. So now if you look at the second season or more of any such show, it becomes interestingly challenging to bring a large pool of audiences and keep the surprise element on and interest level going.”

He believes that at the end of the day a lot of viewers come to television, and a regular household lives within a small sub-universe. To them TV is like a window to the world, and that’s how they identify or get inspired by some characters.

“When it comes to weekends, our aim is to bring more wonder, escapism and also from time to time create a nice platform to show talent,” he added.

The channel’s strategy is to build a different texture for the weekend content, and the new show is an early part of that journey. Although 9 pm on weekends will still be reserved for non-fiction properties, the channel might experiment with other slots through more such shows.

Sharma stated, “What we are proposing to the audiences is a mix of fiction and non-fiction because non-fiction also has its cycles and ups and downs. We are trying to create a very healthy mix that will allow viewers to sample a variety of family-friendly broad-based content with differentiated ideas in the weekend. You can expect a lot of weekend action from Zee in the next two to three months.”

Historically, the weekend 8 pm band has not attracted very high viewership for most GECs. Earlier, the channels used to air movies and special events which enhanced the viewership in the band. But now, various channels are testing waters by attempting shows like ‘Mission Sapne’ and ‘The Anupam Kher Show – Kuchh Bhee Ho Sakta Hai’ (Colors), ‘Rawstar’ (Star Plus) and more on Sunday, even as they play it safe with fiction from Monday to Saturday.

However, Sharma believes that if the audience is sampling weekday fiction on Saturday at 8 pm by other channels, they can definitely sample weekend fiction as well. “It takes years to build a slot and we are doing it for the long term,” he said.

Hejmadi added that in large cities and small towns, a large number of viewers return home by 8 pm and there is viewership in the time band. In fact, over time there will be interesting changes in the way television is consumed, with even weekdays getting refined.

The channel officials claimed that earlier films would take people away from their day-to-day lives. But then reality shows started coming in and everything changed. Today’s films are more hard-hitting and realistic.

Hejmadi stated, “There is a very limited amount of happy content available now. And we believe that at least two days a week you should be transported to a slightly different world so that you are all charged up when you get down to starting your workaday life from Monday. So if you sit through Zee from Saturday to Sunday, you should experience a different range of emotions and that’s what the attempt is.

“Our success will be determined by whether we will succeed at creating engaging content and at sustaining the interest over a period of time through nice storytelling, strong scripting and good characterisation,” he maintained.