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Zee TV’s focus now is building early primetime

MUMBAI: For Zee TV business head Pradeep Hejmadi, the priority is to strengthen the early 6–8 pm primetime slot on weekdays with strong fiction shows.

Pradeep Hejmadi

As part of that strategy, the channel is introducing a romantic thriller ‘Vishkanya: Ek Anokhi Prem Kahaani’ from 28 March. The show will air from Monday to Saturday at 6.30 pm. ‘Sarojini’, which currently airs in 6.30 pm slot, will be shifted to 6 pm. ‘Satrangi Sasural’, which airs at 6 pm, will be pulled off the air from 26 March.

“We have been very strong in 8–10.30 pm. For us 6–8 pm is an area of priority now. We like to build block by block. As certain block gets strengthened, we will build around it,” said Hejmadi.

The channel has ‘Tashan-e-Ishq’, ‘Jamai Raja’, ‘Kum Kum Bhagya’, ‘Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani’ and ‘Yeh Waada Raha’ in the 8–10.30 pm slot. Among these, ‘Kum Kum Bhagya’ is the flagship show that draws maximum eyeballs and is a top five show in the Hindi GEC genre.

EkThaRajaQueried about the strategy for the late primetime slot, Hejmadi noted that the 10.30 pm slot is a low-PUT market from advertising perspective, while the 11 pm slot is skewed towards the fragmented urban market. The ratings in those time slots are not very high.

“The challenge with 10.30 is that it’s a low-PUT market so we are curating shows. Let’s see what comes out of it. If something interesting pops up, we will go at it as well,” he said.

Currently, the opportunity is to aggregate across a larger geography in 8–10.30 pm slot. “We are constantly evaluating any show that we see as a potential 4+ ratings. We will put it out without hesitation. Lots of shows are under development, so it’s premature for me to comment on any show or slot,” he said, responding to a question whether the channel is looking to introduce any new show in the early primetime slot.

Another key focus area is the 7.30 and 10.30 pm slots on Sunday. The channel is testing out non-fiction concepts to strengthen these two time slots. “Currently, we don’t have shows in 7.30 and 10.30 pm slot on Sunday so we are working for both slots,” he stated.

The channel airs fiction shows six days a week as the lifestyle of people in early primetime on Saturdays is very similar to Monday–Friday. However, on Sundays the profile of the audience is very different as the entire family tunes in. “With weekday fiction, our core TG is female 14+, but going towards the weekend you look at content which is more family inclusive, so that’s essentially the difference,” Hejmadi said.

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa‘SaReGaMaPa’ and ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’ are the key non-fiction properties of the channel. “We are working on several projects. Quite a few are our own concepts. We are also evaluating some format shows,” he revealed.

He further stated that the focus is to bring in categories that are latent or not on Hindi GECs.

Zee TV, Hejmadi said, is a leader in the rural markets as well. “We are clear leaders in rural. The shows that we are currently running on Zee Anmol have helped Anmol to grow audiences very well. Within the pay Hindi GECs, we are clear No. 1,” he averred.

Talking about rural viewership trends, Hejmadi said that rural viewing is very concentrated and the overall level of viewing is low in rural due to power cuts and TV watching habits.

“We curate our shows in such a manner that they don’t become too urban and alienate rural audiences. But we don’t go too rural to alienate the urban audiences because then there is no aspiration quotient at all. We find a delicate balance that works in both geographies,” he said.

India’s Best DramebaazHejmadi noted that the urban–rural divide blurs when it comes to entertainment. He cited the example of Bollywood films that work in both the geographies.

“We do a lot of parallel studies to know what connect urban and rural audiences, and to make sure that we translate that into the shows to strike a good balance,” he said.

Having been a consistent No. 3 in BARC’s all-India ratings, Hejmadi believes the time has come for the channel to take the next big leap.

“I am never comfortable even if we become No. 1. The role of channels like us is also to create a thought in the consumer space. If we do very dramatic, surreal or incredulous storytelling, we can rise to No. 1 very quickly. The painful yet rightful way is the route we have taken to maintain the sanctity of the stories. From that point of view, I am comfortable with the way we are going about our stories. Being No. 1 will not keep me comfortable because we will look at a new threshold to crack. We have been pioneers. It’s about time that we became leaders,” he elaborated.

While it is comfortably placed in most Hindi-speaking markets (HSM), the Delhi market is not doing as well for the channel since that market has a big appetite for shows involving celebrities. That said, the channel is not doing badly either.

Hejmadi explained, “We are doing well in most markets in HSMs. However, some of the markets like Delhi are not resonating for us that well. Delhi is also enamoured by celebrities, which is not our DNA. We don’t take big Bollywood celebrities to mount shows. Therefore, it becomes a little bit of a downer when you look at a market like Delhi.”

Talking about ‘Vishkanya’, Hejmadi said that the channel had heard the concept long time back; however, it took its own time to crack the right way of telling the story. “We took a lot of time to curate it, to get all the back stories properly written, to get a point from where you want to turn the page on the story for audience,” he stated.

He also brushed aside suggestion that the show is similar to Colors’ runaway hit ‘Naagin’. To buttress his point, he said, “Here the backdrop is unique and motivations are real. Intrigue, mystery and hopefulness surround the story. That is one of the most important things. The graph is very positive.”

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