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ZEEL broadcast biz CEO Punit Misra shares outlook on TV channels, ad revenues

MUMBAI: Zee’s regional entertainment channels will continue to grow at a fast pace, investments in the movie cluster are being ramped up, the ad economy is bouncing back after demonetisation and the free-to-air (FTA) channels will be in an expansive phase, a top executive of the company said.

“We will see several growth areas this fiscal year, with regional being one of the main drivers. Our Hindi general entertainment channels Zee TV and &TV are also growing. We are investing in the English cluster. The Hindi seven-channel movie cluster is also an important growth area for us,” said Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) CEO of broadcast business Punit Misra.

The demonetisation challenge is a thing of the past and recovery has happened, Misra remarked. He also noted that the uncertainty over Goods and Services Tax (GST) is going to be temporary.

“The industry is seeing growth coming back, though there is some element of uncertainty over GST. This confusion, however, will be temporary in nature. We will grow ahead of the industry to gain share,” Misra, who joined ZEEL last August, said.

Misra is happy with progress being made in the regional space. In Marathi, where Zee is a clear leader, he expects Zee Yuva to post growth this year. The Marathi youth GEC launched in August last year.

Zee Cinemalu, which launched last year as Zee’s first movie channel in the south, will also spur new growth in the Telugu market.

Misra sees an impending correction in the Tamil market, where viewership is ahead of the ad revenue. “Our Tamil GEC has gained in viewership. For the Tamil TV market at an overall level, ad revenue needs correction in proportion to the viewership that the genre generates. We should see a movement in that direction.”

Misra noted that the shrinking of Hindi GECs as a genre is a surprise, but said that the situation would sort itself out.

In terms of Zee’s strategy of not having new content on its FTA GEC channel Zee Anmol, Misra noted that pay and FTA channels each have their own business models and they have to stand on their own two feet. Admitting that some broadcast networks have a different approach on placing content on their FTA channels, he said that Zee’s strategy has been clear on this.

Will placement of new content on FTA channels not cannibalise pay TV networks?

“We have not put new content on our FTA channel Zee Anmol. But we can’t expect an industry consensus on this. Broadcast networks have different business models and strategies,” he said.

In terms of Zindagi exiting as a TV channel and now being available only in the OTT space, he noted that the offering would have to be looked at in a different way. “We have content to suffice for a long time. We have to look at how the quality of content is cutting ice with viewers,” he stated.

Regarding the English genre, Misra said it was necessary to take a long-term view. “Even a three-year outlook is not enough. With English education growing in the country, English entertainment channels are bound to grow. The English category has seen premium channels being launched and the aim of players is clearly to segment the market and leverage the benefit,” he said.

Zee Café has established itself as a genre leader and the new BBC-First branded block at 10 pm would help the channel further differentiate the channel from its peers, he said.

In terms of Zee’s overall English channel business, Misra conceded that work has to be done on Zee Studio to get it back into the leadership position. To achieve this, better and more focused marketing will be needed. The movies aired are known and it is a matter of presenting the movies in refreshing ways to viewers, he added.