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ZEEL plans to strengthen regional channel portfolio

MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) will launch more regional channels to strengthen its existing portfolio and also look to enter the Kerala market.

The company has a presence in the Telugu, Tamil and Kannada markets. The plan is to launch a Malayalam general entertainment channel.

Will ZEEL enter into new regional markets, launch flagship channels and get into new genres?

“I think, the last point is definitely the low hanging fruit as there are several genres within the regional market that we need to still complete our portfolio with, especially down south and also there are some markets where we are still not present in, like Kerala. The priority of each will be in that order and the timing is something that we would like to keep it a bit confidential,” ZEEL managing director and CEO Punit Goenka told media analysts.

ZEEL is planning to increase its original programming hours in Tamil to 79 a week from 64 hours. “We will continue with our planned investments in the Tamil market. I would not get too worried immediately as we have a clear strategy as to how we are going to address that market,” Goenka said.

ZEEL will increase the programming hours on its flagship GECs &TV and Zee TV to 28 hours a week from 23 hours. &TV offers 26.5 hours of original programming. On the regional side, the company has enough programming hours.

“So, currently in the Hindi GEC we have about 23 hours of original content and we are planning it to be upwards of 28 hours on the flagship channels at the end of second quarter itself. On &TV, we have already moved up to about 26.5 hours of original content, and the regional is tracking as per our plan, so there is no shortfall on the regional side,” Goenka noted.

What about content being shown on free-to-air (FTA) channels and the growth of free DTH platform DD Freedish?

“The FTA genre is still predominantly being driven by repurposing the content that has already run on pay GEC. I do not see that changing dramatically overnight or new players entering, given that the pricing of DD Freedish has also grown up significantly. So, from that perspective I think the ad market expansion will take some more time on the FTA side,” Goenka said.

Is there a threat for the pay TV GECs? “No, if you look at it, the large part of the FTA market is still pretty much rural and the number of advertisers targeting that market is limited. Hence, the impact or the risk to the pay GEC is still not very strong,” Goenka said.