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ZEEL to launch English entertainment channel for Africa market on 3 Feb

MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) has identified Africa as its next target market to grow its international business. The company is launching an English entertainment channel Zee World on 3 February targeted at African audiences.

mukund cairaeConfirming the development to TelevisionPost.com, ZEEL CEO Middle East and Africa Mukund Cairae said that the channel would have a mix of drama series, movies, nonfiction content and shows for kids dubbed in English using South African talent.

“We are going to launch a channel for the African market on 3 February called Zee World. This channel would be in English and would appeal not only to our Indian-origin viewers, but also to the pay TV viewers of DSTV in Africa,” Cairae said.

He also revealed that the company is ‘actively looking at acquisitions in Africa’.

Asked about investments being made in the Africa market, Cairae said, “We are committed to focusing on growth from the Africa market. Investments that are needed for achieving the same would be evaluated and made accordingly.”

Apart from English-speaking audiences, ZEEL is also evaluating channel launches for French-speaking audiences. “Though the larger market is Anglophone Africa, we would also be keenly looking to invest in Francophone Africa with new product launches and acquisitions,” stated Cairae.

Apart from East Africa, the company also sees opportunity in Francophone Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, he added.

The company had last year hired Harish Goyal as territory head, Africa, to grow its business in this market. Based in Johannesburg, Goyal will work in tandem with Cairae to spearhead ZEEL’s expansion in Africa.

“Africa has seen an equal growth for subscription as well as advertising with South Africa being the largest market. DTT will be the watchword in 2015 and 2016 for the continent with multiple players participating to execute DTT. This proliferation of DTT would lead to increased ad spends two years from now,” he expounded.

In 2014, ZEEL had entered Indonesia and Thailand with localised channels like Zee Bioskop and Zee Nung, both Bollywood channels dubbed in local language. The company is also contemplating launching a channel in Vietnam.

Entry into newer markets in MENA

Having established its business in Middle East with channels like Zee Aflam, Zee Alwan and Zee Film Hindi, the company is studying markets like North Africa, Turkey and Iraq.

“There are strong local markets in the MENA region like North Africa, Turkey and Iraq that are targeted for growth. We are studying the same closely to come up with the right product mix and grow relationships in the region,” he said.

In order to cater to the health and wellness needs of people in the Middle East, ZEEL had last year launched Zee Living in the region.


“Zee Living was launched in 2014 which is a cognitive channel and addresses the wellness and happiness needs of the local Arab population. Its content is subtitled in Arabic with shows that are globally produced in the wellness category,” he noted.

Making the right balance between the content offering and a communication plan to optimise monetisation is the single challenge for Indian broadcasters in MENA region, said Cairae.

“Our group philosophy, however, is ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ [the world is my family]. We therefore look at ourselves as a transnational broadcaster headquartered in India,” he averred.

Cairae also mentioned that ZEEL’s local Arabic channels have shown tremendous growth in viewership. “We have successfully created new viewership genres in the MENA region with Indian content. Local Arabic channels are following our lead by making further investments in Indian content acquisition. The viewership for movie channels, for example, has increased 31 per cent over the last four years and all of that is from Bollywood products,” he stated.

The company had last year set up a separate entity to monetise the local Arabic channels. “We are also leveraging our in-house channels to create successful relationships with local broadcasters to monetise their products in MENA. A separate entity has been set up in 2014 to do this,” he revealed.

The advertising market in the MENA region is growing faster than pay TV market since it is pre-dominantly a free-to-air (FTA) market.

“In the MENA region, pay TV is growing at a modest 9 per cent year on year while the advertising market is witnessing a 17 per cent per cent growth year on year on TV and a 39 per cent growth on digital spends. The fight for the eyeball is more intense than the fight for the wallet,” Cairae pointed out.

For ZEEL, MENA and Africa are equally important markets for different reasons. “Both regions are key focus markets for the group’s growth plans ahead. In terms of advertising growth, the MENA region, being an FTA market, leads the international business for Zee. Africa has high growth potential in the media space,” he added.