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ZEEL to launch three regional HD channels

MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) is planning to launch high-definition (HD) versions of its three regional-language general entertainment channels (GECs). These are Zee Marathi, Zee Bangla and Zee Telugu.

ZEEL already has the licence to launch Zee Marathi HD and Zee Bangla HD. It has also got the licence to launch Marathi movie channel Zee Talkies in HD. The company has got the approval to rename &Youth HD, &Music and Zee Bandhan licences to Zee Marathi HD, Zee Talkies HD and Zee Bangla HD respectively.

“We are planning to launch regional HD channels Zee Marathi HD, Zee Bangla HD, and Zee Telugu HD,” a senior company official said.

Also on the cards is a Telugu movie channel Zee Cinemalu. However, the company has not received the licence to launch the same. “We also plan to launch a Telugu movie channel, Zee Cinemalu. We haven’t got a licence for that. This channel has been on the cards for more than three years,” the official said.

It is pertinent to note that ZEEL is launching a Marathi youth GEC named Zee Yuva on 22 August.

The regional HD space has suddenly seen a lot of action with Star India and Viacom18 launching channels in this space.

Star has launched Star Pravah HD, Star Jalsha HD, Star Jalsha Movies HD and Star Vijay HD. It plans to launch Maa HD and Maa Movies HD. Similarly, Viacom18 has launched HD variants of Colors Kannada, Colors Bangla and Colors Marathi.

Currently, there are more than 68 HD channels in the country.

Punit GoenkaDuring an earlier interaction with analysts, ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka had said that the company would launch HD channels in the regional space after getting regulatory approvals.

“We will also be coming out with our regional HD channels. We are just waiting for our licences to come in, and our entire regional bouquet also goes to HD very soon. We want to strengthen that part of the business going forward,” Goenka had said.

The HD channel business model has a skew towards subscription fee. Ad revenue from HD channels is big due to its smaller subscriber base. It is estimated that India has 5 million HD subscribers with most of them coming from direct-to-home (DTH) platforms.

“HD channels are definitely doing well for the industry, and they are getting very good traction. Since the base is so small, the advertising numbers are nothing much to talk about, but the subscription fees is where the premium makes it quite profitable for us,” Goenka had noted.

ZEEL will launch regional HD channels based on HD penetration in the given market.

“All our content is already being produced in HD, even with regional languages for the last one year or maybe longer than that in some cases. The call is taken on the basis of HD penetration of the set-top boxes in the market. So if HD is penetrating the Maharashtra market, we will take a call on taking Zee Marathi to HD. It is the same with Bangla or any other language. It has nothing to do with competition. We look at what our incremental costs are going to be to run HD vis-à-vis the returns that we can generate over a period of time,” he had stated.

Currently, ZEEL has eight HD channels, namely Zee TV HD, Zee Cinema HD, &TV HD, &Pictures HD, Zee Studio HD, Zee Café HD, Ten 1 HD and Ten Golf HD.

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