Zee Telefilms claws its way back on the bourses

Zee Telefilms Ltd (ZTL), while still struggling to attract viewers, is in the middle of a determined fightback worthy of some appreciation. At least that's how the stockmarkets are perceiving it. The ZTL share has been clawing its way back - it rose by more than 10 per cent last week.

And in today's trading it registered an increase of around Rs 7 when it closed at Rs 142.40 after surging to an intra-day high of Rs 144.25. Its low during day trades was Rs 133.00 with the share chalking up a volume of 3.8 million shares.

So what's perking up ZTL? Two pieces of news. One that its viewership ratings are looking up, even as Star TV and Sony Entertainment have been grappling hard to retain their grips on audiences. According to Intam data for all cable and satellite homes for the month 26 February-25 March 2001, three of its shows Koshish, Amanat and Mehandi Tere Naam Ki have consistently been figuring in the Top 10 shows chart with television rating points of between 4.5 and 5.5.

The gains have mainly come at the expense of Sony Entertainment Television which has seen a rapid erosion of ratings for its Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke game show. Even Star Plus' Kaun Banega Crorepati has gradually been losing its grip while other family dramas such as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki have been holding on to theirs.

The second piece of news that the market is looking favourably at is the fact that the Zee Network is finally getting its digital direct to operator bouquet together with its leading channel Zee TV expected to encrypt and go pay by next month. Cable TV operator pricing for the Zee bouquet - including Zee Cinema, Zee English, Zee MGM, Zee News, and Alpha Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and Punjabi - has been fixed at around Rs 25. The pay TV model is expected to add substantial subscription revenues to ZTL's books and profits to its bottomline.

The key question is: is the market once again getting carried away and, once again, much too early?

One will have to wait and watch the ratings sheets in the coming weeks to see if the upward audience grabbing movement of Zee TV's shows is maintained. On the pay TV front, subscription revenue collections from cable TV operators for its bouquet are not going to be easy. Even if one considers that its Siticable network has a captive five million subscriber base. One can expect payments from only one-third of cable TV operators taking a feed from Siticable headends as has been the record so far in the cable TV trade.

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