The inside dope on Zee's &pictures

MUMBAI: Zeel marketing head (national channels) Akash Chawla is used to doing things differently and even pioneering initiatives in the broadcasting space. Being part of a very entrepreneurial organisation like Zee he says: "Our challenge is to keep re-inventing."

Some are calling the upcoming movie channel from the Zeel's stable &pictures - Sapnon ki Udaan that is slated to go on-air on 18 August as a bold step. The network already has a couple of Hindi movie channels in the crowded and competitive genre. But Zeel chief content and creative officer Bharat Kumar Ranga is not worried as there is a clearly thought out strategy behind the new launch.

Says he: "As new mindsets are emerging in India and Indians worldwide, there is a need to cater to that. Zee very successfully caters to certain mindsets, beliefs, values very effectively. There was a need to come up with a parallel brand in order to cater to the young audiences that we noticed. So, &pictures is an effort to come out with a brand that can speak to them and delight them."

The movie labeled as India's first interactive movie channel has already made waves by buying out broadcasting rights for upcoming blockbusters like Chennai Express, Zanjeer and Besharam. Nonetheless, it will also telecast movies which the youth can relate to like Andaaz Apna Apna, Joh Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, ABCD, Kai Po Che and many more.

The real difference lies in Zee's approach to the new movie channel says Akash Chawla

But the first question that comes to one's mind is how different it is going to be from Zee Cinema? There is a big difference between the channels describes Chawla. He further says that Zee Cinema has been a market leader for a very long time now. "The real difference is going to be how Zee approaches the movie channel. The movie channel is far more experimental, interactive and adventurous in spirit," he points out, adding, "Zee cinema will continue to cater to the family audience at home in a way that they want to watch real cinema. But that doesn't mean that the two channels don't cater to the same audience. It is just that sometimes one is in a mood to watch more adventurous films and interact with the movies and sometimes we just want to lay back and just watch a movie. Let the audience choose what they want to watch. And as part of the philosophy the two channels are very different."

Creative mantra

What's surprising is that this time there is no 'Zee' prefix in the name. Chawla explains why. Says he: "If we look at the consumer point of view, brand creation view, the two brands are different, they cater to different mindsets but they carter to the same families. If we don't come up with such products someone else will. They accepted Zee Cinema earlier, they will accept the new channel as well."

Bharat Ranga says that there was a need to come up with a parallel brand in order to cater to the young audiences

The real germ of an idea to come up with a non-Zee branded channel started around two years ago, but the actual work started around eight-10 months ago. After scanning through about 1000 logos the current one was finalised.

"Using a symbol as a logo has been done for the first time in India and will have multiple connotations." adds Chawla.

Breaking down the logo, the network explains that the ampersand sign in &pictures signifies Udaan (flight) and Neev (rooted) and celebrates the duality of contemporary Indians. Where, Udaan signifies that one wants to go higher and ambitious in life whereas Neev is rooted with the network's values and beliefs that Zee always promises its audiences. The color red similarly radiates its bold ambition as well as the richness of traditions, Chawla points out.

The movie channel has appointed Scarecrow as its creative agency. The agency has worked on the strategic process for &pictures, giving the channel its name and logo. Scarecrow will be involved in all aspects of the brand from creating the corporate identity, brand guidelines, to internal communication to ATL and BTL communication but only for a year as that is time frame the agency has signed the contract with Zee.

Speaking on the initiative, Scarecrow Communications founder director Raghu Bhatt asserts, "We will be working closely with the brand team to ensure that the business and marketing targets are achieved. The Indian media space is very competitive but this is an opportunity to offer a differentiated proposition based on differentiated content."

Chawla explains that the potential watcher of &pictures is: experimental, ambitious yet rooted, young at heart, reinvents oneself, is the right blend of modernity and tradition, is exploratory, goes off the beaten track and is energetic and spirited. "It is not just a youth channel", adds Chawla. "We believe the fact that this is the channel which the entire family will watch. And we hope that like people patronise Zee TV and Zee Cinema, they would patronise this channel as well."

Differentiating factor

Our plan is to anlayse every content before acquiring it reveals Ruchir Tiwari

In terms of presentation and marketing of the channel, Zee is going to indulge in two-way communication with the audiences. "It's true that today, a lot of traditional film concepts are not going to work. But it is also true that films, which explore the off-beaten path and are presented in a manner that is acceptable to the consumers and families of today, are also working", clarifies Chawla.

For the initial six months, the channel is going to be free to air, after which it will turn pay. Currently it is available across cable TV networks in testing mode, and will be on almost all DTH networks when it launches. And will spread its footprint overseas, later.

"In the world of TVT, we have audiences across the world, so where ever the Hindi speaking people are, the channel will reach out to them," adds Ranga.

As for the movie library the channel's main focus will be to aggregate the right kind of content which blends with its philosophy.

"We always deeply anlayse before picking up and acquiring any content, All acquisitions will dovetail the philosophy, the DNA of &pictures," says Zeel cluster programming head (Hindi movie channels) Ruchir Tiwari. "We are here just at the right time, with digitisation going on," asserts Tiwari.

Deepak Netram is optimistic about the new entrant in the genre

With the 12 minute per hour ad cap becoming effective from 1 October, is this Zee's way of getting more ad revenue? "We had started thinking about the new channel 20 months back, we were just waiting for the right time, and to pick up the right library. But of course it will help us with 10+ 2; however that is not the sole reason. We believe that there is a space in the market which is not tapped. If you will look at youth of today, they don't just watch TV but are on other social platforms - they want to chat, tweet etc. and we think that space hasn't been captured and hence we want to be the 1st movers in that space." clarifies Chawla.

Zeel's new launch has got the applause of media professionals. They believe that &pictures is likely to do well. "Going by the recent success of other entrants in the Hindi movie genre, it certainly seems there is good potential," says Lodestar UM vice-president Deepak Netram. "A new offering in the genre definitely will help the network to widen its basket."

"Success ultimately will require the ideal combination of the many ingredients like marketing, content, programming and distribution coming together. In these areas, it is also critical to continue sustained efforts even post launch. A lot depends on how the offering translates to viewers and to advertisers and this will define how the channel performs. The promos on the test signals revolving around new titles are inviting and this could create viewer interest." Netram adds.

What's next to your kitty, Zee?

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