Zee Media drives into Rajasthan with Plus

MUMBAI: When Zee group chairman Subhash Chandra, launched India's first private Hindi general entertainment channel way back in the early nineties, he named it so because he wanted it to be the ultimate provider of entertainment to Indians the world over. Now the group is taking that vision a step further. 33 channels already under its belt and it is all set to add to that tally with a few new ones. Among the first of these is the regional offering: Zee Rajasthan Plus.

CEO Alok Agrawal says that with the new venture, Zee is attempting to portray Rajasthan's rich culture on the channel

The channel, which is under the umbrella of Zee Media Corporation Ltd (ZMCL), will have an equal balance of news and entertainment and is being bundled under something its CEO Alok Agrawal calls the "terrestrial entertainment network (TEN)."

"Agreed, that the investment needed for it is going to be more than that needed for a general news channel," says Agrawal. "But it's something we believe has a lot of potential." Sources indicate that the Zee Media management has kept aside about Rs 15-20 crore per annum for the channel.

Headquartered in Jaipur and headed by regional head Purushottam Vaishnav, it is targeting the Hindi speaking audiences in India with a programming mix in Hindi and Rajasthani dialects and is set for a launch on 31 July. With the slogan 'mera shaan mera abhimaan', the channel plans to integrate many genres in one channel with 'something for everyone.'

Its entertainment offering will have both fiction and non-fiction shows touching on a bit of travel, automobile, real estate, shopping, food, and investments. Its news programming slate will have both half hour shows and smaller news bulletins covering regional, national and international developments and will be fed by news bureaus and news representatives and crews in almost all major Rajasthani cities (even at the block level). Its existing infrastructure for the various Zee News channels will, of course, be of great help.

"Rajasthani people are very proud of their culture and we are going to reflect that in our channel," says Agrawal. Its target audience ranges from children to the elderly with specific shows for each during the day.

The weekend will have more feature shows and a lunch time movie will be telecast which is either set in the state or about the local people. Additionally, popular shows from the Zee group's catalogue are to be be telecast for a few weeks but in due course, original commissioned and localised programming, keeping the state's vibrant culture in mind, will be added to the FPC, reveals Agrawal.

A big bang marketing and promotional campaign has been planned post-launch. It includes promos on the Zee TV network channels, billboards, radio, print, online and below the line activities in Rajasthan. Agrawal proudly says that pre-teelcast more than 50 brands - both local and national - have signed on, taking advantage of the inaugural ad rates which are on for a limited time.

Zee Rajasthan Plus is being beamed off Asiasat 3S (105.5 degrees east) and will be available free during a six month preview period on both cable TV and satellite, following which the plan is to go pay, explains Agrawal."The idea is to initially focus its distribution push on Rajasthan, and then move into other states," he adds.

Of course, it will be running into head on competition with existing players like ETV Rajasthan, and Sahara Samay's regional news channel. But Agrawal believes that should not be a problem. "Our whole effort is to bring people from different walks of life, together, on the channel," says Agrawal. "And we have got our strategy right."

He and his team probably have, but it's now over to the viewers.

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