Zee Cafe not running scared of competition

MUMBAI: Zee Cafe is unfazed by the entry of newer players in the English entertainment space. The reason being that one of the pioneers in what was once a niche category follows the simple mantra of gauging viewer appetite coupled with the right marketing to stay ahead in the game.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel) senior vice president and business head - niche channels Anurag Bedi puts it as, “The year has been fantastic for Zee Café as we are the undisputed leaders of FY 2013. Zee Café has been the number one channel in the genre for an average of 28 weeks, beating competition with a share of 21 per cent. Our key strengths have always been a strong line-up of world class content and dynamic marketing campaigns.”

Zee Café stakes claim of bringing popular international shows to Indian shores at the earliest. In keeping with this tradition, it plans to air Big Bang Theory season 7 and The Vampire Diaries season 5 starting November, very close to their US premiere, as well as House of Cards from early next year. The channel is aware that viewers today want to see fresh new shows as also the latest seasons of their favourite shows without much of a time lag.

Agrees Maxus India national director - insights Priti Murthy: “Viewers don’t want to wait and usually prefer to watch the latest content online. Therefore, the whole genre has to work towards getting this audience to its kitty.”

Earlier too, AXN’s business head Sunil Punjabi had told that people want to watch shows which are airing currently closer to their airing in the US and in the last one year, the channel has been doing this consistently - adding shows closer to their telecast in the US.

Spelling out who constitutes the target group (TG) of the new channel, Star India business head Kevin Vaz had said it is the most premium audience in India, comprising the one per cent of top Sec, A+ and between the age group of 20 to 35, had reported when Star World HD was launched.

To counter competition, Bedi believes in identifying what appeals to audiences and cushioning it with effective marketing. “Our competitors have lined up some of the best shows that America produces but no point if they are not marketed to Indian audiences correctly,” he says. Fragmentation is inevitable but “We have a strong relationship with our partners so we do not see competition as a threat and will continue to bring the best of English entertainment to Indian audiences,” he adds.

Zee Cafe’s strategy is not only to bring in soaps but also movies and live and exclusive telecasts of events from across the globe. “Zee Café caters to a premium and relatively niche audience, hence, there is no fixed format and we will continue to experiment with shows that fit with our TG,” points out Bedi, adding there are plans for an HD channel.

Speaking of marketing, the channel tied up with Eco roots to adopt trees for each pledge taken by viewers for the Green Turn initiative. Digitally too, it has undertaken several successful initiatives. “Our campaigns like Team Grey, Gossip Girl, Happy hour at 3,Tweet hour with the cast of The Mentalist built an immediate connect with our fans and have received tremendous response from them,” emphasises Bedi. The channel is looking forward to more innovative campaigns for upcoming properties like Big Bang Diwali and House of Cards. “We try to do something different each time to delight the audiences and we will keep on doing that,” says Bedi.

Murthy however feels Zee Café needs to be more aggressive in its approach to marketing. “The way other channels push their content, I don’t think Zee Café does in the same manner. One must understand, in the genre, there are only a few shows for the whole channel, unlike the Hindi counterparts, which is the sad part. Therefore, aggression is needed to cash in more on the growing audience that wants to watch international shows,” she says.

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