Zee pits innovative themes,greed against cricket

MUMBAI: Zee has finalised its strategy for combating the threat of World Cup cricket that is ostensibly looming large over all the mass entertainment channels. The mix that has been concocted for the next quarter includes a prize money of Rs 1.21 billion, short stories, partition-based serials and contemporary romance.

Zee TV president Apurva Purohit, however, pooh-poohs the threat of cricket by claiming: "The buzz over cricket has always been higher than what the viewership data proves. Moreover, cricket viewership is linked to the performance of the Indian team. The pathetic showing of the Indian team in New Zealand will definitely influence viewer interests."

Zee, in association with E-Cool Gaming Solutions has announced its MEGA contest that will enable its viewers to win Rs 1.21 billion within three months starting 5 January 2003. Zee will be giving its audience an opportunity to win free prizes worth Rs 10 million every day and Rs 40 million on Sundays in addition to the Rs 5 million for a Dekho Dhoom contest.

Purohit also informs that there are three other major programming initiatives being slated for the forthcoming quarter. These programming initiatives are Chowsat Panne (64 pages) - a series of short stories; Mulk - a story of three friends of different religions who separate during partition; and Meeth - a contemporary love story. Mulk is based on the theme of patriotism against the backdrop of partition. Directed by Chandar Behl, it narrates the saga of friendship set in Lahore in the pre-partition era.

Zee banks on experimentation, daringly different fresh themes and hype:

"Our research has shown that viewers are tired of the plots wherein channel producers feed them with a staple diet of 'never ending stories'. The lack of creativity and imaginative ideas is pretty obvious in the seemingly sub-standard plots churned out by writers; in some cases developed on the sets itself. In fact, we feel that the 'need of the hour' is to present short, crisp stories with well-defined beginnings and endings," adds Purohit.

Purohit also claims that the next quarter will witness a lot of shifts in viewership patterns and this would present the mass entertainment channels with lots of new opportunities to garner 'share of mind'.

"The key is to ensure that the new initiatives enable us to retain stickiness and attract the fickle-minded audiences. However, we shall stick to our 2002 formula of constantly experimenting; offering daringly different fresh and offbeat themes; and creating buzz around the new initiatives," adds Purohit. The 'stickiness' factor is re-emphasised by the fact that all lottery-related results will be announced exclusively on Zee, not in any other media.

Zee banks on greed to woo viewers:

Zee's Dheko Dhoom Viewers quiz offers Rs 5 million to viewers who watch Zee TV between 8 pm and 11 pm on Sundays and answer six questions. One question will be asked at the beginning of each episode of a serial. This is an attempt to create synergy with its online lottery. The first result will be declared in a show being held on Sunday, 19 January, at 9 pm.

A media planner-cum-buyer points out : "In order to recover the prize money amount of Rs 5 million plus the operational expenses, Zee will need to get an effective rate of Rs 36,000 for a 10-second spot, if an advertising time of 10 minutes is available per hour. Anything over and above that rate will result in an overflow for Zee!"

Zee will also give its audience an opportunity to participate in a daily show and win Rs 10 million on Megawin Maha Lotto tickets. The show will be held daily between 9 pm and 9:30 pm starting Monday, 6 January. As a value addition, Zee will also announce four free prizes of Rs 10 million (total of Rs 40 million per Sunday). Viewers can participate in the Sunday special free prize contest on the same Megawin Maha Lotto ticket.

Six questions are asked and different groups are

created depending on how many right answers have been given. One person who has answered all six questions

correctly gets 2 million from a lucky draw. The next person with five answers gets Rs 1.5 million and so on. The lucky draw will take place on the channel two weeks after the questions have been asked.

There is a question mark around the returns that Zee can expect though. Media analysts point out that Zee currently gets an effective prime time rate of Rs 40,000 for a 10-second spot. In a half-an-hour programme, if Zee manages to have 5-7 minutes of advertising time, it will obtain Rs 1.2 million if it sells 30-42 spots. This falls short of the prizes of Rs 10 million on weekdays and Rs 40 million on Sundays.

The shortfall indicates that the channel will need to bank heavily on the sales of the Megawin online lottery to recover the costs. However, there seems to be a clutter prevailing in the online lottery segment with Zee's Sikkim Lotto and Thunderball; Maharashtra's Megawin Bonus Ball and Maha Lotto; Karnataka's Lucky Three vying for attention and a fixed conservative consumer spend.

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