Zee TV to revert to Monday-Thursday programming matrix

MUMBAI: After almost two years of flirting with a 'different' programming schedule, Subhash Chandra flagship channel Zee TV is going back to the traditional format. So out goes the Thursday Premiere slot and the Sunday to Wednesday prime time programming matrix.

The back to "traditional matrix" change goes into effect from 27 September. From that day on, Zee TV's weekday primetime shows will run from Mondays through to Thursdays while the channel's big movie of the week will air on Sundays instead of the present Thursday 8 pm slotting.

Zee introduces its revamped FPC with its big movie acquisition of the year Munnabhai MBBS, which is scheduled to air on Sunday 26 September at 8 pm.

Speaking exclusively to, Zee TV business head Abhijit Saxena says, "We will be reverting back to the original Monday to Thursday programming from 27 September. In addition to that, we are discontinuing the Thursday Premiere slot."

Despite some persistent prodding, Saxena was, however, reluctant to spell out details. But he did offer that the channel would be launching at least two new shows every month over the next few months. The industry buzz is that Zee is looking introducing 8-10 new releases over the next quarter.

In addition to the slew of releases, the channel is also negotiating for the telecast rights of a couple of recent Bollywood releases. The channel has reportedly snagged the telecast rights of Mani Ratnam's multi-starrer Yuva , which though it didn't work its charm at the box office, got some critical acclaim.

Touted as the pioneer of the Hindi general entertainment genre on cable and satellite platform in India, Zee TV, for the past five years, has been struggling to get back into the viewership sweepstakes under business and programming heads who have come and gone with rapid regularity. Can the latest innovation, courtesy the new team, manage to turn the tide?

When quizzed, Optimum Media Solutions executive vice-president Amit Ray offered an interesting viewpoint, "It seems like a good move but there is something more fundamental that Zee needs to focus on. No amount of shuffling day parts and snagging blockbusters rights is going to help. If the masses are viewing 'saas-bahu' soaps, then give them better 'saas-bahu' stuff. You can't be innovating 365 days or think that marketing and promotional plugs will help you better the ratings."

MindShare Fulcrum national trading director Pat Vinayak has a different take on it though. "Its a good move on Zee's part to go back to the Monday-Thursday viewing. I think enough innovation has been done with the Sunday slot. Sunday is a low audience day, period. Although it is premature to predict if this move will bring back viewers or not, one can assume that the viewer base will increase."

About the scrapping of the Thursday Premiere slot, Vinayak says, "While the premiere movie slot did work initially, it eventually failed in the long run. You cannot have a 52-week blockbuster line-up and hence the initial curiosity weaned."

"Additionally, Thursday is really the high point of the serials and the general public cannot really be enticed to shift their focus during the climax," she points out.

"The attention span of viewers is diminishing every passing year. Innovation is the name of the game. A year ago, Zee thought starting on Sunday would give them an edge. Zee did not gain by the shift in strategy. So they are obviously going back to the Monday-Thursday format . I think it is a good idea to keep reviewing gain and loss due to a shift in strategy," Lodestar and Interface Media's national media director Nandini Dias opines.

"While most people have a set pattern in the week, what they do every weekend may differ. It may be difficult for viewers to keep continuity if the serial continues on a Sunday," Dias says.

But she isn't as optimistic as Vinayak. "I do not think it is going to change the viewer base. But it may increase sampling of programmes," she says.

On the Sunday movie slotting Dias opines, "It is a fact that movie watching happens more during the weekend. Most Indian movies are three or three-and-a-half hours. It may be difficult for most people to spend that kind of time during a week day. And that is true for almost all target groups. Having said that, there are examples of movies which have done well on a week day. Obviously, it also depends on the title that is being aired."

Starcom group head, broadcast investment Gautam Rajgopal offers, "Zee really needed to look into its programming. Albeit marginally, this move will help Zee broaden its viewer base."

"As far as movies go, I think the weekend is the best bet," Rajgopal adds.

All-in-all, the informed members of the media have given a cautious thumbs-up to Zee's latest move. Now it remains for the viewers to take the bait.

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