'Watch out for Zee TV, the war has just begin': Sandeep Goyal CEO Zee Network

Rediffusion DY&R president Sandeep Goyal has taken up a challenge not many people would have at this particular juncture. Come June, he will be heading the erstwhile shooting star Zee Telefilms as CEO. His mandate from chairman Subhash Chandra: shoot down Star and claim the numero uno perch it currently occupies from it for Zee.

This at a time when it is raging through controversies aplenty. It has been lagging in the viewership stakes with channels such as Star TV and Sony Entertainment surging ahead. Analysts have criticised its wild expansionist urges. More than that there are the charges of the alleged siphoning of funds to the Essel group to acquire equity in other entertainment companies such as B4U and ABCL.

Other charges that have been hurled at Zee include those of alleged share price manipulation in the early days along with cornered bull Ketan Parekh. Additionally, Zee Telefilms is also facing shareholders‘ ire as the share collapsed to below Rs 100 from a high of Rs 1,600. (The scrip closed at Rs 106.85 today as buying interest revived on the counter).

Clearly the 38-year-old English literature gold medalist from Punjab University and MBA, who comes from a family of bureaucrats and has 15 years of advertising industry experience under his belt with agencies like HTA, Trikaya Grey, Mudra and Rediffusion, has his task cut out for him. But Goyal does not let this put him down.

"I am going into the job optimistically," he says determinedly .

Goyal had once told a magazine: "If you play, you must win. Playing just for the sake of playing is no fun. Success is not a destination but a way of life and it does not happen incidentally. You have to work at it."‘s Anil Wanvari spoke with Goyal a little after WPP boss Martin Sorrell paid a visit to Rediffusion DY&R‘s office in Mumbai.

Excerpts from the interview: 

What will be your immediate priorities?

I want to figure out the business first. Get Zee back to the No 1 spot. That‘s the responsibility I have been charged with. And I am optimistic about what I can do..

What are the problems plaguing Zee Telefilms today?

It‘s a little too early for me to comment on that as I haven‘t yet got into the job. But from a media buyer‘s point of view I can say that it was going through a bad patch. I have been associated with the company as their advertising agency for their game show POW. Zee TV was looking like a Chapter XI case around six months but now it is coming back. Three of its programmes are in the Top 10 as against nothing a while ago. Out of the Top 30 programmes, 50 per cent are from the Zee stable. The problems it was facing have been remedied and the channel is coming back.


There‘s an allegation that the top management‘s job at Zee TV has been going through a revolving door with several of them being shunted out at regular intervals based on the alleged whims of chairman Subhash Chandra even though they may have delivered on their assignments. How have you secured yourself?

I don‘t buy this. I am a professional manager. I believe that if as a professional manager you deliver on your targets your employer has no choice but to retain your services. The company has been restructured as per AT Kearney‘s recommendations and even my being brought in is part of those recommendations. I am being brought in with all good intentions to deliver and I will do so.

Zee Telefilms is allegedly riddled with politics with power groupings all over the place? How will you be able to cope with this?

Every company has lots of politics. I have been through reasonably difficult times and have turned around organisations which looked very troubled. I am leaving Rediffusion DY&R not when it is down but when it is doing very well..

Why did you take up the challenge?

It‘s a much larger canvas for me. Looking after the various Zee constituencies. Its 15 channels. It‘s a new industry for me. Advertising is all about understanding the consumer and connecting with him, and I have been doing this for the past 15 years. You have to understand the consumer well.

I see my job as an extension of what I have been doing so far. It‘s a different format, the strokes are different, but the concepts are the same. Additionally, I have been behind more than 400 commercials over the past 15 years. Those were 30 second commercials. Soaps, series are of a 30 minute format. Both have to grab and hold viewer attention. Hence, it‘s something I am quite familiar with.

But you will be taking up your assignment at the most difficult time with Star roaring ahead with new programmes and Sony Entertainment also being all charged up to fight back with the launch of Kkusum from the Balaji stable?

Star is not really roaring these days. Its growth engine was KBC. I helped Star launch KBC. Nobody knew that it would be the driver that it became. But today it is not that any more, it is going down. Because of KBC the soaps around it picked up audiences. It is however taking a beating today. We‘ll see how long the other shows hold up.

Television is not consistent; otherwise you would have channels producing consistent hits all the time. Star is launching Ji Mantriji and Zee TV is doing PradhanMantri. Will both work or will one of them? Or will both fail. Nobody knows. Nobody has had a consistent record so far. So, who knows what awaits Star around the corner?

How many people are aware that Zee TV‘s "Chandan Ka Palna" airing at the same time as KBC has managed a TRP of 7, which is equal to that attained by KBC?

As for Sony, it does not seem to have gone too far so far. You say it is introducing soaps such as Kkusum. I would like to see to how long the tea-jerker formula lasts out. And how long somebody can replicate success. It too will run its course. Interest in them will wane like it has for KBC.

You have to watch out for Zee TV, the war has just begun. And we are pretty well armed.

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