Television

'Fragmentation has actually helped the Hindi GEC ad market to grow' : ZEEL Chief Revenue Officer Joy Chakraborthy

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Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) has a pool of channels that would drive its topline. The transfer of the six regional entertainment channels from Zee News Ltd (ZNL) would reduce Zeel‘s dependence on Zee TV as Zee Marathi, Zee Bangla and Zee Telugu write good revenues. The gain could be to the tune of Rs 4.4 billion on an annualised basis.

Zeel went through a second wave of consolidation when it decided to bring under it ETC‘s broadcasting business. while ETC Music will complement Zing, ETC Punjabi stays as a strong force in the Punjabi market.

Zeel‘s south story is set to bloom. With market leader Sun TV deciding to up ad rates across its network channels after a gap of two years, Zee Telugu is in a strong position to shore up its revenues on the back of soaps, movies and a dance-based reality property in Aata. Zee Kannada is also on the growth track.

Competition from the two Star regional channels could hurt Zee Bangla and Zee Marathi in the long run. Star Jalsha has become a clear No. 1, but Zee Bangla is currently holding on to its revenues due to unduplicated viewership and a smart utilsation of inventory and ad pricing. The Bengali general entertainment channel (GEC) ad market could, however, expand.

Despite Star Pravah‘s rise, Zee Marathi continues to be in leadership position and is aided by Zee Talkies.

Bruised by a weak property in Indian Cricket League (ICL) that ran out of action last year, Zee has plans to launch a few sports channels.

Maximising the company‘s value share is Zeel chief revenue officer Joy Chakraborthy. His academic armoury includes graduation from National Defence Academy, masters in marketing management from NMIMS and, more recently, the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com‘s Sibabrata Das, Chakraborthy talks about the company‘s focus on revenues, profitability and monetisable GRPs.

Excerpts:

 

 

How much topline growth would come to Zeel due to the transfer of six regional entertainment channels from Zee News Ltd?

Zeel would be a big beneficiary as the six regional entertainment channels are riding good revenues. They will also help us offer complementary media propositions to our advertisers. We expect Zeel to add about Rs 4.4 billion on a full year basis due to this transfer.



 

So Zeel‘s dependence on Zee TV will reduce?

One can‘t undermine the contribution of our flagship brand in our bouquet of channels. With the regional GECs, we will, of course, have more driver channels in the bouquet such as Zee Marathi, Zee Bangla and Zee Telugu. Nonetheless, Zee TV’s contribution to the overall ad pie of Zeel will be in the region of 35-37 per cent.

 

Doesn’t that spread out Zeel’s risks at the right time when we are seeing the emergence of a new star in Colors and further fragmentation in the Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) space?

With the industry maturing, fragmentation is obvious. In fact, fragmentation has actually helped the Hindi GEC ad market to grow. The introduction of Colors has transformed the GEC space from a bi-polar into a tri-polar segment with each of the three players creating their own relevance. As such, we expect the Hindi GECs would take away Rs 24 billion in ad revenues during FY’10 (i.e. up from Rs 19 bn in PY). And going forward, this space is bound to grow if all players get their pricing strategy right. 

 

But hasn’t the 3-horse race for the top slot in the GEC space damaged the pricing power and impacted Zee TV?

Zee TV is the No. 1 revenue channel. It gets maximum campaigns and advertisers spend due to two key reasons: consistency in ratings and effective leverage of a huge network. Also, we sell more on plain vanilla FCT (free commercial time) with few but quality innovations.

While our rival networks have taken to very expensive programming, we have delivered with soaps and reality content without flashing Bollywood stars. We have developed Dance India Dance and Saregamapa into our strong reality properties. We have also stayed away from buying GRPs through movies. Our focus is profitability - and not just simply becoming a No 1 GRP channel.

Also, advertisers don’t buy GRPs; they want relevant ratings. A lot of channels are running break-free content. What is the use? An afternoon GRP is not the same in value as a primetime GRP. And Zee TV has been leading consistently in primetime. So, the point is to develop “monetisable GRPs”. 

 

What about the economic downturn?

There is no doubt that broadcasters have experienced a tightening of their revenues. But the slowdown has resulted in a host of positives (especially for television – as a medium).

Clients and agencies have intensely evaluated their ad-spends and experimented with mediums. They have invested in value-for-money genres where risks were low like GECs and movies. High value flashy investments were curtailed. They have looked at TV a lot more optimistically than print. While ad spends on TV will end at Rs 91 bn for the year, (up from Rs 83 bn in PY), print will grow only marginally from Rs 98.20 bn to Rs 99.30 bn.

In fact, the last four months have been particularly good for us. Being the largest network has helped us in attracting advertisers. Though we saw a slump in ad spends from real estate, banking & finance sectors, it has been compensated by FMCG, telecom and auto, which have been high spenders on GECs. 

 

‘A lot of channels are running break-free content. What is the use? An afternoon GRP is not the same in value as a primetime GRP. The point is to develop monetisable GRPs‘ 

 

Has cricket eaten into the GEC space?

We had expected that our biggest threat would come from cricket. But it has under-delivered. Cricket has taken a severe beating, resulting in some channels offering guaranteed CPRP deals. As such, advertiser confidence on GECs has been high.

On the whole, with Tam expanding its panel this year and the economy improving, GECs will stand to gain. 

 

Have the movie channels also been hit by recession?

Advertisers in this downturn have realised the true potential of television in terms of reach. With consumption expected from every nook and corner, the Hindi Cinema genre, which is high on reach, played a very crucial role in the marketer‘s overall communication scheme. This has led to the Hindi Cinema genre witnessing significant growth in revenues despite a marginal fall in GRPs. This growth has come from rate increase as inventory has always been 100 per cent utilised.. Though GECs have been the first to air big ticket movies, movie channels, being well penetrated, go beyond Tam markets, and are value-for-money proposition for advertisers. Zee Cinema’s consistent performance is due to its strong presence not only in the metros but also in the smaller towns and rural markets. 

 

Sun TV network has increased its ad rates after two years. Will this augment Zeel‘s revenues from its south-language regional channels?

Despite being a leader, Sun TV’s pricing has always been highly cost-effective. For any market to expand, the leader has to take a leap in pricing. Hence this initiative by Sun TV will only help the entire Southern market grow further. We are doing particularly well in the Telugu space and are highly optimistic on Zee Kannada as well. South will be the big story for us in the years to come. The transfer of the southern channels to Zeel will help our regional sales team as they can offer a complete regional package.

 

Will the rise of the two Star regional channels hurt Zee Bangla and Zee Marathi?

In the Bengali GEC space, Zee Bangla has lost its leadership position to Star Jalsha, but, over the last couple of months, we have undertaken new initiatives and the channel is looking up again. More importantly, our focus has been to ensure profitability and towards that end we are, even today, writing much more revenues than Star Jalsha. This is primarily because of our two-pronged strategy: optimal inventory utilisation and appropriate pricing. One of the noteworthy propositions of Zee Bangla is its high unduplicated viewership. All of this has helped us ensure against loss of any campaign. Having grown, we now hope that Star Jalsha increases its rates to sustain the market expansion.

In Marathi, we are almost three times that of our nearest competitor. Zee Marathi is a clear leader and is well complemented by Zee Talkies, both in terms of revenues and viewership. 

 

 

Zee‘s sports business falls under your ambit. Are there plans to launch more channels?

The various sports-led initiatives of Zee that straddle not only on-air (Ten Sports & Zee Sports) but also on-ground properties like Mumbai FC, AIFF (All India Football Federation) and cricket (Zimbabwe & Sri Lanka) are a part of my Sales responsibility. Print properties like All Sport Magazine also come under me.

In our sports business, our focus has always been to look beyond cricket. So, our sales approach will also be one that is inclusive of all sports genres wherein we shall bundle various properties. And, yes, given the potential that we foresee in the near future, we are in the process of evaluating new channels.

 

 

With the producers going on strike and Bollywood having less releases and hits this year, what has been the impact on music channels ETC and Zing?

For the film-based trade genre, ETC is a must-have. Moreover, in this genre the buying parameter is not GRP-led; instead, the trade evaluates the channel‘s brand equity. Being the undisputed leader in this space, ETC has performed exceedingly well.

Post relaunch, Zing has aggressively followed an approach of co-creating value propositions that are customised to its business constituents’ communication objective. This approach has helped showcase a much greater value proposition to our advertisers, insulating us from the vagaries of hits and flops. The channel has posted higher revenues.

 

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