Television

'We have grown without showing gruesome reality shows' : Zoom Entertainment Television CEO Avinash Kaul

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Zoom, the youth channel with a lazar sharp focus on Bollywood, has found its space in a competitive genre that is waiting to see the launch of UTV Stars in mid-August.

The channel has consciously stayed away from gruesome reality shows, protecting it from the volatile curve that its rivals like MTV and UTV Bindass are subject to.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com‘s Gaurav Laghate, Zoom Entertainment Television CEO Avinash Kaul talks about how this positioning has made the channel a safe proposition for advertisers and ensured its growth across the content pillars that it has built after reinventing twice.

Excerpts:

It‘s over a one and a half year now that you have taken charge at Zoom. What changes have you brought?

There has been a lot of positive momentum that we have built at Zoom. For example, we have more than doubled our GRPs (gross rating points). We are now almost the genre leader.

There were quite a bit of pieces that we have ironed out across the business. This includes content, distribution, marketing, and ad sales pillar... all the components of the business, as the dynamics of the business change every day. And it needs re-orientation of how to work things out.

So that‘s what we were focussing on. And we have been successful in all the ventures that we have been in, so far. This is reflecting in the results (ratings) today. And the remarkable thing is that these results are without any reality shows, unlike other channels.

Zoom is about wholesome inclusive family viewing entertainment, and we do not cater to any gruesome reality show. There are no beepers, no pixilation, and no grungy outlook towards life. We believe in the positive outlook.

Define your market?

We specifically target the 1 million + towns in the HSM, 15-24 SEC AB. If you look at the content mix of anybody else in this genre, more than 50 per cent of content comes from the reality shows. And they keep going up and down. A Roadies, for instance, will take them (MTV) to a high and once it is over, they will come back to right at the base.

So basically, for 13 weeks in a year, you will see a high on some channels or the other. You have to look at consistency, which we offer, because we don‘t have such dramatic crests and dramatic troughs. So for an advertiser it‘s a safe proposition, technically.

But for such shows, do advertisers pay a premium?

Advertisers look at the cost-benefit ratio - the cost of making the content versus the returns that you are likely to get from the content. And not all of this is enviable to all of the advertisers. Because with a lot of content, many advertisers might want to associate, many might not to. So it‘s about the environment you create. We have not created any negative dissonances on the content front on the channel and we do not expect anything to change dramatically in the future to go into that zone.

We have very carefully navigated ourselves out, staying away from that temptation. Demographically, we are aimed at youth but our focus has been Bollywood and we will keep that focus. Which is why today we see that you would see us as India‘s No.1 Bollywood channel, right because that‘s a statement we can obviously make.

There is not too much competition also ?

Well the way we look at the competition, we have various content pillars- we have Bollywood news, we have music, we have movies, we have countdowns and we have features. These are the kind of programming we do at Zoom today. So when I look at my review show, it performs better than any other on other channels including Hindi news. So as long as I am the best in every pillar that I am present in, I am in safe hands. Today my Bollywood news performs better than any other mainstream Hindi news channel‘s news flash.

As far as standalone 15-24 HSM, 1 millionn+ is concerned in Bollywood news dissemination, Zoom is ahead. Of course, I do far more of it because I am a dedicated channel as opposed to say one bulletin on Aaj Tak or any other news channel.

When I am playing music, I am the No. 1 in the music band. As long as you are successful in all the pillars, your proposition is entirely secured.

‘We have various content pillars- Bollywood news, music, movies, countdowns and features. As long as I am the best in every pillar that I am present in, I am in safe hands‘

So how do you see Zoom poised today?

Today, Zoom is India‘s No. 1 Bollywood channel, and technically, I would rather go to the extent of saying that we are the world‘s No. 1 Bollywood destination. Because as a network (Times Television Network), we are available in 18 countries, out of which Zoom is in over 15 countries. Now that is again the Bollywood connect spreading out.

So we reach out and fulfil their daily dose of Bollywood. If I give you some statistics, we are today the No. 2 channel on YouTube in India and 18th in entertainment in the world. Today, as we talk, we have over 420 million views on YouTube and every week, we get 5 million hits on an average. Now that‘s massive consumption.

Our Facebook page has around 700,000 followers. And as per tracking sites are concerned, we are No. 2 or No. 3 page in India on Facebook among the media channels‘ pages. As far as interactivity is concerned, we get around 20 million impressions every week on Facebook. This is because the interactivity element that we have built is far more superior. Every post of ours gets over 5000 responses in terms of likes and comments.

We also syndicate our content internationally to various channels, and locally to regional channels here. As a result, the cumulative exposure to the content created by Zoom gets magnified at every level.

So what all are your revenue streams?

Digital is a very important component for us. As we have specialised content, our realisation from digital is very healthy. Branded content is another significant part and we also have got syndication as a model.

So these are the three big chunks. Then we are a pay channel, so we get international and domestic subscription revenues. That balances our portfolio pretty decently; it‘s a well diversified, well matured business.

Coming to your programming mix, how do you justify having movies on your channels?

Our choice of movies is something very contemporary, very youth. We will stretch the envelop to go for those kinds of movies that may not be top grossers but give you ratings.

We are looking at contemporary Bollywood movies which are aimed at youth so that there is a better opportunity to weave it...Fashion for example, would find a way on our channel.

So how is your content mix at present?

If you consider the 18 hours cycle of Zoom, you will get 40-45 per cent of music, which is all contemporary; 15-18 per cent is movies, 20 per cent is from news fillers and the balance is from features and countdown shows.

So far there was no competition for Zoom in a true sense. Now UTV is launching UTV Stars, which will be in similar space. How do you see competition brewing?

So we hear, but honestly, very little to comment till we see the actual product on air. Anything else can be a ‘me too‘.

We have had competition; E24 launched, but hasn‘t really been able to cut much ice. There are so many channel launches every day.

But don‘t you think that UTV Stars will have an advantage as it is also into production of movies?

Well I would argue that not having a studio is beneficial for us because we are agnostic. We have no vested interest in Bollywood.

Today, our business is well diversified. It is not just a TV channel; it‘s a Bollywood ecosystem that we have created over the years. So honestly, we do not see any immediate threat.

A party which is neutral, which has consistency of business, consistency of investing in the business and which is serious about the business, will only succeed.

As a group, whatever we stand by, we commit; we invest, we build, we grow...and that too profitably. So that‘s the key operating word for us. We are not in business for the sake of business, we are in business for profitability.

How many new clients do you have advertising on your channel?

Technically, the highest client count on the genre is with us. It is around 230-240 clients active in a year. In terms of volumes, we are right among the top, if not the top.

We have a better value proposition for the advertisers in the sense that we, for example, have not been able to crack the HUL business for a while now. Until and unless the client sees the value proposition, we are not going out of the way to seek their business.

As far as the business is concerned, I have no reason to believe that we are any less than the top in the particular segment. Yes, certain tent pole properties might give an edge, only to say a channel like MTV, but not to anybody else.

So as far as the pure vanilla advertising business coming from advertisers is concerned, I would probably put up as a strong competitor. Purely talking about the advertiser lead business.

So what all new shows are coming?

We are looking at a healthy mix of new shows. There will be shows related to Bollywood and fashion. We are looking at properties which could probably like a Style-cop. We are also looking at a show which will bring in the advent of Bollywood stars on television, Telly Talk. The view primarily is to look at the cross-border pollination that has happened and focus on that angle on what‘s happening in the Bollywood space.

We have just launched Big Story and, yes, there will be some shows which will be built for appointment viewing, but not with beeps and pixels. We will be unveiling them shortly.

We will also be shortly announcing Bollywood Summit.



Your comments on the genre you are in?

The genre is very dynamic; audience is fickle, every year 10 per cent of audience moves out and a new set of audience comes in. It is just 9 years old and the attention span is small. So we go all out to tap that audience.

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