"We are also looking at programmes where the entry point would be the male of the household" : Zee TV president Apurva Purohit

The cell phone buzzes constantly, but Apurva Purohit, president of Zee TV, the flagship channel of the Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Telefilms, doesn't mind attending to the calls that interrupt her breakfast at The Oberoi in New Delhi.

The calls are from advertisers, clients and media planners, all of whom are once again looking at Zee TV with a renewed interest and Purohit is happy to talk to them, at times cajoling them to have a dekko at certain products and look beyond the hype and hoopla.

She is also open for a freewheeling conversation and admits that things had gone wrong at Zee TV that needed rectifying. Having joined Zee TV at a time when the company was going through, probably, its worst phase with TRPs of programmes failing to register in the Top 50 --- occasional silver linings notwithstanding --- for the last two years or so, Purohit sounds and looks more confident. It is apparent when she jokingly asks, "So, what is the latest gossip on me? Am I leaving Zee or staying?" 

Zee TV may have consolidated its position a bit, but it certainly cannot be said to be out of the woods completely. Amidst such a scenario, being the president of the flagship channel is not an easy job. More so, when the president has to report to a hard taskmaster, the chairman of the company, Subhash Chandra.

A management graduate from IIM Bangalore, Purohit has been in the advertising and media business for 15 years and now, as she sits on the other side of the fence, sometimes the turn of events lands her in tricky situations.

Still, this time round, which happens to be her second encounter with, Purohit is less guarded. Excerpts from an interview with Anjan Mitra:


How do you view Zee TV now ?

Things have certainly looked up over the last few months. What is more heartening is that the strategies are paying off and no reactive steps are being taken. Rather, we are more pro-active and do understand that the business that we are in does experience ups and downs.

What has brought about this qualitative change, if one can call it that?

It all stems from the fact that we have a better understanding of the market now. Earlier, we at Zee TV were reacting to what others were doing. But the core team that was put together by Mr Chandra last year has been working on strategies that are discussed, analysed and then put into effect. There is more communication taking place, which is good for the channel as now nobody can say, or would say, a certain decision was taken without the others having knowledge of it. This also reduces chances of risks and biases creeping into the decision making process.

What sort of improvement has taken place?

Advertisers are looking at us again and with interest that can only be termed encouraging. Advertisers that had left us, have returned. In the last few months, some 60-odd big advertisers like Ujala that had stopped advertising on Zee TV have resurfaced. I can only term this trend positive. Most big spenders are there on Zee TV now, except HLL. We think we can net that one too.

Some of our programmes and serials too, are doing well and are being talked about.

What has triggered this change?

The Thursday Premieres have done the trick, I would say. The movies have been a huge hit and the revenues too, are encouraging. Audience has come on to Zee TV for the movies and many have stuck with the channel after that on other days. What's more, we have also almost recovered the money invested in the acquisition of the blockbuster movies aired on Thursdays.

Though it may not be the right analogy and comparison, but we hope that the Thursday Premieres will have the same effect as Kaun Banega Crorepati had on Star Plus and then, subsequently, on the whole network. We just hope that there are enough movies in the market for us to buy after we have exhausted the first 52 weeks.

The Thursday movies have clicked and getting you the TRPs, but what about other serials?

Serials like Chausanth Panne are doing very well as also the likes of Astitva.

I asked whether these serials and movies are getting you the TRPs or not?

It would be unethical on my part to talk about TRPs because we don't subscribe to TAM data. But we can certainly do with the TAM figures (Both Chausanth Panne and Astitva, as also the Hindi movies, do figure on TRP lists).


Is Zee as a company looking at going back into the TAM fold? After all it is the only industry yardstick that is there, no matter how flawed.

We may consider doing that. But before that happens, TAM has to spruce up its act. Its data is still not reflective of the ground realities. The sample size is still small, I think, and the coverage area needs to be expanded.

Can you illustrate why TAM data is not reflective of the ground realities? 

With apologies to TAM, since we don't subscribe to the data, we have seen that when TRPs of places like Madhya Pradesh and other Hindi belts are taken of Zee TV serials like Chausanth Panne, the GRPs have taken us ahead of Sony Entertainment. Now, why aren't such trends reflected in TAM data regularly as also the fact that women audiences are responsible for the popularity of Chausanth Panne?

Has TAM been made aware of Zee TV's viewpoints?

Of course. On various occasions I have personally brought up this subject that the sample size and coverage area need to be expanded. Considering when I was with an advertising agency, I used to advise my clients basing my facts on TAM data only. Now it's become a bit tricky.

"TAM has to spruce up its act. Its data is still not reflective of the ground realities"

Are you saying that Zee made a mistake by walking out on TAM ?

I would not like to comment on a decision taken by somebody else. All that I am saying is any industry yardstick is better than none. But people who are responsible for such industry-wide benchmarks must also try to make the system as foolproof as possible and must plug the loopholes.

What other programming steps are being taken by Zee TV to cash in on the gains accruing from 'Thursday Premieres'?

We are looking at developing the kids' band more. At the moment, except th Cartoon Network band, there is not much fare for children on Zee TV. Kids, we think, are an important segment of the TV viewing audiences and we must have more for them. Then, we are also looking at programmes where the entry point would be the male of the household; thereafter the whole family can watch it together. These are two things that we are trying to address in the immediate future.

Does that mean Zee TV is trying to woo back male viewers and would there be more action-oriented programmes that males generally love to watch?

The question is not of wooing back. Male viewers were always there. What we are talking about is that as in the case of Chausanth Panne and Astitva, the entry point is the female of the household, we are looking at programmes where the entry point would be the male member of the house. That does not mean that males don't watch Chausanth Panne; they certainly do.

It seems that Zee TV has changed its tactics and is not going in for big bang programming announcements as was done during the time of Sandeep Goyal. Right? 

We have decided that it is better to unveil few releases rather than do them at one go. You saw what happened in the past when 26 programmes were unveiled. There was so much glut that very few of those shows got to register with the viewers. For me now, it'd be one or two new programmes every quarter. No big bang announcements for now.

What is Apurva Purohit looking forward to by the end of this year?

She is looking forward to increased consolidation of Zee TV, increased revenues and to be few steps closer to where we belonged --- at the top.

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