'Cinema genre has grown 35 per cent. And not just cinema channels but general consumption of cinema': Zee Cinema, Zee Music business head Bharat Ranga

A complete team man, the newly appointed business head of Zee Cinema, Zee Music, and Premier, Action and Classic Cinema, Bharat Ranga is all geared and raring to go. Although he endorses healthy competition, he does not believe in sweating over the competition's every move.

Ranga joined Zee Telefilms in March 1998 and handled the sales and marketing of Zee Records. In the Year 1999-2000 Bharat was instrumental in organising the Zee Cine Awards. During the same time he also handled Film and Music advertising exposure business for the entire network. In 2002, he took over the ad-sales of Zee Cinema and Zee Music.

A postgraduate in business management from the University of Ajmer, Ranga prior to joining Zee, worked with The Times of India and and in Usha International as regional sales manager.'s Trupti Ghag met up with Ranga to talk about his vision, his aspirations and his pet passions, Zee Cinema, and Zee Music.

Read on for excerpts from the interview:

It's barely two weeks since you took over from Yogesh Radhakrishanan. And you seem to have taken to your new job like a fish to water...

It has been a complete mental shift in terms of responsibility, but in terms of orientation, I have been steadily preparing myself for the responsibility for the past five months. So, the induction has been quite gradual.

But gelling with the team has been good because all the other departments, including advertising, have been working closely ever since the SBU (strategic business unit) was set up at Zee Network, close to two and half years ago.

We have a system wherein the core teams co-exist and work together for the networks. Even when I was handling ad sales, we used to have quarterly channel conferences and pretty close discussions on all issues, including creative aspect. That was quite helpful in bringing about cohesiveness.

Yogesh was considered as someone who overlooked the business. We hear that you are more hands on with the day to day activities...

It is partly true. Yogesh is a part of the very senior core team of the network and is an entrepreneur. He is beyond just an executive format of working.

We worked pretty well as a team. In fact, even before I was appointed the business head, I worked closely with the operations and he (Radhakrishanan) was the one who was driving the whole business.

We were all conscious as to how we have to involve him or how he would contribute to the overall business. It is normal that a head looks at certain strategic issues like content, marketing, and actual business. But eventually you have people who are hands on and who can be built to a more mature and responsible position.

What are the ad sales learning's that you have brought to this very creative field?

Business and a sense of responsibility! Creativity, in my understanding, is just one aspect. You can buy creativity. Star Plus is a good example of that, where most of the creativity is bought.

The programming head's job is to pick up the best creative product. So, basically what you need to have is a business sense of what will work. You don't necessarily have to create.

The core competency has to be picking up the best creative, showcasing them on your platform, enhancing them, and cashing in on them.

Post revamp, what is the growth that you have seen in Zee Music?

The biggest jump that the channel has seen is that it has become a serious contender in the music genre. So much so that when we launched the campaign Sound of India, we immediately had a lot of activity from the biggies like Channel [V] and MTV.

Even when we launched Item Bomb, we had a lot of 'me too' launches happening. That means that whatever Zee Music has been doing has been creating ripples in the market. While it gives us a little confidence when we see the competition responding, when viewers respond we know we are on right track.

Slowly, but surely, the connectivity has gone up and that is because of the content. Brand campaigns like Sound of India have been noticed by people.

But it's not necessary that whatever has gone right has translated in terms of numbers. Music channels are not positioned as number driven channels, they are more as means of connecting with viewers or creating a brand image.

But aren't there a lot of government restrictions for live shows?

Not really! That applies more for other music channels because they do not operate from India (read MTV and Channel [V]). But we do have certain rigid procedures.

What about censorship of music content?

Both films and music are secondary software. Primarily, we offer what people like. And a handful of people cannot decide what the rest of the masses like. The procedure that we follow has got to do with our brand positioning. Zee Music is Sound of India, so we offer what India likes.

Indianness is something that we are committed to bring about and to a great extend we feel that masses in general do like longer version of songs rather than just the clips.

Other channels play more of new songs, which is where the concern of censorship lies.

'Programmes are just like fillers on cinema channels '

In a press conference earlier you said and I quote, "We have the biggest library of film and music . If we do not let others, I don't think they can play much music..."

It is going to be the reality. Very soon both film and music as a content will be very exclusive. Only the person who has the right to that song can play the song.

But aren't the variety shows like vignette, reality shows and Bollywood entertainment considered quite important for a music channel?

We do have a lot of programmes but unfortunately they have not been noticed much. We have been doing Bollywood activity month on month. Even this month there was a great activity done around Bride and Prejudice, we had Aishwarya Rai and Gurinder Chadda vignettes. But not many in the metro cities know about it. But so is not the case with mini-metros.

We are very strong in the north and in the east. But again north it is over and above Delhi, not necessarily Delhi. West, in the last three months, is picking up. In the areas where the connectivity is going, people are lapping it up.

But what has been the response from the advertising fraternity?

There has been a tremendous jump in terms of percentage, if I may say so. But I wouldn't like to talk in terms of percentage because that would mean that I have to talk about how good or bad we were last year.

Despite consistent efforts, cinema channels' do not enjoy as much appointment viewing. Am I correct?

So far it is true. But if you look at the pattern, there is a little unstructured pattern, which tells you that there are loyal viewers who switch on to the channel at a particular time. Although the viewer base is not large, it is loyal.

Cinema is not viewed for the entire three hours, the content therefore doesn't figure in 15 minutes + reach, which is why probably a longer appointment is not there. But the same is true for for music channels and news channels. Also, it all depends on the title you air.

What is Zee Cinema's prime time?

Our prime time starts at 5 o'clock.

Why isn't Zee Cinema keen on programming?

Because it never works. Programmes are just like fillers on cinema channels. If the viewers choice indicates otherwise, then maybe. But currently, the numbers haven't supported the programmes. That is the reason they are not there.

But there is a world beyond representative numbers and sooner or later when the universal data starts coming in, we will know what the real customer wants and we will provide it.

Is the competition hotting up in the genre?

Competition is brilliant and that's a good thing. Primarily, the cinema genre is growing and has grown by 35 per cent. And I am not talking about just cinema channels but consumption of cinema across channels.

Probably because somewhere down the line, life has become busy and people don't have time to go to cinema houses or probably because it offers assured content.

'Biggest jump that Zee Music has seen is that it is considered as a serious contender in the music genre'

But is competition really helping Zee Cinema grow?

Of course, every one including the leader also benefits. And therefore we need to capitalize it more than just on Zee Cinema and hence we have launched Premiere, Action and Classic.

What are Zee Cinema's acquisition plans for the 'Cinema Premiere' band?

Zee Cinema premiere is not like Zee's Premiere band. We have movies like Muskaan, which is a nice film, but it is not Yuva.

That is primarily because Zee Cinema has got a large number of viewers from metros and mini metros. We reach 42 per cent of television viewers, and in places where TV sets just have 10 channels. For them, Muskaan's life is of interest.

Cinema Premier band is not for metro viewers at all. It is for our core audience base, our loyalists.

Then do the advertisers think of Zee Cinema as a non metro channel?

Not at all! It is an ABCDE channel, of course.

As for Zee Music channel, why aren't you looking at the South?

You would be surprised to know that a lot of Hindi distribution money comes from the south. And in towns like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, both Hindi and English are getting as popular as their local language.

Consumption is going up but there is not much research to back it up. Hence, we don't view that on our priority list. We have to pay more attention to viewers who currently exist, which is north, east and west.

Is there a VJ hunt in store?

Yes, we would like to have young and fresh faces. We are planning a VJ hunt in November.

How has 'Item Bomb' fared? How are you building up to launch on 30 October?

The response has been amazing! We did not expect established brands in our competition to react, but it gave us a great feel that they did.

When we launch on 30 October, you would see that our connectivity has gone up.

There were people who were upset with the name Item Bomb, but we believed in being straight. Indians like it straight, they are much more mature than you think. So we called it Item Bomb because that is what we intend to give the viewers.

We are building up a lot of on air and off air excitement. A lot of trailers are currently running on the cable operators' channels. Yes there is going to be last hammering or master message for which we have tied up with indiatimes.

When is the next reality hunt launching?

After VJ hunt, I think we would be looking at another Item Bomb hunt. I believe that we should cash in on the popularity sooner, then build up hype again.

Are there any lifestyle shows planned on Zee Music?

No. We will first connect with music lovers and then extend our franchise. If we go ahead without that, then we are undervaluing the real strength that we have, which is music.

What is the total promotional budget that you have slotted for Zee Music?

I wouldn't like to share exact numbers. But yes, about 18-20 per cent of the programming cost. It might go up if we plan more reality hunts.
Is there any plan to take both Zee Music and Zee Cinema abroad in a big way?

Of course. Hindi music and films is bid overseas. And that is why B4U is making more money in the UK than they are doing here. But we are giving it six months for us to establish well here. But Zee Cinema and Zee Music will go as combo.

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