Television

'We are targeting around 60 to 70 % topline growth this fiscal' : Joy Chakraborthy - Zee Network executive V-P Network Sales

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Overseeing network sales for a media firm is what you would least expect a National Defence Academy graduate to end up doing. But Zee's Joy Chakraborthy has trodden different paths. Armed with a Masters in Marketing Management from NMIMS, this former Indian Air Force trainee pilot found his perfect landing in some of India's top media firms such as Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd., Star India and now Zee Telefilms Ltd.

As executive V-P, Network Sales, Zee Network, Chakraborthy is reunited with his former boss and mentor from his Times of India days Pradeep Guha. "It was the thought of working with Guha in a well-established company that brought me to Zee Network," he says.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Bijoy A K, Chakraborthy explains the game plan ahead.

Excerpts:

You joined Zee Network at the end of the 2004-2005 fiscal. Since you had a fresh year (2005-2006) to start with, tell us about your plans for the fiscal. What are the targets?

Network sales is our big initiative for this fiscal. We felt that, instead of having ten executives going to the agencies from our various channels, it would be more effective if one person represents the network for all channels. We have implemented the system with Group M and Madison and in the Southern and Eastern markets also in a full-fledged manner. It saves a lot of time as the agencies and clients have a one point contact in the company. The relationships with agencies and clients also get better.

Right now there is a buzz in the company. Various experienced hands from other media firms have joined Zee's existing team, which has already proven its worth. We have also roped in new clients.

Speaking about targets, Zee as a company is on a rise. We are targeting around 60 to 70 per cent topline growth this fiscal. It varies from channel to channel. There are genres that have got better potential to grow. We have stepped up our efforts in the regional markets also.

Zee Network is attempting a major makeover this year in terms of programming and presentation. Have these efforts helped the network's sales initiatives? If yes, to what extent?

Speaking about presentation, the efforts are meant to bring a unified identity across the network. These efforts are in tandem with what we are doing on the network sales front, which is to bring in a uniform network sales policy. The end result we want is the same: No room for confusion about the identity and sales policy of the network channels.

Has the network sales strategy any disadvantages?

We have initiated this practice with only big agencies. Now my only concern is about some small retail clients. There the owner is the decision-maker and TV is something new to them. Getting these clients across the network may be difficult. So there the strategy should be channel specific. This scenario might improve in the future when they get used to TV as an ad medium.

Unlike Star, you haven't made your rate card public? Star's argument is that it helps transparency. What is Zee's take on this?

Our rate card works on demand and supply. Also, the rate card keeps changing because we work on categories. Depending on the performance of programmes and new launches, the categories keep changing. And also, our deals don't have any hidden costs. This is because Zee doesn't have a bonus system. We have a very transparent system. Till last year, we had a bonus system. Now we don't need to pay bonus and all our spots are paid. People know what kind of billing is been attached to a particular programme.

You came to Zee from Star. What has been the biggest difference (if any) in approach between both networks when it comes to ad sales?

Zee has got very tight operations in terms of back end. The company has an audited back end since it is a listed company. We have this facility called e-login for the back end. Unlike in Star, it is not manual. Here, the way the deal is done and implemented is different. What has been agreed upon in the final meet will be delivered unchanged on time. We are very particular on paid checks, credits and credit valuation.

'We may not have the numbers, but we ideally deserve it'

This year, Zee TV is seen to really be in fast forward mode. With a slew of new launches, the channel is putting its best efforts to better its performance. Have these new initiatives started delivering on the revenue side?

On the revenue side, yes for sure. See all these are good and high-investment programmes. And it is been done very well. For example, Time Bomb is done by Ketan Mehta and this also coincides with his movie Mangal Pandey. So the market perception has improved. We may not have the numbers, but we ideally deserve it. Anyway, the perception value has gone up big time. There has been a revenue increase, thanks to all these new programmes we have launched. Time Bomb charges the highest, which is approximately Rs 55,000 to Rs 65,000 for 10 seconds on Zee TV.

All our primetime shows are sold at a premium and the inventories are running full and hence we have increased all our ad rates to around 15 per cent to 20 per cent. There is a perception that Zee's inventory is unlimited which is not a reality. Zee has an inventory cap like anybody else. And our inventory is as much as what competitive channels are selling.

Looking at Tam ratings so far, big ticket shows like Time Bomb and Sarrkkar haven't really delivered. What is the response from your advertisers regarding this?

The agencies and clients know that Zee is distributed very well everywhere in the country. People watch Zee programmes. Why it is not reflecting on our numbers, it is something we need to question. Even in this scenario, advertisers support us. They are confident about Zee's hold on the market.

And looking ahead, what are the properties that you believe will drive revenues in this fiscal?

Revenues are driven by programmes and we have programmes that are doing well. On the movie front we have big properties including Aitraaz and Kisna coming up. We are in the process of working on more big properties including Business Baazigar. The language space has been doing fabulously well. We have event-based properties coming up in Zee Marathi. The Zee Marathi Awards will be followed by properties based on the Ganesh Festival.

Speaking about English channels, we were perceived as a repeat channel. Believe me, the new content and new movies we have acquired this year has put Zee Studio in the league of Star Movies and HBO. We have good programming coming up both on Zee Café and Zee Studio.

Zee Cinema has been talking about doubling its advertising rates. Since you have introduced bouquet sales for your clients, how will you take this plan ahead?

We have done that. People may say that cinema channels are basically frequency channels, but Zee Cinema is a reach channel. Its average GRPs are in the range of 190 - 195, which is number two after Star Plus. Zee Cinema has been doing exceptionally well since the last seven-eight months in a consistent manner. Naturally, buyers are convinced and confident about it. The rate increase has been accepted in the market place.

When you acquire big movies like Mujse Shaadi Karogi (MSK), taking into account the huge amount that is spent on marketing and acquisition, how does the sales department handle the task of recovering costs? How many airings do you require to break even?

We recover the cost in the first airing itself. Since such properties are promoted well, people like to be sponsors of the programme and capitalise on the buzz created. Since there is this demand, we price it in such a way that we recover the cost. Blockbusters are sold at a premium. People like to invest here because the results are guaranteed.

After MSK, have you fixed any similar "Big One" now for the second half?

We don't want to be repetitive. More than blockbusters, we try to capitalise on the impressive library of super hit films we have. We have an excellent Amitabh collection and Zee Cinema has been exploiting it really well.

How has the media community received Zee Smile? Any unique strategy that you have designed specifically around it?

It is a mass channel and it completes the bouquet. The sales team has started cashing on the channel. We have got around 23 new brands on air in Zee Smile and we all are very gung ho about it. Initially, we had invitation prices. Now we are looking at long term deals. Performance-wise, the channel is doing very well in markets like MP and Orissa, Rajasthan and Punjab.

'The Telecom sector is turning out to be a big spender for the electronic media'

How are your regional channels structured, selling wise and in terms of executive responsibility? Which is the channel that is delivering the most?

I handle Zee's Marathi, Gujarati and Bangla channels. The regional sales team is divided into corporate sales and retail sales. Retail sales is based in those rural markets. The revenue skew is 70 per cent to 30 per cent where 70 per cent is delivered by corporate sales. I want to change it to 60 per cent to 40 per cent. Revenue wise, the Marathi and Bangla markets have got great potential because they have strong regional markets. For a corporate client, regional advertising provides an incremental reach while for a retail client it means full reach.

There is this opinion that Zee lags in marketing. Similarly, have you identified any serious issue in ad sales?

There is not any serious issue. We have a highly motivated sales team. The sales team has been covering the market very well. Even the competitors monitor Zee's clientele.

According to you, which are the Zee network channels that deserve more attention?

Positive attention is required by all. The main focus is on Zee TV since it is a mass channel. We have a lot of new programmes coming up and some of them are high-investment big ticket shows.

These days, we have channels adopting strategies like product placement and branding. Are there any other similar initiatives that you have done or are planning to do?

We are strictly doing product placements on revenue basis, not on value addition basis. Right now we are doing passive placements. We did active placement in Kareena Kareena which was a great success.

Other than that, what are the new revenue streams which TV channels can explore and exploit?

One non traditional revenue stream could be the scrolls. But it is for regional channels and for retail advertisers. We use scrolls in non-primetime in our regional channels.

What is your strategy for selling events?

Rates are based on demand, supply, perception and market deliverables. Events are done for revenues as well as for image building. The Zee Cine Awards this year recorded a 60 per cent to 70 per cent rise in revenues compared to the year before.

Can you give us a rough total on the number of advertisers you have presently? Which are the top five spenders?

In the network we have approximately 300 corporate and 200 retail advertisers. The top five would be Reckitt Benckiser, Paras, P&G, HLL and ITC.

Is there a difference in the profile between those who advertise on Zee TV and Zee Cinema?

The same clients who advertise on Zee Cinema advertise on Zee TV also. There is no marked difference. It is the question of affordability. Zee TV is priced higher than Zee Cinema. Otherwise all the clients are the same.

Have you seen any new brands/categories coming in?

We have all the brands on both the channels. Telecom and the banking sector could be regarded as evolving categories. With the mobile becoming so affordable these days, the Telecom sector is turning out to be a big spender for the electronic media.

What have been your experiences in negotiating with media planners and buyers across markets?

Exciting! They are looking for value for money and we are looking for increase of yield. The latest NRS study has projected 43 per cent increase in the C&S base. So, now we want people to pay at least 43 per cent increase that will justify the expansion of the market.

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