Zee's digital plan: Apps for all

The title of Zee TV's latest primetime offering - Connected Hum Tum - inadvertently spells out the predicament most general entertainment channels (GECs) find themselves in today.

Indeed, be it a Sony Entertainment Television, Star Plus, Colors or Zee, given the increasingly competitive TVT scenario, every channel today faces the continual challenge of staying connected to stay in the minds of its audience.

Zee TV has differentiated its digital presence based on the kind of shows on air. Right from religious, musical, self-help to horror programmes, says Akash Chawla

So, how do channels go about cracking this rather tough nut? How do they perfect the science of understanding viewer habits amidst the growing clutter of GECs? Apparently, they've found the perfect solution in social media.

True. From being just an informal platform for friends to chat and share pictures, social media has evolved into the most preferred medium to stay connected and TV channels are no exception to this norm.

In fact, kick-started its digital series in a bid to understand the individual digital strategy of each television channel within our purview. After a close look at the digital strategies adopted by the likes of Sony Entertainment Television, Star Plus and Colors, we now take a sneak peek at the digital approach of Zee TV.

With a slew of social media initiatives including mobile apps and missed call theory incorporated into its reality shows, Zee TV has tried to stay on top of its game as far as remaining connected with its audiences. Let's take a look at what's on offer...

A finger in every digital pie

Zee TV's tryst with the digital space began in 2009 when it launched its official channel on YouTube.

Today, the YouTube channel boasts 613,650 subscribers, with over 428 million views of the 30,950 videos, making it one of the most viewed channels on YouTube.

Episodes of daily soaps like Qubool Hai, Pavitra Rishta, Jodha Akbar and Punarvivaah as well as reality shows like Connected Hum Tum and Dance India Dance Super Moms are regularly uploaded on the YouTube channel. These apart, "Episodes of previously aired popular soaps like Chhoti Bahu, Star Ya Rockstar, DID Li'l Masters 2 and Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli are also made available on it," informs Zee marketing head, national channels, Akash Chawla.

The mainstay platform of Zee has web exclusive content, photo galleries, polls, full schedule of the shows and much more

Apparently, "Qubool Hai - the sweet, light-hearted love story of Asad and Zoya and their families leads the pack on the Zee YouTube channel," reveals Chawla, adding, "We get an average of 1,60,000 views per episode of Qubool Hai uploaded on our YouTube channel." Pavitra Rishta follows suit with an average of 50,000 views per episode

Apart from the YouTube channel, Zee TV keeps its viewers updated about the cast of its shows, teasers of upcoming episodes, and show launches through its official Facebook page that boasts 422,915 likes and more than 23,500 fans in constant discussion.

"Even our shows have a huge following with pps that engage the audience. Dance India Dance for instance has 503,700 likes with 13,000 plus active followers," gushes Chawla, adding, "The last season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa attracted 0.15 million likes, and the number of active users went up to 8,000 while the show was on-air."

Hum, tum aur social media

Zee’s latest primetime offering Connected Hum Tum is the latest in its endeavours in the digital space.

Even before the show premiered on television, Zee created original parallel online content to promote it.

Short comic videos were created with the central theme of ‘Men Who Understand Women’ Society. They all had a crew turning up during scenarios where the man is clueless about what has upset his woman and provide him with remedial measures. Parodies of real-life situations, the videos all but left the audiences in splits.

A month prior to the show launch, Zee created a wave of curiosity around it through daily teaser posts on Facebook and Twitter. These built intrigue around the show’s novel concept and the identity of its celebrity host.

Ultimately, “When Abhay Deol was revealed as the host, the social media space kept buzzing with pictorial posts of the actor with his tongue-in-cheek commentary about women and how he just cannot understand them! The title song of the show - a fresh, catchy video featuring the actor, was launched on YouTube and all other video platforms alongside its on-air launch,” Chawla informs about Zee’s social media strategy during the launch of this show.

He points out that on the anvil are live chats with Abhay on Twitter, Google hangouts with the participants and live tweeting during the telecast of an episode with an on-air twitter feed - all to drive increased viewer interactivity and participation.

Zee TV has also created a YouTube gadget, which serves as the primary engagement platform for audiences to consume Connected Hum Tum online. It has episodes, uncut videos, a discussion forum on the themes of daily episodes, and video biographies of the six protagonists - all updated on a day-to-day basis.

Going a step further, Zee TV has differentiated its digital presence based on the kind of shows on air. "Right from religious, musical, self-help to horror programmes, we have apps for all," informs Chawla. "When Ramayan was first telecast on Zee, the channel launched a virtual Ram Mandir app on Facebook. This helped people to perform virtual aarti. We got an impressive 10,000 page views for this app, within the very first week," he says.

Similarly, when Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2012 was launched, Zee TV introduced the Call and Sing app, allowing fans to record their songs and post their recording either on their own walls or friends' walls. "This was a way to engage people, as they could now showcase their singing prowess to their friends and Zee TV followers alike," Chawla reveals.

It doesn't end there. Zee TV's Twitter handle, @ZeeTV, has nearly 73,233 followers. Interactions are usually driven by the channel and picked up by followers. Fans who are interested in behind-the-scenes gossip are kept updated through live tweets.

Exults Chawla: "Our comprehensive digital presence is further topped by the official website This being our mainstay, we use all other platforms to drive traffic towards the website, which is complete with a picture gallery, video uploads, trends, show trivia, news and discussions and much more."

During the audition of Dance India Dance 3, Zee TV went to the extent of allowing online entries. "We recorded a whopping 50,000 participants registering for auditions with votes reaching a cumulative figure of 1.75 lakh," says Chawla.

Mobile's the way to go

With Ditto TV, users can watch movies, television shows, sports and latest news and updates, at their own convenience, even when away from home says Manoj Padmanabhan

The launch of Ditto TV on 29 February 2012 marked the channel's foray into the mobile space. Ditto TV was unveiled as an Over-The-Top TV (OTT) distribution platform offering live TV channels and videos-on-demand (VOD) to consumers on their mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, entertainment boxes and connected TVs.

About Ditto TV, Zee business head, new media, Manoj Padmanabhan, says: "With Ditto TV, users can watch movies, television shows, sports and latest news and updates, at their own convenience, even when away from home."

The platform has a Movies-on-Demand section with close to 500 Hindi, English and regional movies, and a vast library of videos-on-demand from popular TV shows such as Hum Paanch, Saath Saath, MTV Coke Studio, MTV Bakra and Comedy Nights with Kapil as well as online content. 

"What's exciting is that users can watch missed episodes of their favourite on-air shows from Zee TV, Colors and other regional channels on Ditto TV within a few hours of their telecast on television," Padmanabhan informs.

With a presence across mobile platforms such as Android, iOS, Symbian, Windows 8 and Blackberry, Ditto TV has 65,210 likes on Facebook and 1,420 active followers on its Twitter handle - @ditto_tv.

Padmanabhan reveals that they recently launched an innovative teaser campaign on the Zee YouTube channel comprising interactive videos to give a fresh twist to the concept of 'anytime viewing'. He is quick to point out that though currently, most of their traffic is from India with only 10 per cent of their base being international users they plan to expand their international presence this year.

Zee's YouTube page has all the popular shows and gets more than 40,000 average video views per episode

Zee's next big initiative in the mobile space came with the launch of the Dance India Dance (DID) mobile WAP site and mobile app, which coincided with the third season of the show. This made DID the first ever reality show on Indian television to be present as an application on all mobile and digital platforms.

In March 2012, within three days of unveiling it, the app reported more than 10,000 downloads and rated 4.5 out of 5 on the Android app store - a very competitive score, considering the Android store is an open platform and the reviews therein are all user-generated.

About the overwhelming response, Chawla says: "The interactions with popular judges and contestants of the show made the mobile application go viral in the digital space, setting new benchmarks with 2,12,852 WAP site page hits, 18 lakh page views and 14,642 comments in the 'live comments' section within months of its launch."

Not only did the DID 3 app become a major hit in India but also in 25 other countries including the US and the UK. "It reinforced the fact that mobile marketing is the best way to capture the youth and the tech-savvy generation of smart phone and feature phone users," points out Chawla.

Riding on the success of the DID 3 app and following the overwhelming response to the initial episodes of DID L'il Masters, the app was converted to its DID l'il Masters avatar in May 2012. This actually made users come back for more.

Zee TV constantly updates its Facebook profile with pictures, polls and snippets

"Features like live chats and personalised dance tutorials with masters and skippers were introduced along with regular updates. A built in missed call feature allowed users to vote for their favourite contestants," says Chawla, adding, "There was an increase in the number of users with the official download count crossing three lakh downloads across all four platforms."

To top it all, the app won accolades from the marketing fraternity when it won a Gold and a Bronze at the Smarties 2012 and MMA Global for being the best mobile app and the missed call feature, respectively.

"The missed call feature recorded a landslide 56.1 million votes just through DID Li'l Masters 2," informs Chawla. Overall, Zee recorded a one million download mark among Hindi GECs for its non-fiction shows, demonstrating the success of its mobile app revolution.

While it may be safe to say Zee has been pressing all the right buttons digitally speaking, let's see what does the channel comes up with next considering creativity never ends in this space

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