Zee Cinema : Maximising the gains the new mantra

Our Zee trilogy, examining the three main channels that now constitute Subhash Chandra‘s Hindi entertainment play, concludes with Zee Cinema...

It was in May that Bharat Ranga, at the time managing both Zee Cinema and Zee Music, was told to devote his attention solely to the Group‘s movies channel. The network‘s think tank decided it was necessary to have a separate business head for the music channel as well. While this would provide both the business streams individual attention, the move also signified Zee‘s attempt to exploit the huge growth potential of the cinema genre to the maximum.

Says Ranga, "It is a planned move. Same chief for both the channels would have made sense in that initial period. Now it is a different situation altogether. Each channel has a business of its own. Cinema genre is growing and hence there is a huge scope of improvement. We are expecting a growth of 25 to 30 per cent this year. So, we are bound to be more aggressive."

So what‘s the plan? While refusing to divulge the exact details, Ranga leaves a lot to be guessed in his customary response. "We have various plans in mind. These can‘t be really called innovations. Recently, We have put our maximum efforts to know the viewers‘ needs and our plans will heavily rely on the kind of inputs we got."

Quiz him further and he says the channel has identified the upcoming Star Plus show KBC 2 as a major challenge in the weekend slots. "We are learning from past experiences. Though I can‘t reveal our exact plans, you can expect something big from us in August. The strategy won‘t depend on blockbuster screenings."

Blockbusters are definitely not the channel‘s success mantra. From its last three years‘ experience, the channel has learnt that the kind of spikes blockbusters create contribute very little to the overall growth. "In the past three years, the entire genre depended on premieres. We have learnt that we can‘t over-use this device. Almost 75 per cent of a movie channel‘s budget is spent on acquiring big movies. So, instead of just attempting viewership jerks, we need to use it intelligently," points out Ranga.

Intelligent jerks? Sounds interesting! But that is exactly what the channel did with its premiere of the blockbuster movie Mujhse Shaadi Karogi in March this year. Ranga & Co. worked overtime to create a marketing hype for the channel around this single property. As per industry estimates, the telecast rights were grabbed for around Rs 45 million and over Rs 10 million was spent to market the movie.

Zee Cinema conceived a reality game show Propose to Priyanka (P2P) and promoted the property across all media - print, radio, outdoor, SMS and Internet. By airing the show during the breaks of the MSK telecast, the channel made viewers stick on to the channel even during the intervals. According to Ranga, the innovative idea of promoting the breaks was taken from a channel in the Philippines. "P2P" promotions and the MSK campaign created a buzz for the channel.

Zee Cinema used print, radio, outdoor, SMS and Internet to create a buzz around ‘MSK‘

Ranga says hype was necessary in the present scenario. "Movie channels are drawing in new viewers at this juncture, a trend that has caught on since the last eight months. At a time when all the three movie channels are showing big films, it is crucial to build the image of the channel. This is why we decided to do a big campaign armed with a reality show to promote this movie."

Media agencies believe promoting big ticket movies should have such long term goals. Says Starcom MD (West and South) Ravi Kiran, "It is not right to judge such spends in isolation. It is the equity the channel is able to create that counts."

"MSK was the biggest premiere on Zee Cinema till date. The 360 degree marketing efforts were crucial because they were aimed not only at attracting viewers but, more importantly, to build the image of the channel," adds Madison media director Vanita Keswani.

On the promotions front, Zee Cinema has been trying everything possible. The same strategy used for MSK is used for some of the big movies from the Amitabh movie festival Shaniwar ki raat Amitabh ke saath. The channel conducted ground activities for movies Ankhein and Coolie. The brand film Paap Ka Anth the channel produced last year went on to win a gold for media category at Abby Awards 2005.

The brand film ‘Paap ka Anth‘ was released in theatres across the country

The fact that, post MSK, the channel didn‘t have a single biggy in its line-up supports Ranga‘s theory of not banking on blockbusters too much. Now the focus is on building strong brands across time bands. "Now it is common knowledge that movie channels have to rely on well-packaged blocks rather than these occasional outbursts. Our Amitabh movie festival is part of this strategy. More are in the pipeline," says Ranga.

Not surprisingly, compared to the earlier years, Zee Cinema has been lying low on the big property acquisition front this year. Some of the movies the channel has acquired this year so far include Kisna, Musafir, Aaitbaar and Raincoat.

As regards the competition, Zee Cinema is in a comfortable position. Except in the prime time (8 pm - 11 pm) band, the channel is ahead of its competitors, as per the TAM data [TG: CS 4+ Markets: HSM, Period: 27 March to 23 April (see chart)]. Set Max‘s strategy for this year revolves around the afternoon and Sundays where Zee Cinema is maintaining a strong position. Max has already kicked off an afternoon Madhuri film festival and in August it will launch a Sunday vertical aimed at urban audiences.

All Day
Prime Time

(8 pm - 11pm)

( Sat and Sun)

7am - 12 midnight
Zee Cinema
Set Max
Star Gold
Source: TAM, TG: CS 4+ Markets: HSM, Period: 27/3/05 to 23/4/05

Ranga is unperturbed. "We respect our competition. We are not doing anything specific in these blocks because competition is doing something. But we will go ahead with our plans, which is, giving viewers what they want. We are confident about it." he says.

That confidence is reflected in the channel‘s aggressive plans on the ad sales front. As already reported by, with an expectation that the movie channel genre would further grow in viewership this year, Zee Cinema has decided to double its ad rates. "We have made up our mind to activate a 100 per cent hike on our rates. We have already conveyed our plans to our clients and the planners," says Ranga.

"While there was a 12 to 13 per cent increase in the audience share last year among all movie channels, the advertising revenue grew by only five to six per cent. The audience share is expected to grow by 25 to 30 per cent this year. Naturally, we sense a huge scope for growth for movie channels on the ad revenue front," he adds.

It may be noted that the channel had instituted a 30 per cent hike in its ad rates early this year. But now the feeling is that it deserves a bigger increment. "That time, we didn‘t increase the rates the way we should have. The channel deserves much more than what it is now getting. It is not an irrational price level we are looking at. I feel that a 100 per cent hike is justifiable," says Ranga.

Zee Cinema has been the number two revenue earner for Zee Network last fiscal, behind the flagship channel Zee TV. "Last fiscal, our ad revenues went up by 45 per cent while viewership recorded a 15 per cent increase," Ranga says.

With Sahara launching its movie channel Filmi and B4U Movies planning a comeback, competition is only going to get tougher. Zee Cinema‘s eyes are on better returns and that sets the ground for an exciting contest.

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