Zee Smile: Completing the curve

 The second of a three-part special series examining the three main channels that now constitute Subhash Chandra?s Hindi entertainment play, we examine Zee Smile...

Early this year, when this correspondent sought an appointment with Zee Smile business head Nitin Vaidya to do a progress report on Zee?s fun channel, the response was not very encouraging. The refusal came with the apology that the channel is not yet ready to ?smile?.

The wait ended in May when Zee Smile snatched the microphone and announced to the world it had arrived. The claim, made in the first half of May, was for a grin?ful? 44 GRP channel share. This time Vaidya was all ready to talk, though his genuine humility made him say, "We are not at all satisfied. We have a long way to go."

Though no figures are available, the channel is currently on a re-launch mode, spending heavily on production and promotion. This is, after it worked out -- to an extent -- distribution headaches. Vaidya says the connectivity issues, which forced the channel to remain passive for almost a year, have been sorted out now.

"Distribution-wise, we are banking on the strong market equity of our distribution bouquet Zee Turner. The good performance Zee Smile delivered in recent times has convinced the cable networks," he says.

As part of the re-launch exercise, Zee has started seriously selling the channel. "Selling has just begun. We have started getting very good response from the advertisers and buying is now happening. We have been approached by various prominent players," Vaidya asserts.

Speaking about the channel positioning, Vaidya says it targets all TGs and there is no segregation in terms of SECs either. "We are not going to confuse audiences with genres. Anything that attracts eyeballs will be there," he says. ?A feel-good channel for all in the family? is how Vaidya describes Zee Smile.

"Our plan is to move away from tearjerkers. Through various studies, we have reached this conclusion that viewers look forward to tension-free shows on television after a hard day?s work. So our effort is to provide him fun and entertainment throughout," says Vaidya.

Channel Age groups Sex ratio
4-14 yrs 15-24 yrs 25-34 yrs 35 yrs + Female Male
Zee Smile 23 28 19 30 44 56
Sab TV 18 25 17 40 43 57
Source: Tam TG: CS4 years+ HSM Period: 29/5/05 to 04/6/05

Apart from sitcoms, Zee Smile will air other entertainment properties such as game shows and music shows in a bid to entertain people in a positive way, minus tear-jerkers and other tensions that abound in serials on other channels. The channel is planning to pick up some globally accepted comic formats. The talks have already been initiated.

"We are in talks with various agencies to acquire successful global as well as Indian formats. Discussions with various prominent producers are also on," says Vaidya.

Will all this cheerfulness win over audiences? Before it kicked off its new launches, Zee Smile activated an extensive promotional campaign in May. The marketing initiatives have taken care of the channel?s positioning as a feel-good channel for the fun-loving crowd.

The channel formed marketing tie-ups with Barista, which is essentially a youth hangout, and retail outlet major Big Bazaar to boost visibility. Colleges too are being targeted for on-ground events. The channel has also started advertising in theatres now.

Zee Smile kicked off its promotional campaign in early May. The first phase of the campaign projected Zee Smile as various products such as pain reliever, beauty cream and energy drinks. The attempt was to position the channel as an alternative that can get rid of worries. The channel is being cross promoted on the network as well. Smile has also produced two brand films which are currently running across the network.

The second phase of the campaign relies mainly on the new launches. After acquiring popular Doordarshan shows, including Nukkad, Wagle ki Duniya and Wilayatee Babu, in April, the channel launched three new programmes -- Fifty-Fifty, Home Sweet Home and Bechara Big B -- in May.

Within two months, the complete FPC of the channel will undergo a change. The primetime line up will have fresh shows. This month, it is launching the Ravi Rai-directed soap Fool too Paagal Hai while there are three new shows planned for August.

With direct competitor Sab TV getting ready for some serious fun under its new mentor Sony Entertainment Television, it was necessary for Zee Smile to create a buzz in the market, reminding audiences about its presence. That has been achieved and the next round of the battle will be fought in the TRP ring. Vaidya is confident: "It required Ramayana and Mahabharata to prove the worth of Sundays on Indian television. So you need brave experiments to re-write the market formula and we are exactly doing that," he quips.

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