Content differentiation has been the clear winner for Zindagi: Punit Goenka

MUMBAI: A result of ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka’s gut feeling, Zindagi, the premium mass Hindi entertainment channel from the network, was meant to be a breath of fresh air in the cluttered market space.

Launched six months ago on 23 June, the channel promised to break out of the usual set framework and melodrama with the shows never seen on Indian small screens. Keeping true to its philosophy and tagline Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, shows from across the border were handpicked to meet the Indian sensibilities.

With 32 GVTs in week 51 of TAM TV ratings, the channel targeting at the CS4+ AB in Hindi speaking markets (HSM) is happy with its performance, so far. “Extremely delighted with the launch and the subsequent response we are getting from the viewers. The channel has been received very well and has a rapidly growing loyal base,” says Goenka who believes that Zindagi has managed to create a new category in the Hindi entertainment space and is the only premium Hindi channel in India.

The stories, when compared to the over-the-top (OTT) Hindi melodrama, have a realistic outlook. The natural settings and pragmatic acting make the shows like Humsafar, Maat, Kitni Girhain Baaki Hain stand true to its tagline ‘jodey dilon ko’. To top it all, it has made Pakistani actors household names so much so that many have entered Bollywood after the popularity gained here. “Zindagi has introduced many firsts on Indian televisions in the Hindi entertainment space today, be it finite nature of dramas or original soundtrack in every drama and many more,” pinpoints Goenka.

“Content is king and since launch, all that has been shown on Zindagi has appealed to audiences (males and females) of all ages,” adds the channel business head Priyanka Datta.

“The way we wanted to establish our channel, we have been able to achieve so,” says Zeel chief sales officer Ashish Sehgal. Butting the critics, who say that for a channel which wants to compete with the GECs hasn’t achieved the numbers needed to survive in the highly volatile market, Sehgal says, “TAM doesn’t have the ample sample size and most niche channels – English as well as infotainment – face the same number wrath.”

He goes on to explain that in the country, when it comes to compartmentalisation of genres, English means niche and Hindi means mass, which doesn’t stand correct for a channel like Zindagi. Catering to the “evolved” viewers who have the disposable income, the channel wants to tell the brands that it is a perfect platform to cater to the premium TG.

Started with only 20-25 clients, the channel now boasts of 100 clients. “We haven’t compromised on our pricing and are still getting new clients as well as repeat ones, which is a very good signal,” says Sehgal. The channel has jewellery brands, premium FMCG brands like P&G, Nestle amongst many others as its clientele. A 10 second ad rate at the core primetime demands from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 while non primetime varies from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000.

“The market is slowly accepting the channel as well as understanding its TG,” says Sehgal and adds, “One must understand that the channel was launched midyear and by then most media agencies had formed their key performance indicators (KPI) for their clients. Therefore, they either advised clients to come to us on their own or asked them to keep out. We are optimistic that things will change next year as agencies will support us and help us take our business higher.”

With marketing budget being 25 per cent of the entire pie, the channel aims to double its clientele as well as make it more acceptable to brands in the coming year. “The year 2015, will see us escalating our charge as we will build on marketing campaigns and continue to get newer faces and stories,” highlights Sehgal.

The channel isn’t affected by the two more channels, Sony Pal and Epic, which were launched after it. “Pal caters to SEC CD and Epic still has a long way to get people’s acceptance,” opines Sehgal while adding that Zindagi on the other hand has been able to tap into the audience’s mindset. “Unlike other established GECs also we have a very high, almost 90 per cent, engagement level with the fans on social media.” At the time of writing the article, the channel has 10.5k followers on Twitter while 314,971 likes on Facebook.

With storyline as its hero and an agenda of generating beyond Rs 100 crore revenue in 2015, the channel hopes to breakeven by 2016.  “Clearly and most definitely content and the content differentiation from what has been seen on television in the Indian sub continent till Zindagi was launched, has proved to be the clear winner,” opines Goenka on what makes the channel stand out.

On plans for the channel in the coming year, Datta says, “In the coming year, we will also start producing original content for Zindagi.”

“After the phenomenally encouraging response to the channel, we will definitely stay the course where Zindagi is concerned and will create and source stories from different demographics that will appeal to the sensibilities of discerning audience and bring freshness to storytelling style in India,” concludes Goenka.

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