Television

I go by my gut feeling: Punit Goenka

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MUMBAI: Carrying forward Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) brand positioning statement, 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - The World is My Family', the country’s oldest entertainment network, is launching a new GEC, Zindagi, on 23 June. The third GEC offering from the Zee stable will showcase soaps and telefilms from across the border. That the network had acquired Pakistani shows during Mipcom 2013 had been reported by indiantelevision.com.

According to Zeel MD & CEO Punit Goenka, “The focus will not be on the negativity but to bring out positivity between the two countries.” The two countries are separated by borders but the emotions and lifestyle of people on either side remains the same. “We want to join the two hearts,” he adds while emphasising on the tagline of the channel, Jodey dilon ko.

Replying to a question about whether the move will go down well with the Indian audiences, Goenka says, “I have always gone by my gut feeling and that is the most important for me.” Apparently, the network spent close to two and a half years on the process before making the announcement.

The channel did a lot of homework; so much so, that the channel roped in research agency AC Nielsen, to know what people want and what was their reaction when the promos of the shows was shown to them.

About Urdu posing a barrier, Goenka feels that like Hindi, Urdu too has undergone a change with the changing times. “Actually, the USP of the channel is the language. People are tired of the colloquial language and want that sophistication,” he says, adding that the channel caters to the classes and not the masses.

On one more GEC’s launch, BPN India CEO Suresh Balakrishnan feels that there is never too much of entertainment and more the merrier. As for the content from across the border he feels that a few years back Pakistani content was very popular amongst Indians. “But whether it will be able to work in today’s time is a little doubtful and one will have to wait and watch to see what happens next,” he says while applauding Zee’s attempt.

“News faces, new stories are bound to capture people’s attention and maybe down the line, the channel will be able to create a special niche of audience for itself,” he adds.

Shows like Zindagi gulzar hai, Aunn zara, Humsafar, Ishq ghumsguda promise to break the studio set-up of Indian daily soaps and promises to take one to the outer surroundings, as shown in the channel’s promotional video.

A separate team was created for the channel which the network doesn’t want cast in a similar mould as it other GECs. The team comprises Priyanka Datta as business head, Rahul Sharma as national sales head, Vanita Jain as programming head, Sumona Roy Sen as brand head, Shailja Kejriwal as the chief creative head for special projects and Akash Chawla as national channel marketing head.

Chawla has big plans for the channel’s pan-India launch. The marketing campaign teaser went online on 5 May and will spread to other mediums from 10 May onwards. A mix of 40-45 channels will soon start showing the brand film created by Kai Po Che director Abhishek Kapoor. Network channels too will put across the new channel’s message in their content. “The marketing campaign is going to be very innovative, be it print or otherwise. We are focusing a lot on OOH as well, this time,” said Chawla. Talks are on with various OOH players and more than 500 hoardings will be bought across the nation.

The channel’s creative duties will be handled by FCB Ulka while MEC is the media agency.

A staggering Rs 80-100 crore is expected to be invested on the campaign. “This is the first time a channel is being launched across the country, otherwise one focuses on the Hindi speaking markets (HSM) and then forgets about other markets,” Goenka points out.

In the near future, the plan is to get content from other countries (Middle East) as well if the content connects with viewers. At the same time, Zee will not shy away from creating original content for Zindagi either.

South East Asia is the main focal point for the channel and soon after its launch in India, Zindagi will go abroad. Talks are already on for output deals with Pakistan to simulcast content especially that created in India.

As of now, the channel is available only on SD and is priced much higher than other GECs at Rs 25.81. It will be available on both analog and digital platforms in the country.

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