Television

Marketing, promotion the &TV way

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And in 2015 a new benchmark has been set on how to launch a new channel in the hyper competitive and challenging Indian TV ecosystem. We are referring to the effort that is being put behind the unveiling of Zee Network's &TV on 2 March.

In what could be labelled as an extremely well coordinated exercise, the brand has been in your face everywhere you go... in the streets, on television, in print, on radio, online and in social conversation. Estimates are that the network has laid out an advertising and marketing war chest of more than Rs 100 crore. All that is left is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come out and endorse it! Or the once again emerging common man’s political and social poster boy - Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to mention it.

India’s oldest and most successful television and media industry monitor Indiantelevision.com has also been roped in as a partner by India’s oldest television network for the &TV launch. Hence, you will see a coordinated activity on the site. The ‘Indian’ in our masthead has been merged with one of the key messages it is trying to convey: television in our country will now be referred to as &ndiantelevision. Every ‘and’ reference in our stories has been replaced by the channel’s logo. We were more than willing to partake of this marketing and social experiment, as it is only for a day.

It is a messaging and marketing innovation, which we believe has not been done before, and will definitely merit a case study going forward. We believe the more discerning and progressive will see it as such. It is an era of partnerships, and who else but Indiantelevision.com (which has been serving at least two generations of leadership and several more generations of low - and mid-management in the privately run television industry since it started in the early nineties) would dare to venture to take this pioneering step.

Clearly, what was once perceived as a conservative and ‘Lala’ media group has engineered a campaign that would do any of the more experienced marketing mavens in Unilever India or Procter & Gamble or Coke or Pepsi proud.

There is ample reason for the Subhash Chandra promoted and now run by his son Punit Goenka, Zee Network to go into a marketing overdrive for &TV. The channel is launching in the thick of cricket season: the exciting World Cup is on and Dhoni’s team has once again found its form. This is exciting India’s cricket mad TV viewers to start visualizing and wanting another India victory in the prestigious once in four years prize. Ratings for Star Sports have been like never before and around half of the Indian TV viewing audience stayed glued to their TV set to watch our men in blue thrash the boys in green from Pakistan in India’s opening match. Even repeat telecasts were tuned in to later in the evening, as were the analysis and magazine shows on Star Sports.

While the World Cup will culminate end-March, it will soon to be followed by the slam bam version of the gentleman's game the money spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) on the Sony Entertainment network in April. Even though riddled with controversy, the cricket league has been attracting eyeballs over the years. And should continue to do so in the 2015 season too.

If one were to be a critic and point out a single flaw in the &TV campaign, it could be the over dependence of the channel on projecting one programme - the Shah Rukh Khan-hosted India Poochega Sabse Shaana Kaun. While it is a good strategy to use arguably India’s best known Bollywood face and the second richest actor in the world, it also means the show will have to measure up and meet the expectations it has raised in the minds of viewers. Yes, two other shows Razia Sultan and Begusarai are also being promoted but the decibel levels are lower than that for the Shah Rukh show. And Shah Rukh has not really set the small screen on fire in his earlier sojourns as the host of shows like Zor Ka Jhatka, Kaun Banega Crorepati or Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain, though the telecast of his films on TV has been good reason for viewers to stay put at home in the past.

However, Goenka like his father is emerging as a business executive who is willing to take risks - some may say an expensive one. But the fact is that if the show catches on, he could well end up getting loads of praises and advertising dollars. If it doesn’t it could well prove a driver for other shows on the channel.

Colors used this strategy at the time of its launch: Akshay Kumar became its  face, and though his Khatron Ke Khiladi did not get very high numbers as one would have expected, it worked like a magnet and drew audiences into the channel’s other shows and positioned Colors in the minds of viewers as an edgy and differentiated channel.

If that is the strategy that Goenka and the &TV team lead by Rajesh Iyer are following (Iyer was associated with the Colors launch as well), then the other shows will have to really deliver. Prima facie the Zee Network seems to have raised the bar on production values if one looks at the shows on its new offering. The effort has been to keep the story telling and narrative for its fiction shows differentiated. Hopefully, India’s general entertainment viewers perceive the effort as such with &TV too.

The new GEC is also launching at the time when a new TV viewership measurement system BARC is about to start rolling out its services. Who knows what surprises it may throw up as it has used newer metrics for placing its viewership meters in its 20,000 strong universe. The surprises could well end up working in the Zee Network's and &TV’s favour.

However, recent efforts to innovate in India’s Hindi general entertainment genre with linear channels have met with a rather tepid response. Star’s Life OK shone briefly, Zee TV’s Zindagi got critical acclaim but limited audiences and Sony Entertainment’s Pal was not well received by viewers.

We will know soon enough whether &TV has what it takes. For that, it’s over to the audience.

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