'Digitization helped us become Maharashtra's No. 1 channel in reach:' Bavesh Janavlekar

MUMBAI: Even as the third phase of Dgiital Addressable System (DAS) is witnessing implementation issues across some states, the completion of Phase I and II has changed the broadcasting landscape to a large extent. One of the first genres to feel the benefits of digitization are the regional channels.


Speaking to about the same, Zee Talkies business head Bavesh Janavlekar says, "Earlier visibility of the channel was an issue in some of the areas but now with digitization, we don’t face that problem. Digitization helped us become the number one movie channel of Maharashtra and Phase III will also contribute considerably towards it."


In the Marathi regional channels' genre, Zee Talkies was in second spot in week 2 of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India data. Speaking about the strategy to stay on top in the pecking order, Janavlekar says, "We ensure that when it comes to our channel, we continue to have high points, which are relevant to our audience. We also make sure that the audience remains engaged with our brand. It's not only about watching Zee Talkies but also living it. Last year we had a contest in August - September wherein we received approximately 1.3 crore votes with people participating in our month long activity. One doesn’t get these kinds of numbers in Hindi mainline channels and hence the engagement is very important."


While many free to air channels like Zee Anmol and Star Utsav benefitted with the roll out of BARC's rural data, Janavlekar says that Zee Talkies' viewership numbers drastically reduced in the all India data. Before the industry starts trading on the BARC all India data, which will in turn also see a change in advertising rates, the channel has addressed this issue with BARC. "We are in conversation with BARC to deal with the issues that we are facing. Ad rates on the Marathi regional genre have not really gone up," he says.


Over the last couple of years, multiplexes have contributed immensely in the blossoming of regional cinema, specially Marathi films. While being critically acclaimed, movies have also been money churners at the box office. Some have even won National Awards. What's more, this year the Marathi movie Court was India’s official entry to the Oscars. In the light of this development, the satellite rights of Marathi films have also seen a rise of approximately 10 - 20 per cent.


"While there has been a rise in satellite rights acquisition price of Marathi films, there have been only a few examples of movies crossing a certain threshold. But undoubtedly the movies are doing well and an increase in box office collections, is good news for us," informs Janavlekar.


Explaining the dynamics of acquisition costs, he says that while the acquisition price of South Indian movies would be almost similar to Hindi movies, Marathi consumption was very exclusive. "There is a very minuscule population that watches only Marathi movies and 90 per cent of Maharashtrians in Maharashtra watch Hindi channels. However, that is not the case in the South, where only about 10 per cent of the population would watch Hindi channels," he says.


On the programming front, Zee Talkies launched a first of its kind short film format for the audience of Maharashtra with Talkies Lighthouse. The band was launched earlier this month wherein a series of handpicked short films are telecast in a 90-minute format.


The short films will be showcased by television and theatre actor Lalit Prabhakar and Neha Mahajan from the Coffee Aani Barach Kahi fame.


"There are lot of beautiful Marathi movies in short format and the access to those films was primarily confined to the digital space. Being the number one movie channel in Maharashtra, we thought of giving a larger platform to those stories and storytellers to reach out to the audiences. Another objective was to unearth new talent for the industry via this initiative. We believe this is the right time for us to experiment," says Janavlekar.


Come February, Zee Talkies will also invite people to participate in a contest after the series of short films are telecast. The contest will run from 20 February - 20 March and will ask people to send in their short films. The channel is planning to hold an on-ground film festival of the shortlisted entries. 


Zee Talkies has roped in Hero Motocorp - Duet as the presenting sponsor along with Mcvities and Whisper as the co-powered by sponsors for Talkies Lighthouse. Apart from these, the channel also has Dish TV, Parachute and Santoor as associate sponsors.


“The response has been good as many P&G brands for the show including Gillette and Olay came onboard. While the whole initiative was not commercially driven, I think we need to have a case study to have a rigorous sales pitch for the next year. In terms of advertising, we are very fortunate that P&G brands came on board. However, having said that, there is a long way to go in terms of brands coming on board for such formats,” says Janavlekar.


Experiential marketing is the buzz word these days and not the one to be left behind, Zee Talkies has also adopted that route while targeting its audience. "We focus more on engagement activities and contests. Apart from that, we try to do a lot on the digital platforms around Zee Network’s properties. We don’t really go for print advertisement," he says.

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