Zee Marathi: Sustaining values, evolving expressions

MUMBAI: One of the strongest channels in the Zee Entertainment stable, Zee Marathi, has been a leader of the genre for quite some time. Nearly 15 years in the genre, it has seen itself transform from Alpha Marathi to Zee Marathi.

With high TAM ratings to back it, the channel has sustained its values over time through the kind of story telling that it does to viewers. While now, the channel has turned its focus to get younger audiences hooked to its shows, it faces several challenges.

Zee Marathi business head Deepak Rajadhyaksha says that over the years the Marathi general entertainment channel (GEC) has managed to keep its values intact as time progressed. Two new shows launched by the channel are proof of the same. Ka Re Durava is a story about a married couple in an office who have to pretend to be unmarried for some reasons while Honar Sun Mi Ya Gharachi is about a woman from a nuclear family who gets married into a joint family with six mother-in-laws and how she deals with them.

“We are a youth inclusive show. Our survey in Maharashtra led us to understand what today’s youth is interested in, how is his lifestyle, thought process and TV consumption, which we incorporate in our shows. The youth of today will be our main target tomorrow,” says Rajadhyaksha. He goes on to add, “Ka re Durava has a young married modern couple. If a similar story was there in the previous generation shows, the same understanding and support system would have been missing.”

The in-house research showed some important findings for the channel- the youth had the ability to take risks, extremely smart and not stuck in complexities of relationships and are very social media savvy. These findings were similar for both urban and rural areas.

Another show Julun Yeti Reshamgathi shows the lead woman leaving her boyfriend and getting married to a man chosen by her parents. When she tells her husband about him, he asks her if she wants to go back to him, but she stays on and slowly falls in love with him. While the family comes to know of it and starts doubting her, she has her husband’s support. “We deal with issues in a non-dramatic way but such is the pattern of storytelling that we follow,” says Rajadhyaksha.

Regional channels usually end up taking shows from Hindi and showing it to its viewers. But Zee Marathi says that in its case, it’s the reverse. Honar Sun Mi Ya Gharachi has been adapted for Zee Kannada with a request to also adapt Eka Lagnachi Dusri Goshta. Zee Telugu has also asked to adapt some shows from the Marathi GEC while the network’s flagship channel Zee Marathi has also pitched in for Honar Sun Mi.

Budget restrictions disallow them from experimenting too much with non-fiction but it does as much as it can. The recently launched Jai Malhar is the first mythological show in the genre costing nearly Rs 10 crore for the series. Home Minister and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa are famous in-house properties with the former in its eleventh year, since the channel does not believe in remaking international formats.

While most Hindi GECs still work on the endless show format, Zee Marathi has kept the 9pm slot as a finite story band. Rajadhyaksha says that its viewers are now acquainted to this slot and are smart enough to understand the time period of shows. A month before the show ends, viewers are informed, either indirectly or directly, about it.

However, even though TAM considers a Maharashtra population of 4.72 crore viewers, it still has to penetrate 25 per cent of the state. Digitisation has helped it reach metros well, but they along with LC1 markets still remain a challenge. “The borders are the toughest market for us to crack, near Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Hindi is widely spoken here and it’s difficult to pull Hindi viewers to Marathi because Hindi shows are grander than ours. But slowly and gradually we will be in a position to capture them too,” says Rajadhyaksha.

Digitisation and implementation of the 12 minute ad cap has allowed them to increase ad rates by around 20 to 25 per cent overall and around 35 per cent for primetime. Subscription rates have increased by 13 per cent since last financial year.

Currently about 15 per cent of its viewers are youth. For the tech savvy generation, all its shows are available online with two people employed for the digital medium. At the same time, out of India markets such as the UK, South East Asia, UAE, Mauritius, Australia and the US are prominent pockets.

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