MUMBAI: There is no dearth of channels to choose from in India. Even with nearly 400 general entertainment channels (GECs) in various languages currently operating, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) believes that its new offering - Zindagi –that goes on air from 23 June, will be a league apart from the existing Hindi GECs including its own Zee TV.
“People’s tastes are evolving and so we have to create a standard for our offerings. There is a need for categorisation in Hindi GECs too. Many audiences in SEC A, SEC B and metros want good shows but don’t get them. This number represents about 40 per cent of the total audience but their time spent is less than 20 per cent to 25 per cent because they don’t get such good shows back-to-back. Zindagi seeks to create a new category here,” says Zeel chief content and creative officer Bharat Ranga.
The channel is the brainchild of Zeel chief creative special projects Shailja Kejriwal who has spent close to two years viewing and handpicking global content that can resonate with Indian audiences. “I was bored with what I was creating myself,” she says. “This channel is a great opportunity to see another culture which isn’t much different from ours. We will begin with the best shows from Pakistan because it has the greatest language affinity and then go on to co-producing our own shows depending on viewer feedback,” she adds. The channel will soon also telecast Pakistani movies.
Content on the new channel isn’t limited to our neighbouring country. Shows from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Latin America and Iran are also in the pipeline. Unlike the now extinct channel from Sahara-Firangi - that aired dubbed international content, Zee will be recreating international shows with Indian and Pakistani talent. The shows that have story affinity but not language will be remade and not dubbed. “So we will buy the licences for these shows and co-produce it using Indian and Pakistani producers, actors, directors, writers etc. Alongside we will also produce telefilms in a similar manner,” informs Kejriwal.
According to Kejriwal, telefilms are a necessity whether or not they get TAM ratings. “It will give an opportunity to new talent and new stories to be shown. When serials run for more than three or four years, they don’t leave space for new talent,” says she.
Zee also has plans for commissioned shows that will be created in both India and Pakistan. “So while we will have some Pakistani production houses making shows exclusively for Zindagi: shot, written and directed in Pakistan, there will also be shows that will be created here in India,” adds Kejriwal.
The channel aims at tapping those viewers who are open to variety in the content they consume. “It is not a homogenous viewing nation anymore. Many people want to see limited series and we will cater to them,” reveals Kejriwal.
The show timings are different from the usual ones. If one sees the channel profile, while Zindagi Gulzar Hai begins at 8:00 pm, Aunn Zara will go on air at 8:55 pm and Kaash Main Teri Beti Na Hoti at 9:45 pm every day of the week. While some shows will be weekly, a few will be dailies. The other shows in the channel programme bouquet include: Kitni Girhain Baqi Hain and Mera Naseeb.
Kejriwal states that she purposely wanted play with the usual time slots on existing channels. “I was tired of the same 9:00 pm, 9:30 pm, 10:00 pm slots. Life isn’t clockwork, it is between all this. It isn’t that at 9:35 pm there is no life,” she says. All the shows on the channel are periodic with about 45 shows to be aired every year.
The channel is available on all major DTH and cable TV platforms except for Sun Direct. The Rs 100 crore marketing plan entails a lot of outdoor, digital and print across the country in upscale areas with the concentration being in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana.
Says Ranga, “& Pictures has taken six to seven per cent channel share within eight months post launch. We believe Zindagi will do the same especially with digitisation setting in. Rather than be a victim of fragmentation we want to lead it. Before viewers go to Star Plus, we want to capture them on Zindagi.”
Speaking at a press conference, Pakistani TV actor Imran Abbas who will be seen as a lead in the show Mera Naseeb highlighted that Indian shows are very popular in Pakistan but awareness about Pakistani lifestyles is limited in India. “You will see something about Pakistan which you don’t see on news channels. People think that women in Pakistan only wear burqas which isn’t true. In fact even films don’t show the real side,” he says.
During the launch phase, the channel is looking at targeting premium brands to associate as brand partners. Askme.com and Fogg have already been roped in as sponsors.
How do media planners view the channel? Says Maxus managing partner for north and east Navin Khemka, “Historically, Pakistani content was always popular in India and vice versa. Viewers will get to sample a fresh channel with fresh faces. It will be a breath of fresh air and if they like it they will get hooked to it. Whatever the channel does later on will depend on the mark it makes with the Pakistani shows. If the channel manages 70-80 GRPs in the beginning, that’s good news, but if it garners 100 GRPs then that’s great news!”
With the launch of Zindagi, the network is fully focusing on its tagline ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ meaning ‘The World is my Family.’ As Abbas puts it, “People need Visas to travel, stories don’t.”