2019: A year that was for English GECs

In 2020, consumer experience alongside engaging content will be key growth drives for English GECs


MUMBAI: 2019 was all about implementation and the impact of new tariff order (NTO). It has been a year of disruption and innovation for the industry. Overall it was a challenging year for niche channels but throughout the year, channels made various efforts to overcome them and retain its consumer base. Going forward in 2020, leading English GECs, Zee Café and Colors Infinity, plan to offer innovative and engaging content to strengthen their subscriber base. The sector hopes for stability and positive growth in the broadcast industry. 

“NTO implemented in Feb 2019 impacted reach and ad sales and broadcasters have been managing this change to get to a new equilibrium. We hope proposed tweaks to the regulation will further help stability,” says Times Network MD and CEO MK Anand. “Consolidation in the M&E sector will continue in FY'20. This will have a positive impact on cost efficiencies and the overall competitiveness of the broadcast industry.”

“After months of tepid and negative performance across the board, some ad categories are expected to see a resurgence in FY'20, which will be a welcome respite to broadcasters,” he adds. 

Zee Café’s big focus for the year ahead is to drive subscriber value. “Consumer experience alongside engaging content will be key to driving growth. Businesses that quickly adapt to the new tariff regime and align growth levers to solve for relevant consumer needs will ultimately benefit,” says ZEE Entertainment premium cluster business head Kartik Mahadev. 

Similarly, Viacom18’s English cluster will bring unique international content and continue to explore more concepts that attract viewers, partner brands and sponsors. It will continue to consolidate and bolster by engaging with consumers and offer the best of international content, awards, music events and homegrown content. Adding new shows to the existing line-up as well as broadcasting the biggest entertainment events and music awards including the Golden Globe Awards, Billboards, American & Europe Music Awards, Brit Awards, and the Grammy Awards amongst others.

Viacom18 Youth, Music & English Entertainment head Ferzad Palia says: “2019 has been a year of disruption for the entire entertainment industry and we’ve embraced it to the fullest. These changes challenged broadcasters to retain and expand their consumer base, while making consumers more aware of their entertainment habits and the value that comes with individual choices.”

“Despite the many industry-wide challenges, we have maintained our leadership position with consistent performance across all our channels thus our ratings continue to surge in an upward trend. In terms of market share, we continue to hold a lion’s share of the pie, currently being around 71 per cent in the month of Nov’19 (GEC + Music), even more than 2017.

While the expectation has always been for light or infrequent viewers to drop off, the heartening part is that we have managed to increase consumption from our loyal base and also acquire fresh subscribers through a solid content offering and innovative outreach programmes,” he further adds. 

Strategies adopted by the channels to overcome the challenges in 2019

Maintaining a balance of quality and variety has been pivotal in adapting rapidly in terms of retaining and attracting new viewers. In a conscious effort to reach newer, younger audiences the channels went beyond conventional promotional methods and practices through innovative and clutter-breaking marketing campaigns.

“2019 has been a year of significant disruption and innovation for Zee English Cluster. By far, one of our biggest achievements has been to be able to offer World Television Premieres to our viewers, reducing the wait time for Hollywood blockbuster movies’ television release by half. Hollywood movie fans can now watch their favourite movies within months of release. Zee English cluster also gave consumers the choice to watch their favourite movies and World Television Premieres in their native language - Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, alongside English. This has successfully enabled us to widen our audience base delivering a better channel experience to the Zee Prime English pack subscribers,” says Mahadev

On Zee Café, the third season of BBC First, our flagship programming block, was extremely

successful and well-received by our discerning audience. The channel has also upheld its legacy by bringing multiple award-winning dramas and mini-series such as the Golden Globe nominee ‘The Loudest Voice’, Season 16 of the Golden Globe winner ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, the Emmy Award winners ‘Counterpart Season 2’ and ‘McMafia’, as part of ‘Along With The US’ and ‘Hollywood On Café.’ Shows that were “TV First” and mini-series as a strategy worked well for Zee Café in strengthening engagement with its audience.

Examples of Viacom18 English cluster’s innovative campaigns in 2019:

1) Colors Infinity – BFFs With Vogue – For its 3rd successive season, television’s most riotous Bollywood chat show BFFs With Vogue hosted by the sassy Neha Dhupia, received an overwhelming response from audience, as well as clients. Complementing the extensive ATL campaign that included multi-city Outdoor and Radio promotions, COLORS INFINITY launched ‘The BFF Quiz’ – a pioneering Amazon Alexa voice skill for the show, voiced by the show’s host Neha Dhupia. It further recreated an ARVR-version of Neha’s cosy and exclusive loft for BFFs With Vogue, that gave viewers a life-sized virtual step-in tour to the loft.

2) Comedy Central – FRIENDS – Marking the milestone 25th anniversary of Friends, Comedy Central India and Warner Bros. Television Group brought a specially created replica of the iconic Central Perk orange couch to India. This unique experience gave loyal fans an opportunity to re-enact and re-live the countless indelible moments from the show. Taking the anniversary celebration a few notches higher it also rewarded the winner of the ‘Wackiest Friends Fan’ contest with a paid trip to New York and a visit to the sold-out Friends 25 Pop-Up Experience along with a friend.

3) Vh1 – World Music Day – For the first time ever, two music powerhouses – MTV Beats and Vh1 India curate a 24-hour LIVE music festival on World Music Day on Facebook and Instagram. In this 24-hour long musical gig, that transcended beyond genres, over 40+ India’s most popular musicians, including a string of B-town artists like Darshan Raval, Aparshakti Khurana, Aastha Gill alongside Indie musicians like Zaeden, Sickflip, Su Real and many more, collaborated to perform their best songs live. Giving fans an experience of a lifetime. The campaign reached 60Mn+, 25Mn+ impressions, 5Mn+ engagement and overall, 10Mn+ people viewed the live across 24 hours.

Plans for 2020

“We’re also the first-choice for brands when it comes to AFPs (Advertiser Funded Programming). In 2019, Comedy Central partnered with Sterling Reserve to create a talent hunt for the next comedy sensation with Sterling Reserve Comedy Project hosted by the witty Varun Thakur. And we’ll continue to explore more concepts that attract viewers, partner brands and sponsors. Additionally, our unique on-ground and digital marketing initiatives that engage the massive new-age audience, continues to deliver higher visibility in the market,” said Palia.

The year ahead promises to be very exciting for the Zee English cluster. It is a milestone year for Zee Café, the pioneering English entertainment channel, as it turns 20! To commemorate the occasion, the channel has special plans to engage with its discerning consumers. Drama being the biggest strength of the channel, it will continue showcasing award-winning and compelling shows. 

“With our upcoming property ‘Greatest Of All Time’ we are very excited to showcase the most iconic and anticipated dramas such as Star Trek: ‘Discovery’, ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Penny Dreadful’. Continuing to feature diverse genres, the channel will also curate light-hearted conversational content with shows that are locally nuanced such as ‘Not Just Supper Stars’ and ‘Starry Nights - Gen Y’ which will go on- air early next year. The upcoming season of Starry Nights features the next generation of Bollywood stars who are hyper-connected and have a following, in an unfiltered conversation that is real and relatable,” informed Mahadev.

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