How 2020 turned out for Zee English cluster

Audiences veered towards light-hearted content, superhero flicks and adventure as a genre.

MUMBAI: Despite the challenging business environment, 2020 was a year of adaptability, growth and innovation. During the lockdown, television came across as a trusted medium. There was significant growth in TV viewership, led by more walk-ins as well as more time spent on television. The Zee English cluster of channels grew by 93 per cent (BARC data week 12-week 22 vs week 1 to week 11).

&flix, the Hollywood blockbuster movies channel had one of the most engaged audiences in megacities, with 56 minutes (BARC data week 12-week 22) average weekly time spent on the channel. This, given the context of the lockdown, tells us that viewers find content on television compelling and comforting, said ZeeL premium channels business head Kartik Mahadev.

English entertainment (movies + GEC) on television caters to 216 million+ viewers (BARC data All India Period: week 01’20-week 49’20). The lockdown has shown broadcasters that people choose to watch television for the curated content experience it provides, not just to individuals but the entire family. Mahadev shared that the English entertainment viewership grew by 45 per cent as compared to last year (BARC data @ All India 2+ U+R data, week 12-week 22’20 vs week 12-week 22’19).

This year, Zee English cluster introduced tactical changes in the programming with specially curated properties to suit the entertainment needs of a steady subscriber base. For instance, Zee Café added 300+ hours of new content, which includes the latest season of dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Nancy Drew and Evil along with iconic sitcoms such as Seinfeld and I Dream of Jeannie along with the original airings of the celebrity chat show Starry Nights GEN Y. Recently, the channel launched its first-ever original production Dance With Me with celebrity dance experts Shakti Mohan and Mukti Mohan. According to Mahadev, the show added to the merriment of the festive season coupled with a unique and interactive format via exciting weekly hook step challenges. The year 2020 also marked the milestone celebration of 20 years for Zee Café.

Moreover, with the growing popularity of Hollywood movies across India, the network launched ‘Flix for All’ on &flix, which played blockbuster movies in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. With this, the channel witnessed a 41 per cent jump in viewership. The ‘Pick your Flix’ initiative found consumer resonance with immense traction across &flix’s social handles, with 2X engagement and 3.5 million reach.

While the supply was sporadic, the demand for movies in regional languages also grew. Thus, the network spearheaded the launch of ‘Ticket to Hollywood’, a pan network offering where it combined the might of Zee to broaden access to Hollywood movies across the width and breadth of the country through a multi-channel, multi-language offering.

“In addition, our fastest to TV premieres with the First Day First Show at Home of blockbusters like Jumanji: The Next Level and Bad Boys For Life enthralled audiences through the year while delivering value to our brand partners. A true testimony to this is the premiere of Jumanji: The Next Level on &flix and a simulcast on Zee Cinema clocking a whopping 34 million impressions,” Mahadev said.

*(BARC; TG : NCCS AB 15-40, Megacities, pre-Flix For All Period- week 45’19- week 14’20, during Flix For All Period- week 15’20 - WK 37’20).

English GECs are facing tough times but at a macro level, interest in English content is growing. There is a whole set of audiences moving from regional to English content as they become more comfortable with English as a professional, conversational language. Mahadev has designed unique offerings such as world television premieres, multi-language block, Flix for All on &flix and locally nuanced content on Zee Café, that will stand out as enablers of bringing an aspirational, English-comfortable audience onboard.

On television, he has witnessed a trend in audience preferences towards light-hearted content, superhero flicks and adventure as a genre. Moreover, ‘nostalgia’ clearly emerged as a big theme across shows, with several successful examples in Hindi GEC.

There was a growth in non-prime time viewing as well, and hence to keep viewers entertained throughout the day, Zee Café introduced back-to-back episodes of MasterChef Australia S8, Nancy Drew and Evil, Everybody Hates Chris, and The Big Bang Theory S12. There is also an increasingly leaning towards genres like action, animation and horror. 

As for the network’s distribution strategy, its strengths and weaknesses across time bands, Mahadev revealed that post lockdown, there has been a growth in English content viewership led by both reach and a more engaged audience across dayparts. Zee Café introduced 'Café Film Club' which features blockbusters from Hollywood in the afternoon time band, leading to cutting-edge English GEC content in the prime-time band.

He highlighted that the youth-focused premium brands can choose from a repertoire of high-quality content to drive association with and reach a premium subscriber base, given a sharply segmented audience that English entertainment on television attracts while similar content on digital is behind a paywall. Said he: “Over the years, we have delivered value to some of the most reputed brands who have partnered with us in our endeavour to engage an evolved audience with the latest in international content. At present, some of the top categories active across Zee English cluster include FMCGs, auto, BFSI and insurance, OTT, smartphone brands, and e-commerce.”

The rapid flux in the traditional media landscape and rising levels of digital sophistication in consumers has led to the emergence of multiple mediums to engage with the consumer. Context has also emerged as a key factor in any integrated marketing strategy. With the Covid2019 outbreak, there has been a surge in television viewership alongside brands engaging on digital through live video formats. In the English cluster, Mahadev has adopted digital engagement alongside television as part of the channel marketing strategy. He quipped, “For instance, our First Day First Show at Home campaign featuring comic José Covaco garnered an overwhelming response with nine million views on YouTube.

For Zee English cluster, the primary target audience for &flix include Hollywood enthusiasts from metros. They are brand-conscious, tech-savvy, and in sync with the latest trends. When it comes to Zee Café, the viewers are evolved, motivated and have a global outlook. &PrivéHD, on the other hand, is for the non-conformists and cinephiles who appreciate nuanced content.

During the pandemic, we saw a shift in consumer trends toward OTT platforms, and it has confirmed that the digital video platforms are here to stay. However, today we live in an ‘and’ world, not an ‘or’ world. Studies reveal that consumption of overlapped content between TV and OTT grew on television from 59 per cent pre-NTO to 82 per cent contribution post-NTO for sitcom, drama, reality genres. It naturally follows that navigation between screens is seamless and consumption on TV and digital is complementary in nature.

“When it comes to OTT, content discovery is and will continue to pose a challenge to viewers looking to unwind with quality content. This is where television channels that understand their consumer and curate well, delight the viewer. With content availability growing across platforms leading to fragmented viewing, it has led to a greater and a more central role for television. Curation of content on television that lends to co-viewing, making TV for a great community experience for family and friends,” added Mahadev.

All in all, he believes the network has certainly moved the needle to a noticeable degree this year and the future too looks promising.

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