Broadcasters beat Covid2019 blues with new channel launches

Experts shared that it’s part of a network’s long-term plan to strengthen their portfolio.

MUMBAI: The Covid2019 pandemic was an unforeseen catastrophe for the broadcast industry. With the months-long lockdown, ad revenues troughed, and as content dried up, viewers started migrating en-masse to the greener pastures offered by OTT platforms. But thumbing their collective noses at these setbacks, the broadcasters are seeing the virtue in launching new channels. Television is now starting to mirror the online content space and deliver to the evolved consumer needs around content.

Even during the lockdown, people turned to television as a means to keep themselves engaged and entertained, with BARC reporting a 43 per cent increase in India's TV viewership during the lockdown compared to the pre-Covid2019 period. Recent BARC data suggests a 17 per cent increase in India’s TV viewership compared to pre-Covid2019 period (week 38 vs weeks 2-4 ’20). The rise in TV consumption signifies the viewers’ appetite for content – and clearly, the time is ripe to green-flag new channels catering to different tastes and smaller sub-segments across geographies.

ZeeL has debuted two new channels, lifestyle channel Zee Zest and Marathi music channel Zee Vajwa. Enterr10 Television Network has expanded its footprint in south India with Dangal Kannada, close on the heels of its Bhojpuri offering, Enterr10 Rangeela . Star Vijay, owned by Disney-Star, has come out with Tamil music channel Vijay Music. In10 Media Network has recently ventured into the kids’ entertainment space on Children’s Day with a new premium Hindi channel, Gubbare — Masti Ke Phuwarre. On 1 May 2020, Shemaroo Entertainment Media Network launched Hindi GEC Shemaroo TV.

 ZeeL chief consumer officer Prathyusha Agarwal said, “With Zee Vajwa, we promise to provide our audiences with a platform to enjoy some great music deep-rooted in our rich culture. We also identified a need gap in the lifestyle genre to serve a holistic entertainment experience to the focused Sec A target audience. These viewers seek experiences from around the world but from the comfort of their own homes. That’s where Zee Zest seamlessly comes in, with diverse lifestyle content themes such as wellness, travel, lifestyle, food, home improvement, and culture.”

Media experts highlighted that these are part of long-term plans to strengthen a network’s overall portfolio and expand into new segments. With viewers confined to their homes, it’s the best time to launch new channels. Broadcasters now have more time on hand to try out new content.

In10 Media Network MD Aditya Pittie shared that the network is focused on building scalable businesses and strategically expanding its footprint in the industry. He added, “In our country, television continues to be a primary viewing platform for kids’ entertainment among most households.”

Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd CEO Hiren Gada mentioned that the network is always keen to experiment and set milestones in the media and entertainment space. With this industry-first initiative allowing viewers to tune into Shemaroo TV live on Facebook, Gada hopes to reach out to a new and wide set of audience and offer content that they would like to watch and enjoy in their free time.

Carat media director Grashima Sahni pointed out that broadcasters are bringing in an element of personalisation into the television space and hence, discouraging migration to other avenues and sources. “The vernacular flavour in this expansion is a crucial ingredient too. Zee Vajwa, Dangal Kannada, Enterr 10 Rangeela, Vijay Music are all offerings in local languages of each region, appealing to the “local-masses” or “micro-masses” of each region. With this step, broadcasters are also building immunity for themselves to the challenges of NTO by TRAI. A customised appeal will make sure that the channel remains a part of the selected channel basket by its viewers,” Sahni explained.

She further highlighted that these channels are a stepping stone for broadcasters to work towards a TV+online content ecosystem. The success of Hotstar has reflected a clear learning that the primary audiences of the content on the channel can and will remain within the ecosystem given their needs are met. When the unstoppable migration from TV to the online screen does happen – due to time flexibility needs or choices (cross-selling the content with a bigger online library) – the audience can be successfully made to migrate internally if the TV hook is present in that household.

With NTO also setting in and consumers able to pay per channel than a group offering, channel choice mix will be an intricate balance of content on TV & digital.

Agarwal stated that all of ZeeL’s new launches have not only established themselves strongly in their respective markets but have also aided market growth. Zee Punjabi captured a third of the viewership pie in the first four weeks of its launch, and consumption of Punjabi language content grew by 23 per cent compared to the one per cent growth in total TV viewership in Punjab/Chandigarh. Even during the lockdown, Zee Punjabi capitalised on the surge in demand for content as viewership grew by nearly 60 per cent (BARC data: weeks 12-15). The network’s new movie channels – Zee Biskope, Zee Picchar & Zee Thirai – have also aided growth by capturing significant share in the movie genre, which rose by 28-29 per cent in a growing TV pie. (BARC data: weeks 12-15).

The launch of a new channel provides brands an opportunity to create competitive advantage as they reach sharper audience cohorts that are culturally connected. “For instance, Zee Vajwa, a category first, will allow advertisers to reach to a new audience cohort and hence offers a new opportunity for brand outreach. Zee Zest will use a dual strategy to reach consumers across TV and digital platforms, further making it an attractive proposition for advertisers. The advantage with the launch of a new lifestyle genre/ destination channel is that it opens doors to various new brands to associate with the channel. Therefore, it’s a clear driver of mutual growth,” elaborated Agarwal.

Multiple projections suggest a recovered economy by mid-2021. Demand is a critical aspect of this recovery and advertising plays a crucial role in this demand generation. BARC has already reported TV ad volumes to be at a five year high. Sahni remarked that with festive season and big-ticket properties, the sentiment is relatively positive and reflects that the business is working hard to gain back its shares or capture newer opportunities in the market due to a refresh and reshuffling in buying cycles.

She added that the dip in advertising by some mature categories will be neutralised, if not positively overcome, by increased spending from relatively newer and now bullish categories like ed-tech, pharma-tech, etc.

Agarwal noted that the steady revival in the economy and increase in consumer spending is sparking demand and brands are being both conscious and cautious about the right ROI for the money they are spending. Agarwal shared that the network works very closely with all its  partners across the value chain to help deliver a holistic solution to influence their business KPIs and not just address their communication objectives. She concluded, “We will continue to focus on consumer centricity to drive mutual business growth, that will continue to garner leadership and currency for us.”

In contrast, Sahni was of the view that each channel is in a unique position of its own, in context to market standing, core audience profile, and competition. While some channels are expanding and increasing footprint in regional space, or even niche genres (Zee Zest); others like HBO and WB are soon going off-air and online only to manage increased pressures from digital content sources in their core territory of English speaking and digitally adoptive audiences.

However, the road to recovery remains a long and winding path, and the question that arises is: will the broadcasters reach a breakeven point where they are able to maximise profit?

Sahni opined, “With newer channels and hence, wider owned original content by broadcasters, we foresee long term content solutions becoming an important element in the revenue stream. What the broadcasters will need to do is push their limits on creativity, flexibility and timelines. Future thinking brands have already moved towards creating a larger impact and solutions beyond reach & frequency planning, which will benefit the content owners in the coming years.”

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