Television

Why Zee Bangla’s Samrat Ghosh is looking forward to Durga Puja

He expects this year’s festival to be a good opportunity for brands to spend and induce consumer s

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MUMBAI: Zee Bangla and Zee Bangla Cinema cluster business head Samrat Ghosh is really looking forward to the next couple of months, like almost everyone in the industry. A large part of 2020 has been a bit of a washout for the channels that he runs, at least in terms of the topline. But with west Bengal gearing up for Durga Puja, he is hoping to get his charges back on track.

“The sentiment is quite upbeat as viewership is definitely soaring and brand spends are beginning to pick up,” says he with an encouraging smile. “I am hopeful that during the festive season advertisers will start spending to encourage consumption. Apart from the usual categories which advertise, we will see lot of automobile, consumer durable brands also opening their wallets. The local retail brands are also reviving and have started advertising.”

For west Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Bihar and Jharkhand, Durga Puja is the time for denizens to do pooja in their homes, go on a spending spree buying new clothes, visit the pandals that pop up all over east India with kith and kin. Additionally it is also a time for gifting near and dear ones.

Held over 10 days, it marks the victory of goddess Durga over the shape shifting asura, Mahishasura. Observers opine that Durga Puja has become a consumerist social carnival with brands going all out advertising as well as sponsoring local community events and pandals, as well spending big on television. A 2013 Assocham report estimated the Durga Puja festival pumps in close Rs 25,000 crore into the economy of the various states in which it is celebrated.

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Ghosh discloses that Bengali TV generate close to Rs 1,200 crore in ad spends annually; a large chunk of that comes during Durga Puja, especially for general entertainment channels (GECs).

“If the advertiser wants to reach out to a consumer who is based out in Bengal, the local vernacular channels turn out to be much more effective in terms of reach,” he explains. “Hence, the GECs turn out to be reach builders in any of the media campaigns for the clients.”

Thanks to the lockdown, the reach of GEC channels has further increased with male audiences also starting to spend more time in front of the television. Ghosh and team studied home bound viewers tastes and introduced content that kept them even more engaged with TV.

“In the absence of original shows we came up with innovative content like comedy shows, and celebrity programs. We conducted various surveys to understand consumer sentiment and how their lives changed during pandemic. Later, we captured all those real-life stories and capsulated them in a show called Lockdown Diaries."

However, with productions being allowed a couple of months ago, a fresh stream of content was churned out by production teams, who continue working in full swing with strict Covid2019 protocols in place, rolling out series that are keeping viewers glued to their TV sets.

Pre-pandemic, he reveals, viewership was growing five to seven per cent in the state, whereas adex was swelling by 10-12 per cent. "I think it is a very healthy growth keeping in mind that many Bengali channels have been in existence for more than a decade," he states.

Since the festivities are held with great pomp even in the neighbouring states of Bihar and Odisha, advertisers have been expressing keen their interest in reaching out to viewers in those markets too, he says.

“What we have seen from the viewership perspective is that the spillover of Hindi in the states is not as high as it is Maharashtra,” adds Ghosh. Bengalis, according to him, love watching shows in their language and about their culture.

The 14-day-long Pitru Paksh Shradh – a period when one pays obeisance to one’s dead relatives and ancestors - ended on 17 September with Mahalaya Amavasya. Unlike earlier years, when the gap between Mahalaya Amavasya and Maha Sasthi (the start of Durga puja) is hardly six days, this year the gap is about a month with the latter falling on 22 October. Bengalis are therefore really looking to celebrate Durga Puja, explains Ghosh. And the long gap has given brands a lot of time to prepare for the festival season, which could well be a good omen for him and the rest of the Bengali broadcasters.

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