Zee Biskope bats for growth with new verticals, innovations

Zee Biskope bats for growth with new verticals, innovations

The regional channel has a slew of plans including new IPs, original content etc.

Amarpreet Singh Saini

Mumbai: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd's (Zeel) Bhojpuri film channel Zee Biskope, which launched back in December 2019, has made strides in the genre. Zeel chief channel officer Bhojpuri cluster Amarpreet Singh Saini is happy with the leadership position, but he is also aware that there is a lot of growth potential. 

The broadcaster has a slew of plans including new verticals like IPs, and original content, which is allowing it to be a film+ channel. It is also entering new genres like dubbed Hollywood films. For Saini, this is all the more important since TV consumption has grown exponentially due to Covid-19. One result of this he explains is that the noon band has become as important as primetime. The Bhojpuri market he notes is more nascent than other markets.

“Zee Biskope opened in the leadership position and continues to remain so in the category. In terms of content and marketing initiatives, it has moved much further than where it had started from," he tells IndianTelevision.com. "We have curated it to be a film channel we had envisaged it to be a film+ channel. Today that is the situation. It has its regular run of movies and world television premieres. At the same time, it is bringing in three new verticals- events related to new IPs, original Bhojpuri films that we will produce in-house, and original nonfiction series that will be based on Bhojpuri film mania. We will also explore content beyond just films.” 

In terms of engagement initiatives and connecting the viewers out there, the plan is to get into thematic and emotional IPs like "Maai Ke Naam" which will see the channel pay tribute to mothers. There are also on-ground initiatives and thematic initiatives like 'Love Dangal' which is based on the core theme of a film.

"Engagement initiatives have broadened from what they used to be," Saini explains, adding that, “Zee Biskope is far more innovative and is a film+ offering today.”

On the IP front, one of the plans is to have international film awards show that will celebrate Bhojpuri cinema. 

“Also under discussion is a music awards IP. Bhojpuri music and Bhojpuri music fandom are very big. On the original content front, we are looking at weekend non-fiction. Original content is not yet fully explored in the Bhojpuri category. People on the weekend prefer entertainment that is different from what they watch on weekdays. On weekends families are together and they seek content that brings everyone together around a common thought or a common liking. We will target weekend primetime. Our strategy will center around exploring various aspects of Bhojpuri filmdom. There will be a game format that will explore Bhojpuri film mania, trivia and celeb interactions. There will be talent-based shows that will explore talent that is about Bhojpuri singing, dancing etc. In addition, there will be topical series which will be about exploring Bhojpuri festivities but blended with film love or film mania that the audience has,” Saini shares.

On the scheduling of film, he notes that besides weekday primetime and weekend primetime where world television premieres air he mentions the growing importance of noon which is as important today as primetime due to Covid. “Post the pandemic there has been a significant change in viewership patterns. Noon viewership is significantly high. That is the family gathering at lunchtime. Many people still work from home. Schools are closed. Lots of family viewership happens and this is a key focus area for us. During the pandemic, it became also the equivalent of primetime. We saw that television saturation was happening as people consumed a lot of television during Covid. So, Zee Biskope introduced new bands. We introduced more premieres like one on Fridays. We did family festivals, and topical festivals to cater to the overconsuming audience trend. Post the pandemic the viewership has not changed much because post lockdown things have yet to come back to total normalcy. A lot of home viewership still happens. The work environment of viewers is flexible,” Saini states. 

He further avers that the film acquisition front has been solid. “From the beginning, we were clear that Zee Biskope would be a very curated movie channel rather than a very commoditised one. Our acquisition process is based on a very rigorous evaluation process on the kind of titles, the year the film was released, the kind of celebrities involved and the kind of viewership that the celebrity attracts. We have the biggest titles in Bhojpuri cinema. Along with that, we have introduced new genres like Hollywood films dubbed in Bhojpuri. They have done well. We have also introduced a nostalgia golden era band called Biskope Talkies where we bring in yesteryear movies that are classic and which are enjoyed by people because they are evergreen films. They have also done well. Our acquisitions fall into different buckets and each bucket is selectively curated." 

Acquisition costs, he says, depend on the star cast and how recent the film is. “Since Zee Biskope is a strong player we are able to optimise our costs.”

The main viewership of Zee Biskope comes from Bihar and Jharkhand. “East Uttar Pradesh is the main consumption hub. We also get good consumption in Mumbai and Delhi due to the migrant workforce. Punjab, and Rajasthan also get viewership. The migrants want entertainment in their own culture.”

On the ad front he notes that while some brands took a backseat during the lockdown new brands like ed-tech, health and hygiene stepped up to the plate. This kind of balanced things out. Brands he explains also realised the importance of staying in the consumer’s mindspace. 

Brand advertising in Bhojpuri saw a similar trend in adex as in other markets. Now he says there has been a full revival and in fact, there is a rush to make up for the lost time. FMCG, auto, health and hygiene, ed-tech are among the key advertiser categories. “Now that the markets have opened brands would want to be visible now. Perhaps their approach will be different,” Saini concludes.