West Bengal consumers look for relatable and aspirational content: Zeel’s Samrat Ghosh

Zeel’s cluster head, east discusses Bangla consumers and the regional channel's growth.

New Delhi: After a successful national run, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (Zeel) forayed into the West Bengal market in the year 1999, and Zee Bangla became the first Bengali TV channel to be launched in the country. Over two decades later, the channel continues to enjoy a strong presence in the regional market with several successful shows that connected with the local masses. It further bolstered its regional genre with the launch of the sister channel, Zee Bangla Cinema in 2012.

As part of the inaugural edition of the Tele-wise Bangla summit,, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanwari got in a fireside chat with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel), cluster head, Samrat Ghosh who spearheaded the network’s journey to the east.

Ghosh has been a member of Zeel for over two decades. He took over Zeel’s Bangla business in 2014 and has been responsible for overseeing a bouquet of channels which includes Zee Bangla, Zee Bangla Cinema, Zee Sarthak, Big Ganga, and Zee Biskope. The conversation delved upon the various facets of the network’s growth in the Bangla market, the psyche of local consumers, channel's content offering, and the brand’s philosophy. 

Edited excerpts:

On Zee Bangla's journey so far and the challenges along the way

Zee Bangla had already established a strong brand identity when I took over the channel's business in 2014. It was perceived to be a pioneer in the non-fiction space and had some advantages over several established brands. In the fiction space, we had some flashes of brilliance here and there. My main objective at that time was to further strengthen this brand identity, create brand equity and transform the brand into ‘a brand of love and relevance’. Adopting a consumer-centric approach is the key to success. So, we reached out to consumers and gained loads of consumer insights, and started designing our products accordingly which was all-inclusive. This inclusiveness helped us to get a wide spectrum of audiences and top the viewership charts. We brought lots of cultural relevance in fiction and non-fiction shows to build more engagement among viewers and remained invested in content.

On selecting stories in the culturally rich east market

Bengal consumers are very different from other regional markets. They are bilingual, well-read, and well-informed. The state literacy level is also high at 77 per cent and they are culturally very sensitive. They also look forward to something new all the time, which also makes them extremely loyal to the brand. If the brand talks in their language and understands their needs, then they remain faithful to the brand. They look forward to a unique blend of content offering, where their values are also embedded. Such content resonates well with Bengal consumers. We have also done biopics, including the one on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose which was well-accepted by the audiences. Bengal consumers lap up content if it is relevant to them and appeals to their aspirations.

On the choice between chasing ratings and a good story 

Rating is a by-product of the content that you create. We have always embraced a consumer-centric approach. We take consumer insights to make the content more relatable and aspirational for our viewers. If we can create content like that with relevant storytelling, then the rating is bound to follow. We reach out to consumers before the launch of the product and after launch too. They are quite excited to dissect the product and tell about likes and dislikes, so content correction also happens along the way.

On reaching out to non-Bengali consumers nationally 

In the non-fiction space, we have had some reality shows which developed into cult brands in the market. We had a quiz show, called Dadagiri with Sourav Ganguly and Dance Bangla Dance, and the vernacular season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. Many non-Bengali consumers also watch some of our shows and find them relevant. Many shows have travelled to other parts of the country within the Zeel network. So, we have catered to a wide spectrum of audiences.

On whether Bengali consumer is programme-loyal or channel-loyal

Both exist in the Bangla market. First and foremost, the Brand inertia and affinity in a typical Bengali consumer is very high. So, if you win their heart once, they will remain loyal to you for a very long time. There is a high brand loyalty among the Bengali audiences. If the content is relatable and it appeals to their aspirations, then there is always an appetite for consumption. They will wait a year after year if they develop an affinity for a show. Some shows have been running on the channel for years. But most importantly, the content has to be relatable to them.

On genres that Bengali viewer binges on

Any kind of content that has high cultural relevance will always resonate with the consumer. When he sees that the brand understands their needs, they develop an affinity for it. Localised content drives engagement and regional channels always have a higher ability to connect with consumers. The show Didi no 1 is a game show for women and it appeals to their aspirations. At the core, the brand has to be consumer-centric.

On the challenges in finding talent in writing and acting, and unique solutions adopted

Bengali TV industry has seen an upsurge in content production in the last decade and ramping up of content production hours. So, the growing demand has led to a short supply of talent for acting, writing, etc. So, we have embraced multiple ways to overcome this challenge. First, we have widened our production eco-system and we are now collaborating not only with established production houses, but the emerging ones too. Secondly, we are producing in-house shows to nurture new talent. Thirdly, we have launched a talent nurturing platform, for searching for new and nurturing talent. The response has been great for acting, but for screenwriting, it is limited so far.

On the OTT boom and impact on TV

Both complement each other. TV works in the family space, while OTT is in personal space. Both platforms cater to a different set of audiences and both will co-exist. If you see, 95 per cent of video consumption is in vernacular, so OTT will grow. But, in West Bengal, for instance, there is 60 per cent penetration of TV. So, there is a lot of headroom for growth there too.

On some successful partnerships with brands and advertisers

We have had a couple of examples in the recent past. We believe in providing a value proposition to our advertising clients. We collaborated with Senco Gold and Diamonds, a jewellery brand for a show based on a jewellers’ family. So, while the brand utilized the platform and used it to launch new product ranges, it also lent huge insights for us, especially while taking our main protagonist for workshops. So, we keep doing a lot of integrations, Dadagiri was another such TV show. We have witnessed continuous support from our advertisers who see immense value in the collaboration. At Zeel, we provide a holistic proposition to advertisers, creating a win-win for the channel and the advertisers. 

(The virtual summit – Zee Bangla was organised by in partnership with Zee Bangla on 29 June and witnessed insightful sessions with representatives from television, advertising, and media.)

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