Mumbai: Media and entertainment company Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd aims to corner more than 80 per cent of prime-time television viewership in the Telugu market, as the overall southern territory emerges as its fastest-growing cluster within the television business, a senior company executive said. The company, which decided to tell more positive, women-centric stories post-COVID, operates 14 channels across the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam regions, and commands a 17 per cent market share in the south currently.
“Southern markets like their content, be it movies or television. The average time spent per user is highest in the south and our effort, since our entry 18 years ago, has been to understand where the viewer is moving and juxtapose that into our content," Zee South chief cluster officer Siju Prabhakaran said in an interview. While the digital infrastructure improves and the region continues to see high penetration of mobile phones and the Internet, television will remain the first call of entertainment, the company believe.
He added that the combined Zee-Sony entity (the merger deadline is 21 December) could have six to seven shows in the top ten in the Telugu market, besides an 80 per cent plus prime-time viewership share, which should be good news for advertisers. FMCG companies are particularly keen on the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana market.
Also, retail, e-commerce and banking categories are emerging across the south, which also has the unique advantage of several local brands. “Television provides reach at the right cost and is here to stay. Business may not grow like it did 10-15 years ago, but the pace will remain steady," he said.
To be sure, concrete themes are emerging in the south Indian TV market, said Zee Telugu and Zee Keralam chief content officer Anuradha Gudur. In the Telugu market, for instance, more males have entered the fold of TV viewing post covid and overall, there is demand for positive stories and stronger female characters. Prime-time viewership for Zee Telugu has grown by 38per cent in the year to October 2023.
Two shows—Trinayani, about a woman who can predict the future, and Prema Entha Madhuram, which revolves around the love story of a middle-aged businessman and a young woman—have clocked in over ten television rating points.
Zee Telugu, which ranks second in the market, commands a 33 per cent share, while Zee Tamil has registered a 20 per cent market share, despite the presence of legacy players like Sun TV. Zee Keralam, launched in 2018, has reached the number two position, while Zee Kannada ranks one in the market.
Prabhakaran also pointed to the advantages of cross-pollination that a network like Zee enjoys. For example, Trinayani, a supernatural fiction television series on Zee Telugu, has been adapted from the eponymous Bengali language television series, which had been aired on Zee Bangla.
The growth of digital media has also spelt good news for networks such as Zee that have benefited from streaming catch-up television content online.
“Digital provides viewers with convenience and is growing. The second television set phenomenon has been replaced by OTT, and we see a lot of consumption taking place on connected TV sets," Prabhakaran said, adding that while the company has brought out web originals in Tamil and Telugu, these are early days for the southern OTT market that is waiting to explode in the coming years.
Sony Pictures Networks India Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) are facing hurdles in finalising their proposed merger due to a deadlock over leadership arrangements for the $10-bn merged entity, reports said.