Zee Café’s TV-First approach has made us disruptors in the category: Kartik Mahadev, ZEEL

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kartik mahadev

Kartik Mahadev, Business Head- English Cluster, ZEEL speaks to Media Samosa at length about NTO’s implications on viewership, Zee Cafe’s content strategy, and the popularity of British Dramas on Indian shores.

In October this year, Zee Cafe launched two content blocks with award-winning shows in its long-running content blocks – ‘Along With The US’ airing weekends at 7 PM and ‘Hollywood On Café’ starting October 14, weeknights at 10 PM. Last week the channel rolled out ‘Not Just Supper Stars’ touted to be a show which is ‘not your ordinary chit chat over coffee’.

The channel, in August, also roped in Nawazuddin Siddiqui to star in promotional campaign #ShakenAndStirred announcing the third season of its BBC First programming block.

With the English GEC cluster going aggressive on their strategy to attract new viewers, we get talking to Kartik Mahadev, Business Head- English Cluster, ZEEL on Zee Cafe’s programming and marketing strategy, challenges in staying ahead of the curve, channel’s association with BBC, and more.

Excerpts:

How has the association with BBC First panned out? Also, how has the programming block grown over the years? 

In a category homogenized by American content, we took a differentiated approach by launching the British dramas in 2017. This was widely appreciated by our viewers. In the week of its launch for both seasons, the TSV of the 10 PM time band doubled. The slot viewership in the 2018 season increased by 50%. We generated a total of 50 million impressions on digital with our respective hashtags trending in the last two seasons, along with increasing the channel reach by over 100%.

Over the last two years, the block has been appreciated by our viewers who consider it an evolved choice of consumption. The third season upheld this legacy and met with positive reception with a 5X increase in viewership as compared to four weeks before the launch for the 10 PM time slot.

In the world of VOD consumer interest, how challenging it is to keep the content coming and matching to the needs? What has been the strategy on that front? 

Our discerning audience is constantly on the lookout for fresh content. They follow the latest trends and are extremely aware of what’s new. Hence, it is important to tailor content to best meet their tastes.

At Zee Café, we have always taken a TV-First approach with over 70% of our content being available on TV first, even before the digital platforms. These are shows that have worked well for us and ones that viewers have most appreciated be it, American Idol, Battlebots to even Charmed, FBI and the BBC First dramas this year.

Additionally, in the world of VOD, curated viewing takes precedence as consumers don’t want to invest time in trying to decide what to watch versus getting a channel to curate their viewing experience. That’s where TV channels come into play where the best content curators shall win the game with effortless viewing.

We also keep innovating basis our consumer interests and behavior patterns. For instance, we do binge-watch of our shows, not just as re-runs but first runs at certain points. Take for example House Of Cards last year, when it premiered on Zee Café in November, we offered consumers to watch the entire season as a binge in one weekend. Similarly, with BBC First as well, we have binge-watch options available over the weekend, where the entire season is available in one go for the audience.

Also Read: #WhereIsMyChannel is a strong trigger to nudge our consumers into action: Prathyusha Agarwal, ZEEL

Please shed some light on the growing appetite for British dramas in India. Also, the advertisers on board? 

The British are known for quality storytelling. British dramas boast of compelling narratives and bold characters gratifying the insatiable appetite of viewers who are looking for meaningful engagements. British dramas offer these meaningful engagements through seductively complex, visceral and unpredictable narratives that give the viewer an immersive viewing experience. Engaging content and strong characters are two key attributes that hold immense value for viewers today. That’s the reason behind the growing popularity of British dramas today.

The BBC First dramas uphold this legacy with unique plotlines that are contemporary and relevant to the Indian audiences, leaving you engrossed.

A premium property like that of BBC First is immensely appreciated even by our advertisers. The block has attracted brands such as Prestige, Dominos, Hershey’s, L’Oreal, Phillips, and Vicks with most as recurring sponsors on the BBC First block who have helped bolster the endeavor of brining British dramas to India with Zee Café.

What was the insight behind #ShakenandStirred and what was the brief shared? 

This year’s BBC First block provides our audience with a point of deep connection with stories that are powerful and visceral through the shows which are a part of the block. Through the campaign for the BBC First, we wanted to bring alive the compelling drama and strong characters that leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

The idea was to bring out the uniqueness of each of these contemporary dramas, making it relevant to the Indian viewer. So, we collaborated with authority in drama – Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Bringing in a local connect with his quintessential demeanor, an excited Nawazuddin, shared his anticipation for the British dramas that promise to leave you not just shaken but also stirred.

Also Read: Zee Cafe’s #ShakenAndStirred features Nawaz in a dapper avatar…

Do you think the NTO will affect ratings this time around? 

The English category on television has been growing steadily over a period of time. In the last three years (pre-NTO), the viewership on the English GEC genre has grown almost 2.5 times, while the English movie genre has witnessed a 26% growth in viewership and 28% growth in reach, as per BARC India data.

Any big change is ought to have teething problems and NTO was no different, as it initially brought a period of flux at ground-level with consumers and distributors being confused about the regime.

Largely, channel packs were being picked more on the basis of DPO suggestions. Six months on, we have observed that with increasing awareness of the MRP regime, the subscription numbers are steadily growing.

What were the other activities carried out and are in the pipeline to spread the word taking it beyond the launch video? 

We launched the #ShakenAndStirredcampaign across on-air and digital platforms and amplified the same through media communication. The aim was to build conversations around British dramas and the unique promo featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui enabled us to amplify the announcement. Further, as part of the launch, we also engaged with the fans through an exclusive preview clip of Brexit: The Uncivil War which was shared on Zee Café’s social handle, one hour before the on-air telecast. Together, all the activities paved the way for a high-decibel launch of the third season of BBC First.

Could you share consumers’ responses in terms of ratings and viewer count for particular BBC dramas that have kept the partnership going?

In a category homogenized by American content, we took a differentiated approach by launching the British dramas in 2017. This was widely appreciated by our viewers. In the week of its launch for both seasons, the TSV of the 10 PM time band doubled. The slot viewership in the 2018 season increased by 50%. We generated a total of 50 million impressions on digital with our respective hashtags trending in the last two seasons, along with increasing the channel reach by over 100%.

With the highest brand resonance for our viewers, BBC First has truly become the flagship property for the channel. The third season upheld this legacy and met with immense positive reception with a 5X increase in viewership as compared to four weeks before the launch for the 10 PM time slot

Zee Café’s TV-First strategy and how it’s worked? 

Our viewers have a keen eye for content that is new. They follow the latest trends and seek the same when it comes to their content consumption preferences. With Zee Café, it has been our constant endeavor to provide the newest and the best shows to our viewers. With over 70% of our content being available on TV first even before the digital platforms, our discerning audience gets to witness the most-recent shows that are making a mark across the globe.

Unlike other broadcasters, this TV-First approach of Zee Café has enabled us to serve as disruptors in the category. Shows such as American Idol, Battlebots, Seal Team, FBI, A Million Little Things, Charmed, are success stories of this approach, which have been extremely well received by our viewers. This season, with BBC First too, we brought six shows to India for the first time only on television screens first. This is a format that truly works well with our loyal audience.

How has been the response to ZEEL’S #WhereIsMyChannel campaign for the English cluster? 

Within two weeks, we delivered over 25 million sharp targeted video views with strong engagement rates. The campaign reached to about 58 million viewers on digital and 41.53 million viewers on TV, for the two ad films. In a competitive category with several brands, the campaign has delivered over 70% ad cut-throughs which is quite strong. The ad campaign is being promoted across Zee Network’s social handles and the TV channels on air. The digital video with RJ Balaji, Mallika Dua, and Varun Thakur are also a success indicator for the original films which have become a reference point for other unbranded original renditions to be created.

The campaign resulted in increased subscription for the Zee English Cluster HD channels, with &flixHDreaching amongst the top two English Movie HD Channels. With increasing awareness of the MRP regime, the subscription numbers are steadily growing.

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