As the M & E sector gears up for Unlock 1.0, Amit Shah, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, sheds light on the plans ahead for Zee Marathi, highlighting adaptability & agility as the key to understanding the evolving nature of consumer behavior.
Being nimble about understanding the changing viewer behavior and adapting content offering to the same has helped the channel in this period according to Amit Shah, Cluster Head – North, West & Premium Channels, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.
In conversation with Media Samosa, Shah sheds light on the marketing strategy for Zee Marathi & the continuance of Television as one of the leading viewing channels, despite challenging times.
Please shed light on your content strategy for this phase. What is your USP in your offerings?
The lockdown situation has posed unprecedented challenges for the Entertainment Industry, especially for the production of fresh content. As one of the leading channels in the Marathi GEC segment, it has one of our key responsibilities to keep our consumers positively engaged, entertained, and well informed. We geared up to provide the entire family with engaging entertainment from our content portfolio by curating our programming line-up with light-hearted content & movies, back to back episodes of our all-time favorite classic shows like Sambhaji, Chala Hawa Yeu Dya, the slice of life comedies and shows that spread a message of hope and positivity resonating strongly with television audiences across the country.
Even as the shooting is yet to resume, Zee Marathi launched fresh and engaging content, completely filmed from home, that aims to offer positivity, familiarity, and optimism to viewers. With shows like Ved Bhavishya, a spiritual show hosted by renowned astrologer Bhagre Guruji, the cult show Home Minister in a new virtual format and Gharat Basle Saare, a comedy show hosted by the renowned ventriloquist & puppeteer Ramdas Padhye & his ensemble of puppets, we aim to add some much-needed levity to family time every evening.
Please take us through the programming strategy at this time. How did the production halt impact your content line up?
We attempted to customize the content across Zee Marathi taking into consideration the explosion in TV consumption and the surge in viewership being witnessed. Further aiming to enhance the entertainment quotient for our viewers, award properties, and other engaging content from our portfolio was lined up to ensure our viewers continue to have an extraordinary entertainment experience.
The channel brought back shows like Chala Hawa Yeu Dya, Sambhaji, Jai Malhar, and Tula Pahte Re. We also activated new content – 3 non-fiction & 2 fiction shows, using remote production technologies to keep our audience entertained. Zee Marathi also launched a series of lockdown campaigns starting with LIVE Lockdown Digital Series – a live interactive session with celebrities during the lockdown, giving audiences a unique glimpse in their lives and hobbies.
Zee Marathi also conducted a Digital Watch Party on Facebook curating 41 “Best of Zee Marathi” clips encouraging virtual group viewing.
What would be the marketing strategy for the channel? How much will digital occupy in the marketing mix? Where does social media stand in the scheme of things?
Recently, we took an industry-first initiative and celebrated SaReGaMaPa’s silver jubilee with a 25 hour digital and televised concert shot from the homes of every popular face associated with the franchise. Interestingly, not only did the franchise witness an increase in viewership on TV but also digitally across our social platforms, proving it to be a viable form of content dissemination. We have gotten some valuable insights from this development and are working on ways in which we can adapt this model for the consumers at Zee Marathi.
During the lockdown, our efforts were sown towards creating engagement driven digital campaigns aimed at building a strong, active online community converting digital users to active brand evangelists which would strengthen the channel in the long term. Our teams created tailor-made solutions for clients.
An anthem was created by Zee Marathi’s lead characters, shot from their homes to help drive the message ‘We Can & We Will’ for SBI Life.
The channel also catered to multiple real estate clients like Rutu Group, Greenland Farms & Nirvana Realty with engaging solutions.
What has been the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the viewership and ratings for shows on Zee Marathi?
The lockdown has led to more people consuming content on TV.
The habit of TV viewing has never been stronger, with 46% of the viewers watching TV all 7 days a week, an increase of nearly 50% from the pre-COVID period (BARC data week 12-17).
Taking into consideration the explosion in TV consumption and the changing composition of audiences, we customized the programming for this emerging trend. Zee Marathi gained a 4% share in the genre during the lockdown period, commanding a 45% share of the market.
What are the content consumption trends that you see for your TG? Which content hooks work best for them on your channel?
During the core lockdown period, there was a higher affinity for light-hearted shows, movies that reflected the spirit of positivity, and the return of classic shows that breed familiarity.
Consumption of these genres was largely being driven by males and kids, with all members of the family being confined to their homes and watching TV together as one single unit.
With the lockdown relaxation and broadcasters working towards re-launching original programming, the need of the hour is to rebuild the habit of appointment viewing for the core TG, the female audience in this case, by creating curiosity around the shows and characters.
Do you think Television will sustain despite the growing popularity of OTT platforms? What is it in Television over OTT that can reap benefits for the broadcasters?
Today, we are living in an AND world, not an OR world, and both platforms cater to different consumption needs of the consumers hence it would be unfair to compare the two platforms.
Both mediums serve a unique need of the audiences and play different roles in their lives. In the current period of social confinement, while TV is acting as the glue to bring families together, OTT platforms create a personal space for viewers to consume content.
We have always maintained that there is a unique role that television plays and a specific need it serves in bringing families together and keeping them entertained.
In the current situation, with the rise in family viewing behavior, TV becomes the medium of choice. The relationship that TV has with audiences is that of a trusted advisor, as strong as one’s own family member. Content on TV is expert-curated and is quality-controlled as well as made safe for the family environment, and there is a certain relatability that stems from the viewers’ own lives, challenges, and aspirations. On TV, consumers can be rest assured that they will get the very best of content that they can enjoy with the entire family, young or old.
Regional markets & Tier 1, Tier 2 segments play a crucial role to reach audiences. What is your strategy to tap into this market? Please take us through your regional content strategy
Our philosophy is Mi Marathi, Zee Marathi – which basically means wherever there are Marathi viewers, we would be present. Through our storytelling approach and content offerings, we reach out to each and every aspect of Maharashtra. Customer centricity has been the heart and soul of everything that we do at ZEE. Our soul to screen approach of reflecting our viewers’ lives and aspirations on the screen encourages us to shoot our shows in the specific market to ensure we get the culture and nuances right.
In these changing times, what stays constant is Zee Marathi’s commitment to creating avenues that will deliver maximum value for all stakeholders, viewers & businesses alike. As Maharashtra starts Mission Begin Again, we at Zee Marathi would like to extend complete support in restarting the economic journey. This is a battle that can only be won by standing united. Our upcoming content will aim to add more flavor to the viewers’ evening primetime.
To appeal to the audiences digitally, we have also created a series of 1-minute episodes of all pre-lockdown primetime fiction shows across our social media assets.
While the COVID-19 partially ruling out a summer vacation per se, how do you plan to commemorate summer through your content & communication plan for your channel for the next few months?
We have already launched 3 fresh filmed from home shows. The channel is also set to offer 4 new fiction shows shot locally in Maharashtra under the new social distancing guidelines.
Going forward, we will be launching an integrated campaign with a single slate communication highlighting the return of Maharashtra’s favorite channel, and the content offerings we have in store. As Covid-19 ruled over the summer vacation, Zee Marathi aims to ensure that it provides entertainment and information for all members of the family. For instance, we re-introduced our historical show Sambhaji, which not only entertained the family members but also helped educate the kids in the core time band of 4 pm – 8 pm.
3 things that the COVID-19 situation taught you in terms of marketing, production & advertising?
The lockdown led to some unprecedented changes in our lives and across sectors. Similarly, even with the M&E sector, there was a huge change in content consumption leading to the emergence of new trends and viewing patterns. During this entire period of lockdown, agility, adaptability, and empathy have been three of my biggest learnings.
- Empathy – understanding that not only viewers but our employees too are dealing with unprecedented situations & are juggling multiple balls in the air. Empathy is a very important factor to ensure business continuity at all levels.
- Adaptability – Recognizing and being aware of the ever-changing environment around us and therefore, adapting to the newer ways of functioning has helped us continue to lead in viewership. Be ready to face challenges and solve them in the right manner.
- Agility – Engage with viewers and understand their mind space and changing content preferences & thereby plan our schedule. Be ready for multiple scenarios and be flexible enough to take quick decisions as per ever-evolving viewer preferences. Being agile taught us ways to innovate with our content as well as leverage technological solutions to our help maximize potential.
Road to Recovery and the way forward for your channel? How do you see the industry shaping up in the post COVID world?
Being nimble about understanding the changing viewer behavior and adapting our content offering to the same has helped us to keep our viewers entertained throughout this period.
There will be a lasting impact of this extended period of behavioral change in the consumer’s mind and we are gearing up to service this changed mindset.
As broadcasters, this uncertain situation has taught us the need to innovate the way we create content. The road to recovery would be to create content that understands and caters to the changing mind space of the consumers.