Zee bounces back
As a brand, Zee looks more vibrant and promising. Ratings have started following. There is every possibility that we will surprise on the upside - Sukesh Motwani, Zee's Fiction Head
Staying above 200 GRPs changes market perception, if not viewer's perception. It is better to be a poor no. 3 than a number 4 channel because the top three podium counts a lot - Sanjay Upadhyay, Senior Programming Analyst
After the free fall in the last leg of second half of 2011, Zee seems to have reversed its southward journey. The channel, which was reaching new lows, has started adding numbers to its falling audience share. From a low of 139 GRPs in week 42 (TAM data, October 9 to 15, 2011), Zee has gradually inched its way up in the last eight weeks and has added around 40 GRPs to its tally. With an average 180 GRPs for the last four weeks, Zee has retraced almost 50 per cent of the lost ground from 220 GRPs it scored on the higher side in April last year and 139 in October. Technically at least, Zee has stopped the slide.
However, have the fundamentals of the channel changed? Has its shows started delivering numbers? The answer is no. Most of Zee's older shows are getting more or less same ratings as before, while some have gained a little. However, its new launches are helping the channel put a better show. Hitler Didi, which replaced non-performing Shobha Somnath Ki at 8 pm, is best of the lot. It has helped Zee arrest the slide and has been consistent at 2.5-plus TVR. Dance India Dance has livened up the channel's weekend band and Afsar Bitiya at 1.7 TVR has added to the growth of its 7 pm slot. "As a brand, Zee looks more vibrant and promising. Ratings have started following. There is every possibility that we will surprise everyone," says Zee's Fiction Head, Sukesh Motwani.
Zee is hoping that the immediate upside will come from Punar Vivah, a mature story on remarriage between a widower and divorcee, which is in line with the current crop of shows at late prime time. Motwani doesn't deny that Punar Vivah holds a lot of promise and will help grow Zee's 10.30 pm slot, currently occupied by Bhangowali Bante Apni Taqdeer. Currently, Bhangowali is struggling with just 0.8 TVR. Even if Punar Vivah opens around 2 TVR it will add a decent 10 to 12 GRPs, which will help Zee stabilise around 185 to 190 GRPs. And if all other shows contribute some more, there is a possibility that Zee might cross the 200-GRP mark.
However, does that change the fundamental picture? According to a senior marketing analyst, it does in some ways. He explains, "In the last quarter of 2011, the issues with Zee were distribution and content, which caused the fall. Now the distribution issue has been sorted out and the content is looking fresh with the launch of Hitler Didi and Afsar Bitiya. Punar Vivah will be an added attraction and more refreshing. Even if the channel doesn't grow dramatically, it looks very unlikely to go down from current levels." In such a scenario, consolidation will be a big positive for growth once Zee is ready with two more fiction launches in March and April. "We are all set to surprise everyone," promises Motwani.
Will that change the reality? In some ways it will, says senior programming analyst Sanjay Upadhyay. "Staying above 200 GRPs changes market perception, if not viewer's perception. It is better to be a poor number 3 than a number 4 channel because the top three podium counts a lot," he adds. However, in Upadhyay's opinion, it doesn't change the fundamental picture. He elaborates, "The rebuilding process has started but Zee has still not redefined its brand positioning. In marketing terms it might have distinct branding but in content the road is still foggy. The stark differentiation, which used to be there earlier, has been diluted. With too many GECs in the fray, the gap in content differentiation has been reduced."
Since the fundamentals of TV have changed completely in the last 10 years, Upadhyay says it is going to be difficult even for a channel with the longest history and legacy to stand out. "You are not different unless you are radically distinct," he adds.
However, in the immediate future, Colors' current woes will be Zee's delight. "By default, if not by design, Zee seems poised to grab the third slot," feels Upadhyay. For several weeks, Colors has stagnated in 200-210 GRP zone. Events, movies and award functions have been its saving grace for major spikes. If Colors continues to be where it is, Zee competing strongly with Colors for the number 3 slot seems a possibility. Despite repeated attempts, Colors officials were unavailable for comment.