Saini, Business Head, ZEE Biskope & Big Ganga, talks about the one-year journey of Bhojpuri movie channel Zee Biskope Last year on December 21, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) expanded its presence in the bhojpuri market with the launch of Zee Biskope. The network already owned a general entertainment channel (GEC), Big Ganga, in the market. Zee Biskope was launched with a promise to be the go-to destination for every bhojpuri movie lover. However, just three months after the launch, the industry was hit by the pandemic. But despite challenging these times, ZEE Biskope, within a year, has been a game-changer in differentiation by continually curating viewer experience beyond just movies. In a conversation with exchange4media, Amarpreet Saini, Business Head, Zee Biskope & BIG Ganga, ZEEL talks about the one-year journey of the channel. Edited Excerpts The year 2020 has been a challenging year for the entire industry, how has it been for Zee Biskope? The journey has been good but it had its own fair share of ups and downs. When we started the channel in January last year, we were very positive and hopeful that we will be commanding a leadership position because we were bringing the channel with a lot of novelty. And that did happen. We opened up with a leadership position and we remained at that level for quite some time. During the pandemic, the viewership shifted towards the news and movie genres and the same trend mirrored for the Bhojpuri cluster as well. It was a positive note for Zee Biskope because it was a new channel with a fresh library and the audience was hungry for more variety of content which worked in our favour. Therefore, we repurposed a lot of our content to suit the topicality. We did a lot of film festivals around that as we knew family viewership during the non-primetime had really become big at that point in time. And we knew there would be more family viewership even in non-primetime because everybody's locked in. So we did a lot of family-related content and all of that bought us an impressive incremental reach and the leadership position as well. Just when we were coming out of the pandemic, Hindi channels came back on free dish, and that impacted the entire Bhojpuri category as the Hindi viewership is strong in that region. Since then, the category has been trying its best to come back to its previous level. However, overall, movie channels have been doing pretty strong and so does Zee Biskope. What impact did the pandemic have on the Bhojpuri category and the business of Zee Biskope? During the pandemic, the overall media and entertainment category itself was roughly impacted, seeing a 60-70% downfall in revenue, and the same was applicable to the Bhojpuri category. So, yes, there was a shortfall in our revenue targets at that point of time, like everybody else. However, the festive season has been strong and positive for the industry. We are hopeful and positive that by the time this financial year ends, we will be meeting our revenue targets as well as the ROI that we had expected in the first year itself. How has the festive season been for the channel? We outshone others during the festive period because we brought a lot of novel initiatives, both in marketing as well as content. We are looking forward to next year because we are completing one year. We had started on the entire premise that we will be differentiated, we will be curated and we will be novel, and we did all the three, and we saw a direct response from viewers on each of these parameters. So, this confirms our hypothesis that this market is underserved, and that the viewer is ready for a professional offering. We attempted to do a branded offering and viewers have shown great appreciation for that. So, we want to just strengthen that going forward. The channel is completing a year, how did it perform in its first year in terms of business? In terms of business objectives, whatever investment we had done, we have seen a very strong ROI for that in the first year itself. So, in terms of revenue, we have seen an upside during the festive season, and now there is a comeback of revenue in the category itself and more so because Zee Biskope commanded leadership position. As we are coming to the anniversary, the overall journey has been very strong and positive. How does the post-festive period look like for the category? It's different this year because there is a lot of catch-up that everybody has to do, and that applies to the industry as well as brands. The positive sentiment and investment by brands still continue. This is the time when everybody has to invest as there had been a gap and there had been some amount of erosion. In order to make up for that and bring it back to the earlier level, the investment will continue. However, I think the difference is that the investment is selective, and brands are looking for customized and standout activities instead of a blanket investment. And hence, the real ask from brands and channels is to come up with offerings, which are really innovative and promise viewership. With that respect, at Zee Biskope, we had been continuously pushing that envelope in the category. So, it goes in our favour. For instance, we have launched ‘Litti Chokha’ festival on Zee Biskope. It got us huge responses both from the advertisers and consumers because it was a customized and a new initiative that nobody had done in the category. Similarly, we are doing a DJ Night for the channel’s anniversary month which is again a first in the category. How have advertisers responded to the channel? The advertisers’ response has been strong and positive, right from the inception. We had taken to them an offering that was differentiated and it had a lot of promising aspects which were clear signs that the viewership is guaranteed. At that point in time, we had said that we are bringing in three big stars for the first time, we are creating digital mascots for the first time, we are creating curated bands with the local lingo and enhancing Bhojpuri culture, which has not been done in the movie category earlier. So, the entire package, from the content to the communication to the external projection, and the digital projection was robust and new. We saw partnerships for our campaign, curated bands right from the inception itself. During the pandemic, the movie category was benefited and we saw quite a few advertisers coming back as the pandemic started tapering down. We have been customizing things for brands because we know that it's more than awareness. They need to rebuild and re-strengthen their brand promise. Brands like Nestle, Adani etc came on board for content integration. What is going to be the focus area for 2021? What is the content slate planned for the next year? The pillars that we had started with still remain the same because now it's proven that the market is ready for it and we need to dig deeper and explore more nuances of the same. So being differentiated, novel, and being curated will remain the focus area. The fourth pillar that we have explored is being connected which is the engagement activities. Therefore, these four pillars will remain the focus point and we will be strengthening our content based on that. For being differentiated we are exploring to bring a movie library that has yet not to be explored in this category. For being curated, we are looking at premieres, which are now tuned for the new tastes, that we are seeing emerging in the category amongst the viewers. For being connected- our online engagement activities will continue. Also, as the situation will become more, safer, we will also look at doing a lot of ground connect activities. We would also be looking at bringing original shows, from January onwards, something that has not been explored on movie channels in this genre.