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Zee Bangla: Looking at fiction to break Star Jalsha’s dominance

MUMBAI: For Zee Entertainment
Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), West Bengal
and Maharashtra have many
similarities. For instance, both are
big regional markets for the
broadcaster, its channels have seen
rise and fall in both, and leading the
channels in both the markets is
Sharada Sunder, EVP of regional
channels at ZEEL.
However, there is one big difference:
While Zee Marathi has become the
dominant player in Maharashtra, West
Bengal is a duopoly market where Zee
Bangla lags behind Star Jalsha with a
considerable gap.
And even though Zee Bangla, a
channel completing 16 years this
September, has made a strong name in
the non-fiction space, it is fiction
where Sunder’s focus is
concentrated. Her aim is clear—to
take the channel to the numero uno
position, which it once enjoyed before
the advent of Star Jalsha.
Programming strategy
“Our USP in Bengal was our non-
fiction. So we focused on it first and
built that piece. We started building a
lot of brand value through great non-
fiction shows like ‘Dadagiri’,
‘Mirakkel, ‘Saregamapa’ and ‘Dance
Bangla Dance’,” says Sunder.
“For the past few years, I have been
trying to build fiction as well. It’s
not easy to change viewers’ fiction
habits and it takes a lot of effort.”
With over 50 per cent share, Star
Jalsha is undoubtedly the dominant
player, but Sunder says that after
two years of hard work, Zee Bangla is
witnessing success and breakthroughs
in the fiction programming also. Zee
Bangla’s share is about 38–40 per
cent, while the remaining 10 per cent
is with Colors Bangla.
“’Raage Anuraage’ and ‘Kojagori’
have started looking up. I am
confident that the recently launched
‘Deep Jwele Jai’, which is a
differential story of a badminton
player, and the upcoming show
‘Goinda Gini’, are also going to work
well,” Sunder says.
Zee Bangla’s arsenal
West Bengal is a bit odd in terms of
regional GECs. Leader Star Jalsha is a
copy of Star Plus in many ways with
its popular daily shows being remakes
of popular Star Plus shows like ‘Saath
Nibhana Saathiya’ and ‘Diya Aur Baati
Hum’. It does not have many non-
fiction properties, while Colors
Bangla is trying to make inroads into
the market with both fiction and non-
Zee Bangla, on the other hand, has
dominant non-fiction programming. It
is the only channel that starts
original programming from as early as
5 pm with a cookery show. Called
‘Rannaghar’, this cookery show has
completed 10 years with over 2,900
At 5.30 pm, the channel airs the sixth
season of the talent-based non-
fiction show ‘Didi No. 1’.
Zee Bangla’s fiction line-up starts
from 6.30 pm with ‘Rajjotok’,
followed by ‘Dweep Jwele Jaai’ at 7
pm; ‘Raage Anuraage’ at 7.30 pm;
‘Kojagori’ at 8 pm; ‘Tumi Robe
Nirobe’ at 8.30 pm; ‘Dwiragamon’ at 9
pm; and ‘Chokher Bali’ at 9.30 pm.
Between 10 and 11 pm, the channel
again airs non-fiction content. From
Monday to Wednesday, it telecasts
‘Saregamapa’, while from Thursday to
Saturday it has ‘Detective 2015’.
The channel also has a Sunday morning
slot from 9.30 to 11 am for kids where
it airs three animated shows—‘Gini
Zindabad’, ‘Batul The Great’ and
‘Chander Buri O Magicman’. All three
are locally made shows.
The channel usually airs two movies in
a month.
Current market size and challenges
As per industry estimates, the Bengali
general entertainment genre ad pie is
slightly bigger than its Marathi
counterpart and is pegged at Rs 550–
600 crore (Rs 5.5–6 billion) annually.
Sunder says that the two channels
under her (Zee Bangla and Zee Bangla
Cinema) are growing: “If you ask me,
our brands are growing. We see
decent growth. Last year we grew and
this year also we are growing over
last year.”
According to Sunder, Bengal is a
difficult market. “In a market like
this, growing and maintaining share is
also a challenge. I think there will be
interesting innovations from all three
players,” she says.
Zee Bangla Cinema
As in the Marathi market, where ZEEL
operates a GEC and a separate movie
channel, in West Bengal the company
launched Zee Bangla Cinema on 23
September 2012 to complement its
Bangla GEC.
Sunder claims that Zee Bangla Cinema
is the only pure-play movie channel in
the market. Star Jalsha Movies also
airs sports and other non-movie
content (ISL, Pro Kabaddi League,
etc), while Sony Aath has football as
well as dubbed content (‘C.I.D.’) on
its platform.
“In the movie genre, we are the only
24X7 channel in the market. The
challenge is how to grow Bangla
movies as a whole,” Sunder says.
Incidentally, the channel has started
producing movies for television. On 18
January this year, the channel
launched a new initiative called ‘Zee
Bangla Cinema Originals’.
“West Bengal is very fertile in terms
of creative minds, intellectual ability
and is brimming with talent—be it
actors, singers, storytellers, writers
or directors. To tap into this wealth
of talent, we initiated ‘Zee Bangla
Cinema Originals’. Some good stories
are never going to make it to the big
screens, as commercially they will not
be viable and people will not be able to
see them. So we started telling these
stories on TV. These are proper films
and we premiere them on Zee Bangla
Cinema,” Sunder explains.
Given this kind of response, the
channel is so excited that it has
started airing two original movies
each month from August onwards.

Zee Bangla: Looking at fiction to break Star Jalsha’s dominance

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  1. top 3 bangla GEC

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