In Focus

Oct 08, 2013
'At ZEEL, we don't believe in growth without profitability'

Mipcom is the biggest event for all those in the broadcast industry. But this year's Mipcom was even more special. For the first time in the history of Mipcom, an Indian addressed the gathering as a key note speaker. Present today was Zeel MD and CEO Punit Goenka, who elaborated on Zeel, the changing Indian broadcast industry and the role of digitisation and the growth of new media.

Zee Entertainment Television was started in 1992 with just two hours of programming scheduled at that point of time; today we have 34 channels in India, 29 on a global basis.

Our journey outside India started in 1995 so the international business is now 18 years old, but truly, the international business started only a few years back. In the first 15 years, we concentrated on the Indian diaspora.

In the international market, to start with, we picked up the Middle East, Russia and Malaysia, where our content is re-purposed and re-formatted to suit the local audience. Our goal is to reach one billion audiences by 2020, thereby taking Zee to the top ten channels. These markets have a lot of connection with India, especially on the Bollywood side.

Opportunities ahead of digitisation in India

In the traditional analogue market, there was huge piracy, approximately 70 per cent. So a broadcaster like Zeel did not get its fair share of valuation. This will change with digitisation.

The second opportunity is that India is still the cheapest content market. The ARPUs that the consumers pay is $ 3 per month for almost 200 channels. I feel this number will go up to $ 10-12 with digitisation. So the opportunity is two-fold.

Digitisation is one big opportunity that everyone is looking at. It will also impact the advertising market positively. If you look at the advertising market; the growth in the past five years has been roughly nine per cent and television has been growing at 15 to 16 per cent. The advertising industry will see a great boost whether it is captured on traditional media or new media.

Another development taking shape in India is the new measuring body called Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). The advertisers, broadcasters and agencies have come together to form this measurement system. Currently, the sample size in India is less than 10,000 homes, which in the next five years will go up to 100,000 sample households. This again will prove beneficial for advertisers who can find the right consumers.

The profit mantra...

Revenue growth is first and profitability comes in later. But at Zee, we have always followed the mantra that growth without profitability is not good. So according to us, any investment on a sustained basis that does not give a 20-25 per cent return on the capital invested is a bad investment. So when the Indian broadcast industry operates at an average of seven to eight per cent, Zee operates at a healthy 25 per cent plus.

Viewer segmentation...

Going forward, both digitisation and the need of advertisers will lead to further segmentation. Also, fragmentation is the order of the day. We are continually developing more content and more products to further segment the audience and grow and reach the billion mark.

Content creation...

We have a strong internal team working towards ideation and content creation for shows. India is traditionally known for importing formats, Zee was the first one to develop local formats in India. A lot of credit goes to the in-house team, but the credit also goes to the execution department, because investing in formats is not easy, it is expensive and the returns come in only after three or four years. So we have to continuously innovate in terms of our content and formats. The taste changes and so we have to adapt to the changing needs.

Criteria for choosing international partners...

The first thing we see is if my partner shares the same passion and vision. The world today is moving towards more co-operation than competition. We are actually collaborating with our competitors to see how we can mutually create content. So we have partnered with our key competitors in India. So as long as the industry grows, a company like Zee will grow.

Indian talent pool...

India has a dearth of talent in this industry and this is because there are no specialised schools to train people. We at Zee recruit fresh talent every year and put them through rigorous training through institutes that we have partnered with. We have created an environment where people are given the right to decide and build a culture of entrepreneurship. And therefore they take ownership which leads to positive results. I have been talking to schools as well to see if a programme can be created to develop this pool.

Attrition rate in the Indian broadcast industry...

Being a traded organisation, we can give equity stock options to people and that has worked for us. Currently, almost three per cent of the company is owned by the people and this combined with the environment that we create helps us keep the attrition rate as low as possible. In India, people are still moving within the Indian broadcast industry. We are not really seeing too many attritions happening from Indian companies to international markets, but the day isn't far.

Moving towards second screen...

As long as there are consumers at the end of it; yes, we will move to the second screen. In India, the concept of second screen is at an early stage. It is largely the same content that is being reformatted. For example a show which is 40 minutes on traditional media, is shortened to 15 minutes for the small screen or second screen. There have been some investments specifically for this content, largely to get the youth. But, this is still at an early stage. As a content creator, we will catch up soon. We were the first in the country to launch a Video on Demand service on mobile called Ditto TV, under a subscription model. Today we have 200,000 subscribers for it. I think the biggest hindrance is lack of a good broadband service. As the infrastructure improves, in the next three to five years, we will grow in this segment as well.

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