Zee launches &TV with much fanfare & Shah Rukh

22 Jan,2015

 

By Our Research Editor

 

It’s been worth the wait. Industrypersons hoping that an all-new big-bang GEC will rev up the scene were not disappointed. Indian entertainment’s most sought after name – Shah Rukh Khan – was present at the launch.

 

By the time you read this, you’ve already heard and read enough about what &TV is going to be all about. That it was to be called &TV was known now for around a year. In fact the industry was hoping for a surprise or a twist, but that didn’t happen. That a galaxy of production companies have been retained for some high visibility fictions and non-fictions was also known. In fact the names were there on the television fanzines and Indiantelevision.com even had rather detailed insider info on the launch.

 

What was not known much in advance were the finer details of the big opening act of the channel – Shah Rukh Khan and a Siddhartha Basu/Big Synergy production ‘India Poochega – Sabse Shaana Kaun?’. Although Khan earned his stripes on the small screen, his recent outings with non-fiction (save the award shows) have been mixed. While Kaun Banega Crorepati was fine, others like ‘Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain?’ and ‘Zor Ka Jhatka: Total Wipeout’ failed to attract audiences.

 

Television industry observers though aren’t too worried. What Shah Rukh Khan has done is draw attention to the channel and will pull viewers to it in the early days. Just as an Akshay Kumar did for Colors, a little less than seven years back. “The good thing is that SRK isn’t one to accept defeats easily and he will keep at it until he succeeds. So you never know!”

 

The launch proeedings at the Reliance Mediaworks studio at Mumbai’s Film City were very business-like. Before Shah Rukh Khan descended on the stage (literally!), Zee Entertainment Managing Director and CEO Punit Goenka unveiled the logo with a tap on the backdrop. “&TV will offer a more substantial viewing experience to an audience that is always seeking fresh and relevant content. The channel extends our Hindi entertainment portfolio under the ‘&’ bouquet and will add to the consolidation of our leading position in the entertainment industry.”

Said Rajesh Iyer, Business Head, &TV on what the channel will stand for: “While the spirit of &TV is young, it is deep-rooted in values. We intend to be a power house of entertainment, by tapping into and harnessing the powerful changes in the thinking, mindset and belief sweeping through this country of billions. As a new channel, we will lead with innovation, try new things and new ways to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive environment. We are thrilled to have Shah Rukh Khan as the host of our flagship non-fiction property and we are certain that the audience will enjoy a different side of their superstar! ”

 

So will &TV be an attempt to flank parent Zee TV and shave away from rating points from Colors which has been consistently at #2 among the Hindi GECs over the last few months?

 

“If &TV weans away viewers, it will do that for not just Colors but across all GECs. But rather than that, as we have seen in the past, the genre of Hindi entertainment will grow if &TV works with viewers,” said the analyst quoted earlier. But what is the guarantee of &TV working given that Pal has a dismal outing despite being from the Multi Screen Media/Sony stable and being headed by Anooj Kapoor who turned around the fortunes of Sab TV? “It’s impossible to guarantee anything. In broadcast, as it is in life. Just because a certain channel has failed till date doesn’t it mean it can’t bounce back and others will not do well.”

 

This, it may be noted is Zee’s third attempt with a second GEC, if one does not put Zindagi in the same bracket.  EL TV and Zee Next started out with much enthusiasm, but did not create an impact and were pulled off. “Those were different days. The attention and budgets being given to &TV with Rajesh Iyer and his team are of a dramatically higher magnitude.” Indeed they are. An IndianTelevision report pegged marketing costs to be in the region of Rs 150 crore. Other trade wags say the entire outlay in the first year to be in the region of upwards of Rs 400 crore.

 

&TV, MxMIndia learns, will be promoted extensively on the Zee TV network. An extensive 360-degree campaign has been envisaged. The channel’s tagline is Jashn Jeene Ka” which has been rendered by musical duo Sachin-Jigar.

Other than India Poochega – SabseShaanaKaun?’ which is an adaptation from Who’s Asking, a format owned by Israel based Armoza, the channel also uveiled a host of fiction properties. Starting with, Begusarai, a quintessential quirky land set in the hinterland of Bihar with film-maker Tigmanshu Dhulia designing the first look of this multi-starrer film on TV, being one. There’s a historical thrown in the form of Razia Sultan, there BhabijiG har Par Hai!, a sitcom, and then there’s a soap titled Badii Devrani, which, as the name suggest, will have all the family melodrama built into it.

 

According to a communiqué handed out to the media, the ampersand or & in &TV, signifies a conjunction of aspirations and rootedness which is synonymous with the spirit of new age India. “Through its content offering, the channel will bring together people and ideologies thus fostering cohesive viewing within Indian households. &TV will showcase a diverse and dynamic mix of relatable fiction, high voltage non-fiction, marquee events and blockbuster movies.”

 

Does all of this look a bit like what some other channels are about? A rival broadcaster, while insisting on anonymity, says the comparisons with any channel are incorrect. There is a one billion-plus viewing public, and broadcasters are tailoring content to all tastes. “We scoffed at Sab’s programming as too downmarket, but see where it’s reached. Also, look at Life OK. Despite being from the Star India stable, it has carved a unique niche for itself.”

 

Another senior industryperson told us that it’s all about how one works around the demographics.  “Remember what happened after LC1. With an increase in the number of panels and meters across the country, we could be in for a new beginning in television in India. And this is where an &TV can score.”

 

&TV is scheduled to launch in March, though no dates are given yet. Interesting World Cup Cricket is going to be on till March 29, but being held in Australia and New Zealand, it won’t impact primetime viewing. The 2015 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is scheduled from April 8 to May 24. Then there are the slew of programming on all of television.

 

And did we hear that there could be a couple of more Hindi GECs that may launch in the next year? It’s a party that will never end. Like one of our infinitely loooong television dramas.

 

 

 

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