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Film Hindi brings au­then­tic movies in Ara­bic to TV, to broaden view­er­ship among Arab cinephiles.

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VET­ERAN TV pro­fes­sional, Mukund Cairae, CEO – MENAP of Zee En­ter­tain­ment En­ter­prise LLC, has been with the com­pany for eight years. He has played a key role in driv­ing Zees’s foot­print across the Asia Pa­cific re­gion. He has been in his cur­rent role for three years, he heads a team of 65 in mar­ket­ing, pro­gram­ming, ad sales, con­tent sales and dis­tri­bu­tion. He is re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing the Arab and South Asian busi­ness units, con­sist­ing of six chan­nels. Un­der his lead­er­ship, the MENAP op­er­a­tions recorded its most prof­itable pe­ri­ods in 2011 and 2012, and gross ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues in­creased by 77 per cent un­der his ten­ure. Here he gives Siob­han Adams a sneak pre­view of his new chan­nel, which de­buts this month specif­i­cally for Arab lovers of clas­sic In­dian cin­ema.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on Film Hindi. What was the launch ra­tio­nale? We launched a Bol­ly­wood chan­nel for the Arab world about four years ago so we could see how the genre and au­di­ence had grown. There are a lot of Bol­ly­wood afi­ciona­dos and we pretty much de­fined the genre.

This is our at­tempt to reach out to lovers of In­dian films, and cre­ate a dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween In­dian cin­ema and Bol­ly­wood. The lat­ter be­ing our flashy post-2005 of­fer­ing and In­dian Movies be­ing cin­ema for true cin­ema lovers. So, the great­est films, the big­gest hits, the most ro­man­tic sto­ries and such, is what we bring.

Are you tar­get­ing an older au­di­ence with this? We are get­ting a lot of feed­back say­ing “why are you dub­bing In­dian movies, we would like to see them in the orig­i­nal lan­guages, maybe with sub­ti­tles”. We are reach­ing out to 20 to 45 year olds.

So, quite broad? Yes. And not nec­es­sar­ily an older au­di­ence. The name of the chan­nel is sup­posed to de­note the ‘real film’, Asil Hindi, Film Hindi. It is for an Arab au­di­ence that ap­pre­ci­ates In­dian cin­ema and who, over the past five years, has be­gun to un­der­stand what In­dian cin­ema is all about. And it’s an at­tempt to widen the au­di­ence base of peo­ple who watch In­dian cin­ema across mul­ti­ple chan­nels in the re­gion.

Which par­tic­u­lar seg­ment do you hope to at­tract? In­ter­est­ingly, the num­ber watch­ing TV un­der what is grouped movie chan­nels has grown by 14 per cent dur­ing the past four years. This is not or­ganic, but the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing and hence the base is grow­ing. It’s for peo­ple who watch con­tent from other gen­res and are tun­ing into movies.

So, 14 per cent growth is what we’re look­ing at, as we un­der­stand that the pie it­self is grow­ing. Peo­ple who want to watch movies. Now, Zee Aflam has made its mark be­cause there are a lot of other chan­nels that are run­ning Bol­ly­wood movies. So we said: “If there are chan­nels why don’t we of­fer two of­fer­ings? One for In­dian cin­ema and one for Bol­ly­wood?”

And this is a fam­ily ori­en­tated of­fer­ing? Com­pletely.

So you’ll tar­get ad­ver­tis­ers in this seg­ment? Well 78 per cent of Pan Arab ad­ver­tis­ing money to­day goes to women and fam­ily, while only 22 per cent is male-cen­tric. That is why we would like to reach out

There are 600 chan­nels, but that’s not a TV mar­ket. That’s ‘some­body who de­cides I want to start a TV chan­nel’ mar­ket.

to fam­i­lies by giv­ing them this par­tic­u­lar brand of en­ter­tain­ment.

Did you de­velop any spe­cial for­mats be­yond TVCs, break bumps? There are ap­prox­i­mately five or six prop­er­ties that will be part of this par­tic­u­lar chan­nel that will ap­peal to a fam­ily au­di­ence.

As long as we are able to demon­strate, through data, that we have a healthy fam­ily au­di­ence, let’s say at say 7pm to 9pm, or 2pm to 4pm we are able to cre­ate ad­ver­tis­ers there.

Break bumpers and in­te­grated pro­mos are pretty much what every­body does, and we do the same ex­cept that ‘stick­i­ness’ is what we of­fer.

Will you elab­o­rate? The time spent that we ex­pect on this par­tic­u­lar chan­nel is go­ing to be far higher than what we have ex­pe­ri­enced with Aflam, un­til now. Aflam has a very high reach, but this is go­ing to be an of­fer­ing that reaches out to the ded­i­cated viewer, so the time spent with them is very much higher.

Can you quan­tify? Any­thing more than 17 min­utes is con­sid­ered av­er­age. We ex­pect to take this up to 45 min­utes.

That’s a very big in­crease. Yes, but In­dian movies are a thou­sand emo­tions rolled into one film, so there’s a par­tic­u­lar part that has ro­mance, ac­tion, be­trayal etc and that makes for a lot of en­gaged view­ers, which is how we ex­pect more ‘stick­i­ness’.

You must have a huge movie ar­chive? We have the largest pre-2000 li­brary of In­dian cin­ema [in the world], which is more than 3,000 movies.

Did you cre­ate view­ing blocks, such as ro­mance from 2pm to 5pm in the af­ter­noon? Bang on.

So they are seg­mented blocks for ad­ver­tis­ers? Ab­so­lutely. There are five blocks ev­ery­day. So it will be some­thing like Hindi Asli; Amitabh Aflam; Black & White Clas­sics; One Ac­tor; Two movies; and Birth of a Su­per­star. There will be four orig­i­nal air­ings in the day at 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm.

So very seg­mented? Yes, and it will be sup­ple­mented con­tent, such as the His­tory of In­dian Cin­ema, his­to­ries of the great Bol­ly­wood dy­nas­ties and how movie-mak­ing is so dif­fer­ent now from then.

How do you cater to sec­ond- and third-screen us­age and what do you think of it? It’s not very ‘sticky’. It is a lot more pro­mis­cu­ous when you are do­ing this. It’s more five-minute view­ing and then move on. When you are look­ing at ded­i­cated view­ing, it’s essen­tially the TV screen.

Ac­cord­ing to In­forma there were 94.5 mil­lion TV house­holds in the Mena re­gion by the end of 2012. Are you in all those? Since there is no ad­dress­abil­ity, th­ese are house­holds that have FTA de­coders. So there is no way for any par­tic­u­lar chan­nel to say: “I am in ev­ery TV house­hold in Libya, Egypt, Morocco…”

So the best thing that one can do in an FTA en­vi­ron­ment is to say: “I am go­ing to be on a satel­lite that cov­ers this en­tire re­gion.” Film Hindi is go­ing to be on Arab Sat and that cov­ers about 93 per cent of this re­gion, and that’s where we are.

It’s still a very clut­tered mar­ket. Is it? There are 600 chan­nels, but that’s not a TV mar­ket. That’s ‘some­body who de­cides I want to start a TV chan­nel’ mar­ket. [Peo­ple are] very clear on the genre of en­ter­tain­ment they want to watch.

A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion then? There are ap­prox­i­mately 35 chan­nels that earn rev­enues out of the 600-plus. My guessti­mate is about 19 of them make money.

Where is Zee within your guessti­mate? It ac­tu­ally de­pends on the prod­uct. With Aflam we are. With Al­wan we should be [earn­ing money] within six months. With Film Hindi it should be within two years from launch.

Turn­ing to mea­sure­ment – peo­ple me­ters are in the UAE, but still not in Saudi Ara­bia. They were sup­posed to start there this year.

They were sup­posed to start eight years ago. I be­lieve it’s good PR for the peo­ple me­ter com­pany in the UAE, that peo­ple are be­gin­ning to be­lieve in the con­cept. And the trends are not very dif­fer­ent.

Re­ally? I’m sur­prised. The im­por­tant part is the be­lief that data is go­ing to be com­pletely lop­sided when peo­ple me­ters start. That the early method­ol­ogy was not ac­cu­rate and now we have some­thing that we can get our teeth into. Trends are no dif­fer­ent. Chan­nels that were ranked one, two and three on ear­lier sys­tems com­pared to one, two and three on peo­ple me­ters are no dif­fer­ent.

In my opin­ion, the case long dis­si­pated. It gives you a lot of view­er­ship feed­back and pat­terns. It can tell you what can of viewer watches what and pos­si­bly be able to fig­ure from data when do they tune out. It would be dis­turb­ing to find out they tune out when the com­mer­cials start, it would kind of de­feat the pur­pose.

Yes, but it might give you greater clar­ity. That’s my point. When you try to make a case for peo­ple me­ters for the ad­ver­tis­ers to be­lieve that, when we’ve al­ways said: “this chan­nel is num­ber four.” If the peo­ple me­ter can prove it, then great, but now what? If the same num­ber four is what was on the early method­ol­ogy, does it make the case for peo­ple me­ters? I don’t know; it re­ally doesn’t throw up any sur­prises.

Speak­ing of sur­prises, I hear over Ra­madan view­ing fig­ures for chan­nels re­tained their usual rank­ings, but the rev­enues have dropped. Why? Costs were up, but prof­itabil­ity was down as con­tent was an is­sue due to what is hap­pen­ing in the re­gion, es­pe­cially Syria.

So Le­banon’s prox­im­ity to Syria and then Egypt’s pro­duc­tion houses as well? Ex­actly. There was a scarcity of con­tent, so the con­tent costs got hyped up un­nat­u­rally. Even if your topline was equal to last year, your prof­itabil­ity took at hit be­cause your mid­dle line was in­flated.

Let’s talk about the ZEE Cine Awards. Any de­tails on the 2014 event? We are look­ing at three coun­tries, Ger­many, Aus­tralia and the UAE. Pitches have been made to the tourism au­thor­i­ties and gov­ern­ments to see if we can have it in Q1. We are talk­ing nearly 600 peo­ple fly­ing in, in­clud­ing the who’s who of In­dian cin­ema. I think the UAE is a very strong con­tender, be­cause th­ese awards aren’t only fixed on SE Asians in the re­gion, it’s pretty much every­body.

Turn­ing to the fu­ture, are you look­ing at Africa? From 1994 to 2004 our ma­jor thrust was In­dian con­tent for In­di­ans glob­ally. From 2004 we started say­ing “In­dian con­tent for lo­cals” and there­fore started projects for In­done­sia, Malaysia and Brunei. Here, ZEE Ara­bia was started for Arabs and there was a ZEE Rus­sia. From 2006, we started say­ing “how about lo­cal con­tent for lo­cals?” By 2020 we ex­pect our in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions, giv­ing lo­cal con­tent to lo­cals, to be far higher than what is in In­dia.

An­a­lysts ex­pect ma­jor growth from Sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa. Yes. The Africa team based out of Jo­han­nes­burg and Mau­ri­tius has de­vel­oped a lo­cal drama se­ries in English for Africans. Africa is a paid TV [mar­ket] more than FTA. So they are now look­ing to sign up those car­riage deals with the large Paid TV op­er­a­tors to roll that out, I hope it does be­fore the end of the year.

In­dian movies are a mul­ti­tude of emo­tions rolled into one film, says Cairae

And ac­tion...:

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