Interview with Adil Memon, Content head of Zee Entertainment MENA.

What is the impact of Ramadan on your media business?
Ramadan is a holy month that not only brings changes to one’s daily lifestyle but also it has a large impact on businesses. Most businesses have offerings to increase their turnover either by value additions or discounts. FMCG, automotive, travel and retail dominate the market through lucrative offers during Ramadan and for Eid. Television consumption significantly increases due to change in the daily routine compared with other months in the year. Most of the premium drama series are launched during Ramadan due to availability of high viewership and revenues allocated for this month by the advertisers.
Viewership starts post Iftar, up to 2am. The programming acquisition starts at least four to six months in advance, and in some cases it happens immediately after Ramadan based on the success of previous season or formats. Digital consumption also increases due to the high volume of available content and flexibility to watch it. Premium content production only happens for general entertainment channels, so viewership of movie channels and other genres drops significantly.
Religious, comedy and drama series are the most watched genre during Ramadan. Movie releases happen during Eid and outside Ramadan. Despite so many changes, the overall television consumption doesn’t change much. Reach and time spent on general entertainment increase significantly.

How are you seeing TV consumption change?
During Ramadan the general entertainment channels’ viewership increases by 20 per cent to 100 per cent, depending on their content offering during Ramadan. Movie channels lose viewership by between 65 per cent to 90 per cent, depending upon the base. Overall, the number of people using television doesn’t change much; only the viewership increases in the general entertainment genre. Zee Alwan viewership increases by 30 per cent to 40 per cent during Ramadan, compared with the previous month.

What changes are you seeing in the way marketers use television?
Television becomes the first window to consume premium Ramadan content, followed by digital. So no marketer wants to lose the opportunity to showcase its offerings to the viewers. Due to viewership hikes of 50 per cent in the general entertainment genre, marketers get better value for each eyeball they reach, as the advertising rate increase is not in proportion to viewership increase. Also they try and get associated with stars, so that maximum exposure is assured. In order to capitalise on such opportunities, Zee Alwan offers content featuring premium stars such as Hani Salama, Mustafa Shaban, Maguy Bou Ghosn, Bassel Khayyat, Qays Sheikh Najib, Mai Selim and Wissam Sabbagh.

What is the biggest challenge facing the TV industry and how are you tackling it?
Advertising TV expenditure has been decreasing in double digits for the last couple of years, and the decrease is not moving 100 per cent to other mediums. Digital is the biggest gainer, and hence we have launched Z5 Weyyak, which are our advertising on demand platform, to ensure that we offer advertising solutions that fit our clients. Nevertheless, budget cuts is a major issue from mainstream and local retail clients. Therefore, we are also exploring different markets such as Egypt, Morocco amd other local markets to increase our revenues so we can sustain existing business and build from there in years to come. Branded content on the channel also drive some revenues, but it has potential to reach bigger heights if the industry supports it.

What changes in TV are you most excited about in the next couple of years?
Fresh content post Ramadan is something that just started a couple of years ago, and the current year seems to have the maximum number of drama launches after Ramadan, of 45- and 60-episodes series. We have also ventured into local drama production and hope to have two launches in the current year, post Ramadan.