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KUNWAR DIGVIJAY SINGH ZEE TV

By Published on .

BOMBAY-Fifteen years ago as a Hindustan Lever brand manager handling animal feed and detergents, Kunwar Digvijay Singh never expected to play a major role in revolutionizing India's broadcasting industry.

But since he joined Zee TV as executive president two years ago, the 35-year-old Mr. Singh has been instrumental in making India's popular Hindi satellite TV channel on Star a major worry to the government's giant but staid TV Doordarshan.

Since its introduction in October 1992, Zee TV has exceeded all expectations.

Ad revenues for 1993 were $18 million, with projections for 1994 doubling to $36 million, although at the current rate of $4 million monthly even that projection may be surpassed.

Still dwarfed by Doordarshan's $118 million in revenues last year, Zee nevertheless was a factor in the decline in the government network's revenues from a year earlier.

Zee, which telecasts 12 hours six days a week and 18 hours on Sundays, reaches 50 million viewers in India and another five million elsewhere in Asia.

Proof of its popularity: Zee programs have a lock on the top five-rated shows and nine out of the top 10 programs generally are Zee's, according to the Indian Market Research Bureau's Television Ratings Point system, a subsidiary of Hindustan Thompson Associates. In comparison, only one Doordarshan program makes the list.

Zee's popularity lies in its appeal to a broad upper middle class family audience, with a range of talk shows-some quite confrontational-soap operas, current affairs, music programs, movies and even a horror show.

Such lively fare has lured first-time advertisers, marketers of consumer goods and high-value auto-motive, electric, electronic and utility items. Its nearly 400 clients include Bata, Bayer, Cadbury, Citibank, Colgate-Palmolive, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi Foods, Reckitt & Colman, Philips, Hindustan Lever and Unilever.

Mr. Singh has worked hard to keep them happy. For example, Zee offers special incentives previously unheard of in India: Advertisers on prime time, between 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., at $2,381 for a 30-second spot, earn bonus spots on non-prime time.

Sure proof that the effort is working is that Doordarshan began lowering its prices in April, making them competitive to Zee's on a cost per thousand basis and offering frequency discounts.

Mr. Singh's results attracted other attention, the eye of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. last December bought 49.9% of Asia Today, Zee's owner.

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