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Zee TV to re-launch own magazine with a huge circulation
12th April, 2004

by Sunny Hundal

Zee TV is soon to be back in the magazine business this summer with a re-launch of its subscriber magazine. Rather than simply providing information about programming and presenters however, the magazine is aiming to be a fully fledged lifestyle magazine.

The news is interesting for quite a few reasons. Firstly, the magazine has been almost entirely outsourced to an outside company. Secondly, it will be sent out, according to Zee, to over a 100,000 households in the UK and Europe, making it by far the largest circulation Asian magazine in the UK. And finally, the bigger emphasis on lifestyle content puts it in direct competition with other Asian magazines, specially Snoop.

The effects of such a move could be quite significant to Asian media. To examine these factors in more detail, I had a chat with Sunil Rohra, CEO of Zee Network UK and Europe.

Zee magazine, which will launch on June 20th, is being produced by Profile Pursuit Ltd. Under the deal it will produce all the content, get advertising for the magazine and keep the revenue. The 128 page publication will go out quarterly.

"It's something we are using as a device to communicate to our subscribers. We always like to move ahead of everyone. We come out with new ideas and the others follow whatever we do. This is something we are always looking to provide - extra value to our subscribers," says Mr Rohra.

The publication of the magazine represents a bold step forward for Zee Network in the UK. It will be the first time any British Asian media company has outsourced the content, advertising and production of such a key product.

Concerns about how a mainstream British company could produce a magazine for a very Indian brand with a heavy focus on Asian culture and lifestyle were also dismissed out of hand. "They are a very professional company, and they make magazines for other companies too. They have experience in doing this kind of stuff," he says.

"Nowadays people understand the Asian community. We do provide them what we would like to see from the magazine. But it has become a very fine line between Asian and non-Asian in the UK. They understand what sells in the Asian market."

Zee Magazine was last published in March 2001. In the three year break Zee has firmly spread its tentacles in the UK with its four channels: Zee TV, Zee Music, Zee Cinema and Alpha Punjabi. In the past year the network has also done a lot to increase its profile.

A lifestyle product?
So why was the decision made to initially stopped publishing Zee Magazine? "We were not concentrating enough on the magazine earlier, and we wanted to get lots of other things sorted out. We decided to focus on first on what our main activities are like the new channels, promotions and consolidating our market. Since we got to grips with those aspects we have decided to go ahead with the magazine," Mr Rohra says.

He adds: "It is not a TV guide magazine, it is not a totally lifestyle magazine. It is a mixture of the two". That might be the case according to Zee, but it is undeniable, having had a sneak peek at some of the content of the magazine, it will impact others in the market.

The magazine features interviews with Asian celebrities from the fields of fashion, design, art, music, architecture, sport, cookery, travel and comedy, as well as articles on health, finance and property and listings of forthcoming Zee TV highlights.

Most likely to worry from Zee magazine will be Snoop, which features a similar mix of celebrity interviews and news. Although the magazine adopts a more tongue-in-cheek style editorially and always sports a bikini model on the front cover, advertising may suffer. Profile Pursuit will be trying hard to sell that similar audience to advertisers, armed with a bigger sales team and much larger readership.

Snoop's advantage is that Zee Magazine isn't yet being sold on news stands, but this may change. Mr Rohra certainly didn't rule out the possibility. "We will see how the opportunities come up and how well the magazine does. We haven't decided against it. We will see how it goes," he says.

The magazine re-launch is also a reaction to Star's decision to go free. Zee will have to be aggressive to retain customers and is likely to reveal more tricks up its sleeve in the coming months.

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