Interview with Govind Shahi from Heath Media

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Govind Shahi, ex-ZEE Network UK/Europe Head, joined Heath Media in July. According to the company, Heath Media Group is to tap onto various opportunities within the media matrix and provide a right platform for enterprising media professionals and scale up the business.

BizAsia.co.uk caught up with Govind to find out more about his move from ZEE Network where he was for over 15 years to join Heath Media.

Govind Shahi from Heath Media
Govind Shahi joined Heath Media in 2011

First of all, congratulations on your new post at Heath Media, tell us a bit about your role in this new organisation?
Thanks – Essentially, I am responsible for the strategic business development, international growth strategy and on an overall level the whole business growth for the Heath Media Group. I am spearheading the strategic growth path.

Heath Media is a subsidiary company of Di5 Global, what will Heath Media’s core focus be?
Its the other way around…Heath Media Group is the holding company for six companies of which Di5 is one of the businesses. For further details, please see www.heathmediagroup.co.uk .

What do you think of the current UK Asian media climate and do you think it will be difficult for Heath Media to differentiate itself from rivals?
The UK Asian media climate is definitely in the evolution stage ��_ there is a lot going on, on all fronts and we have come a long way from where we were a decade back. This is good as long as things move towards a more scientific and professional approach within the ethnic space.

There is a step change within the media buying and planning space (i.e. the ratings game) and there are differing business strategies adopted by the key players in the market (consolidation, FTA, Pay, etc).

At Heath Media, we are different from anything that exists here in the UK market as we are into a diverse range of media businesses. The UK Asian broadcast element is an important aspect in our business but definitely not the only piece.

With this new venture, you want to pep up the market further with the launch of new channels such as UTV Movies, UTV Stars, Zoom and a few others; do you think there is enough space left in UK Asian media domain for more Asian TV channels?
Well we are in talks with various broadcasters, given the cumulative experience the team has.

As for the space, there is plenty available because there remains a huge untapped market in terms of mainstream advertising revenues. Even today, the market is lopsided with some channels taking a lion�۪s share of the pie, so there is adequate scope for newer channels to get a share of these revenues.

While you were at ZEE Network, Zing was sold at a much cheaper rate or as an “add-on” to the other ZEE Network UK channels, is that not an indication of how competitive the market has become?
No comments.

You leaving ZEE Network UK came as a surprise as it had been doing well on back of its ICC Cricket World Cup coverage, launch of ZEE Cafe and other properties, why did you mutually leave the organisation at a pinnacle point?
It was a dream run last year for the ZEE team, we had mega properties which translated into good subs/ad revenues. On the other hand, I have been with the network for more than 15 years and the bug to be involved in something different, something outside the corporate limitations was getting into me, hence I thought no better time to leave.

You had been with ZEE Network for over fifteen years, what were your highlights while you were there?
In UK, the biggest challenge for me was to set up a new team at ZEE after a few departures and transfers, etc. To identify, develop and manage a new team from nascence to maturity effectively was the biggest highlight which I felt was achieved in these last years.
Apart from that there are quite a few highlights in my journey with ZEE UK ��� Miss World, ZEE Carnival, ZEE Radio, ZEE Russia and some of the innovative marketing initiatives.

Looking at the other side, what do you regret most while you were with ZEE Network – any “wrong” decision you made, which you look back upon now?
Nothing that comes to mind.

While you were at ZEE Network, there had been many talks between yourselves and VIEWASIA about a possible distribution alliance – do you think it will be a good idea for such a move?
No comments.

Even though each channel holds its own, Star TV seems to be the strongest player with backed data to prove its popularity – Do you think Star TV will continue its dominance in the UK market, if not, which broadcaster do you think will emerge as its biggest rival?
We have seen the parameters change over the years, from just encrypted to partly encrypted to FTA, from being sold on just a sellers word to actually producing BARB figures and of course consolidation into bouquets with multiple offerings. As I said earlier, clearly the market is evolving rapidly and the process will continue over the next 2-3 years with channels that will launch in the FTA model buying for the same ad pie that other channels are today. It would be survival of the fittest in the days to come.

What do you think of the future of pay TV market as opposed to the number of free-to-air channels? How long do you think the likes of Imagine Dil Se will be able to survive without subscription revenue?
The bouquet of FTA channels is definitely increasing. I think the pay operators will need to focus on differentiation / exclusivity of content to ensure that viewers /subscribers see value for the money they spend to have the pay channels in their homes. The FTAs will also need to be differentiated in a clutter market for garner viewership ��� mere reach won�۪t suffice.

As part of your new role, you are looking at various new marketing initiatives to set you aside from other marketing agencies, how do you plan to do this?
The advantage within the Group is manifold. The diversity of companies in terms of service offerings and international reach provides us avenues unheard of. I would not get into details here but all I could say is watch this space.

You will also be spending a lot more time in India, how would you compare the UK Asian media market with the India media?
The India market is far more scientific and mature in terms of ad sales for a start. It’s highly fragmented and fairly complex when compared with the UK ethnic media scene. It�۪s always a pleasure to be in India and work with the people there as there is constant learning and no dearth of opportunities to be explored.

What are your immediate plans for Heath Media – any exclusive?
One of the companies in our group – TMS has just signed up the exclusive ethnic sales rights for cinema screens across the UK. Launch in the US is also on the cards.

Final message for the UK Asian media industry…
UK is where I have built my key experience and it�۪s been a pleasure working with all those whom I met over the last few years and had an opportunity to work and interact with. I do believe that there is scope for everyone to grow hence in the best interests of the UK ethnic media market, the key drivers which really need to be adopted would be healthy competition, constructive criticism coupled with proactive and innovative thinking.

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