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Ditto TV has the largest paid OTT subscriber base in India, says Zeel's Z5 head Archana Anand

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MUMBAI: Even as Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd has got it right on the television front, questions have time and again been raised that it has not got its act together on digital. However, ever since the digital business was handed over to Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra’s younger son Amit Goenka, the company has been working on redoing its roadmap for VoD and streaming. 

Hence, last year, it took a major punt by relaunching its platform Ditto TV as a live television platform. The sticker price was Rs 20 a month. And, the water cooler talk is that Goenka and team Z5 have got   a handle on the direction they would like to steer Ditto TV. More action and announcements are slated to follow.

Goenka’s point professional is Archana Anand who serves as Z5 Business EVP and  head of digital. It is Anand who is executing strategy on the ground. And, she believes that the Rs 20 decision has proved to be a wise one, as it  has helped it reach newer audience who are not watching TV.

Anand was one of the speakers at indiantelevision.com’s second edition of Vidnet2017. She had a one-on-one conversation with Indiantelevision.com consulting editor Anjan Mitra.  Excerpts from the conversation:

What are your views on the OTT landscape in India?

I think we are going through the best time possibly can have for the industry. Jio has played an immense part in easing out the the ecosystem and making it much more viable for people to consume OTT.

More importantly we have had some international players coming in and setting up  shop here, Netflix and Amazon, I think that's wonderful in the sense as the category has got evangelised so that people who will be coming later will don’t have go to explain what it is.

 With Jio and all the international players coming in it's a fantastic time for somebody to do interesting things in this space. 

Would you like to share some insights from your work with Ditto?

People have been questioning whether going the SVoD way in a market like India where consumers are still hesitant to pay and that mindset is that content should come to us for free. If not, we are okay to get it from pirated sites. At  DittoTV, we were pioneers when we launched in 2012 for quite some reasons we couldn’t make the impact which we wanted to.

Last year, we re-launched with a very gutsy call. We re-launched Ditto at a very radical price of Rs 20 and our catch phrase was ‘BeesKa TV’ and industry asked how we would make a profit out of it  - at so low a price.

I am delighted to say this was the most successful thing we ever thought through.

The concept was to democratize television. With this Rs 20 price point, our thought process was we will actually create penetration and get television to be used by all of those little markets and people who couldn’t afford.

Our campaign was pretty thought thourgh that I didn’t believe I was reaching out to the urban audience. I was very clear that I am reaching out the audience for whom digital is fuzzy word.

More importantly with the 20 bucks price point what I got to do we were able to get it from telco’s mobile wallet which is the most ubiquitous in this country and that helped to partner with telcos and get immediate distribution. So today i have tied up with all the four telcos of this country. Subscription base comes (read: is growing month to month) because of the promotions done by the telcos. The highest cost is cost for acquisition and I don’t have any acquisition cost  - the telcos are giving it free to the consumer and paying.

It was our good fortune that Reliance launched their Jio Play with live television and suddenly the other telcos needed Ditto. My guess is we would be highest or the biggest paid subscriber OTT in this country.

Despite that,  as an ordinary consumer I am confused about your brand. Why so many brands in a space which is already littered with other brands?

For starters, I understand it's a bit confusing. In a short time, people will see our thought process and strategy for OTT very differently. We are going to get these multiple brands under a single umbrella and we will do a exciting launch in the near future.

What will be your go-to market strategy then? 

One should not view this market (in India) purely as AVoD or SVoD or TVoD. All of those models will still be exist because we are seeing the potential.  

BARC recently put out some numbers saying there are some 103 million home who still don't have access to television. So, what happened to those homes do they leapfrog to digital for they have already done so?

Going by our Ditto expereince, I do believe we have reached out to a far greater audience than currently being targeted by BARC. Once EKAM (BARC’digital video measurement service) comes in, I hope you will realize that the last mile has expanded a little more because of the option of being able to watch live television on digital.

Will OTT and traditional linear television both survive or cannibalise?

Look at the consumer eyeballs around you and you resist all you want but the fact is this little device becomes the single point for us for most of our  content. Huge brands across the globe are now revisiting the way they are spending advertising money saying they wanted a particular urban audience or millennial audience. For the youth, they are possible smarter to put it on OTT.

Having said that, while one is not making big prophecies about the death of television but you are going to see a trend. We have over 30 OTT players today. It doesn’t make any sense, it’s a loss pool today, and more and more people are jumping in. But, everybody is making a punt for the future.

Zee Group, the parent company, completely got out of owning sports content. Aren’t you losing on a huge chunk of young audience who are digitally literate and could be your subscribers.

It might be true but there are choices you make. You can’t do everything and so, I think, the concept was very clear if you couldn't be the leader or number two in that space we rather move on and use the investment in the other areas.

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