ZEE5 targets 20x-30x increase in subscription numbers in next one year

Two new broadband partnerships are soon to be announced.


MUMBAI: To mark its first anniversary, ZEEL’s OTT platform ZEE5 recently announced plans to produce 72 new Originals on the platform by March 2020. Despite being part of a media and entertainment conglomerate, the super streamer continues to garner all the spotlight largely thanks to the effective progress it has made since launch. Despite being the last entrant into the high-stakes OTT battle, ZEE5 has not just carved out a unique identity for itself but has also turned into a force to be reckoned with.

“This past year has been an enriching journey for each one of us who has been a part of it and being the fastest growing OTT platform in the country is testimony to the continual efforts of the team and support from our partners. Since our launch in February 2018, we have achieved milestones not just on the content front, but under multiple pillars including partnerships and technology. Our aim, through all our initiatives, has been to bring a seamless viewing experience for our subscribers, no matter where they are or what their preference is. The learnings have been immense, and from it we have emerged – stronger and bigger. In 2019, our aim is to outdo ourselves in terms of the concepts & shows and technology we drive through ZEE5 and the announcements today are proof that we are fully poised to take this on,” ZEE5 India CEO Tarun Katial recently.

A key driver of brand ZEE5 has been its business head Manish Aggarwal. Indiantelevision.com caught up with Aggarwal to get a deeper insight into what’s in store for the streaming service and its subscribers going forward.

Q. How has the journey been? It’s been a year.

A. So of course, the first year has been very interesting for us, we’ve been able to scale up whether it’s in terms of the kind of shows we’ve launched out in the market, across languages or in terms of the ramp up we’ve done in attracting monthly active users on the platform. So when you look at the kind of content we did, we were the ones who launched highest number of original content across 6 languages or the kind of world digital premiere of movies we did on the platform or the kind of original films we launched on the platform which were originally designed and catered for the ZEE5 platform and not available anywhere else and of course all of this resulted in the kind of audiences we were able to attract.

Q. What are the main highlights of this year?

A. To take out 3-4 highlights for you, one would definitely be the originals which we’ve launched across 6 languages. Second, it was very satisfying for us within the content space. We were able to work with the who’s who in the Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi industries whether we work with Kartik Subbaraj in Tamil who has directed Rajinikanth’s movie, we’ve worked with Parambrata who directed our Kali, our Bengali originals or you know we’ve worked with Bhau Kadam in Marathi or Sai in Marathi. So you name the genre, we’ve worked with the best in class. Thirdly the most gratifying for us was, we started being the global first in launching regional subscription VOD pack. As we speak today Tamil, Telugu, Kannada packs are hugely contributing to the overall subscription numbers.

Q. So how has been the growth in your subscription based numbers? We know about your MAUs and DAUs. How much has the subscriber base increased in the last year? And how much do you expect going forward?

A. Unfortunately I can’t declare the subscription numbers to you. We have declared the MAU numbers publically. We have seen very healthy growth in subscription numbers. Today we’ve seen subscription growth coming across India, what kicked off with Karenjit Kaur season 1 and 2, Sunny Leone’s biopic further got scaled up with our Rangbaaz show and our crime thriller which was essentially gangster drama. So, in fact, a market like Lucknow and other UP hinterlands which were contributing highest for us when it came to subscription rolls purely at the back of Rangbaaz, typically one would think that these markets would not contribute so much to subscriptions that they would be congested in more free content and that’s not the case for us. And similarly with Abhay we’ve seen a few subscriptions ramping up and with Final Call with the trailer out we’ve seen very positive response and hoping to continue the momentum.

Q. How much increase in subscription numbers do you expect in the coming years, the growth rate?

A. For us the subscriptions come from 2 poles, one is the B2B side which is through our partnerships whether it’s through telco, OEM or broadband partners which is the direct subscriptions. We have very steep targets from both B2B and B2C perspective and we are hoping to easily get 20x-30x on the subscription numbers.

Q. Any plans to strike deals with broadband players or do you have some?

A. We already have some, we are already live with ACT Fibrenet and Hathway and we are going to announce two more broadband partners. These are very big broadband players. We’ve almost closed and it’s just the last stages of the announcement of at least 2 more I assure you and we are also in talks with others. We are also working with some regional players.

Q. How are brands looking at Zee5? Is advertising getting more profit to the platform?

A. At this point in time, it is more about investing and building the platform in terms of the product, technology, content, marketing and distribution partnerships. The key is to give the best of stories to our audiences across genres in the language of their choice and most importantly, availability so that they can watch where they want to watch it whether it’s a feature phone or a smartphone or whether it’s a large screen connection device. And of course advertisers have received ZEE5 in a big way and as we speak we are working with all top media agencies and brands in India whether it’s in terms of targeting metro audiences or in terms of targeting tier 1, tier 2 audiences, essentially wherever there is a smartphone and wherever there is data, ZEE5 is easily accessible and available.

Q. As you mentioned media agencies, can you name some media agencies and brands for us?

A. We are working with all of them - GroupM, Madison, Havas Group.

Q. You have shows in six different languages. Where do you see more traction coming from? Which language is giving more eyeballs to the platform?

A. Hindi is high for everyone. The very reason for the existence of ZEE5 was because we realised that there’s a void of regional content for the Indian consumers and with launching ZEE5 we have significantly filled that void in the entertainment industry today. One interesting insight that I have to tell you is that the consumer today is hungry for good content and good storytelling and that is language agnostic. For us Karenjit Kaur which was Hindi did very well and then we dubbed that in Tamil or Kali which was a Bengali original did very well for us in Hindi and there are various such instances where original language has performed well and at the same time an unexpected regional language has also performed equally well and this is across genre whether it is thriller, horror, crime, comedy.

Q. Are you planning regional subscription packs for other languages as well? The remaining 3 languages that you have.

A. We have regional subscription plans in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Tamil and Telugu have been available since 1 November and Kannada we launched a month later. Of course with Tamil, Telugu and Kanada there is a unique content and requirement from the audiences. We still feel a lot of overlap between Hindi and Marathi audiences. We are very closely watching other languages whether it's Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam or Bhojpuri for that matter. So, we are closely watching that space depending on our audience requirements. We are there to launch regional packs in other markets as well.              

Q. What has been the consumption trends? Is catchup giving more audience or more active users?

A. I would say that catchup is giving us recurring audiences. We being number 1 or close number 2 in almost all the markets whether it’s on Hindi or regional markets etc. Of course, there is a recurring audience that wants to watch Kundali Bhagya and others. AVOD gives us recurring audiences.

Q. So recently ZEE5 made it to Google playstore’s top 10 list. What made it possible? The content, the technology or what?

A. In fact, we’ve been continuously present on the Google playstore in top 5 for free and grossing entertainment apps, not 10. In fact, there was a time when we also reached number 2 or 3 as well on top free and grossing entertainment apps. So it’s predominantly that the consumers are hungry for good content. Good content is what drives us there and what creates the traffic coming and people wanting to download and install the app and consume on a day to day basis.

I think good interface is a necessity now in the category. You need to have a strong UI, you need to give great user experience. ZEE5 is the only one where the user gets the choice of 11 display languages while most entertainment apps allow you to select either English or Hindi as the display language. On ZEE5 if you are comfortable in reading in Odia or Marathi or Tamil you can actually go and select.

Q. Do you plan to increase the investment in your technology along with the content?

A. We are very aggressively investing in the product and technology front and in the next few months, you will see a lot of changes coming your way.

Q. Any gaps you want to plugin going forward?

A. On the technology front there is always a room to improve and like you pointed out we continued to invest heavily on the product and tech front and we’ll be introducing a lot of new features and enhancements on the product front so it’s a continuous improvement process and as a result, every 15 days we release an app update and we make sure that we continuously give the consumers a superior experience from what they have been using in the past and of course our intent is to make it available on as many platforms whether it’s on the telco front or broadband or set top box or smart televisions. You have to be there at the point of consumption.

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