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ZEEL to globally strengthen its 'largest Indian entertainment' brand identity, says Amit Goenka

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Internet is significantly changing the way we consume entertainment -- AR and VR are becoming commonplace. Over 60% of the world’s population is ‘digitally connected’ today. Content companies and advertisers are swiftly adapting to the new reality and redefining their strategies to stay on the top of the game. ZEEL's international presence makes it one of the largest Indian entertainment brands and it wants to make the brand stronger, going forward. ZEEL CEO - international business Amit Goenka discusses the group's plans and strategies in the company's annual report:    

How do you think the digital market will evolve and at what stage is India in that evolution process?

Internet is dramatically changing the world as we know it. Over half the world now uses Internet, and technologies like AR and VR are fast becoming commonplace. Internet has already become an integral part of everyday life for most of the world’s population. Over 60% of the world’s population now owns a mobile phone and is ‘digitally connected’ and we will see a proliferation of this trend going forward. With increasing online content consumption, media businesses, content companies and advertisers are also rapidly adapting to the new reality and redefining their strategies accordingly to stay ahead and stay relevant.

Given that Internet penetration in India is still under 40%, there is a significant growth potential

for digital content consumption. We see the growth momentum across digital increasingly

coming from smaller towns and rural areas, as urban areas get saturated. Businesses, across

the board, will have to look at innovative ways to reach and capture the rural market given its

propensity to consume content in vernacular languages and lack of comfort with English.

What is ZEEL’s strategy for digital business?

As an entertainment content company, it remains extremely important for us to be present where

our consumers are, and so having a digital presence remains integral to our strategy for

future growth.

We launched the first Over-The-Top (OTT) platform in India in 2012 - dittoTV, our aggregator

SVOD offering for live TV. We re-launched it last year at a strategic and disruptive price of ` 20 per month. We also partnered with leading telecom operators for both distribution and payment, which has been a successful move for us. OZEE, our free-to-consumer AVOD platform, has been showing excellent traction and is a leader in engagement metrics. With the launch of our global OTT platform Z5, we will consolidate our SVOD and AVOD offerings. It will be the single destination for all our content.

How do you see competition from local players like Hotstar, Voot and international players like Amazon Prime and Netflix?

The industry is still at a nascent stage. Though the digital consumption has grown significantly

over the last couple of years, most of the players are still experimenting with different monetisation models. At this point, the entry of new players, especially the international ones, to my mind, is expanding the market size and popularising the category. Players have raised significant funds and are investing in content creation. These are also exciting times for users who are being wooed across the board with a plethora of choices and are getting to experiment with different genres of content. We do see this trend settling down in the future and expect a

degree of consolidation in the industry. This will also lead to players finding their own content

niche in which they would want to operate. We have our own strategy in place and are geared to create a distinct positioning for ourselves despite the cluttered market.

What would make your digital product stand out from the others?

Content is the key to attract a sustainable viewer base across any platform. Our experience and understanding of content and consumer certainly gives us a natural edge. The content viewing pattern on digital platforms is different from television and we are tweaking our content strategy accordingly to suit these needs. In addition, a rich viewing experience aided by a highly intuitive UI (user interface) across multiple languages is one of our key focus areas. Also, given our spread of channels across languages and geographies, a strong recommendation engine would help users to seamlessly navigate content suiting their needs.

Do you think digital will take away share of advertising from television?

I think both would complement each other. In a market like India where television penetration

will continue to grow for years, it will remain the primary medium of entertainment for majority of the population. Digital allows content consumption on the move and is adding to the overall video consumption. Even in evolved markets like the US, television advertising is still growing despite the increasing share of digital. While we see growth in both the mediums, digital will grow at a higher rate over the next few years in India.

Could you give a brief overview of ZEEL’s international business?

There are two parts of our international business – the first part caters to the Indian and South Asian diaspora and the second part, caters to the foreign audience in their native languages. As far as the diaspora is concerned, I think we have reached most of the countries with sizeable Indian population. The endeavour here is to offer more channels and expand our distribution reach.

We started targeting foreign audience having affinity for Indian content in 2008, and have significantly expanded our presence in the last eighteen months. I think this journey has just begun. Currently, we are offering content made for Indian market, dubbed, subtitled or repurposed as per the requirements of a country. We have 13 channels in this category and as we learn more about the needs of the audience, we will gradually make content for some of those markets.

How would you describe your international journey so far?

ZEEL forayed into the international business in 1994 with the launch of Zee TV in the Middle East & Pakistan. Following that, we commenced operations in Europe (UK) in 1995, Africa in 1996, US in 1998 and lastly APAC in 2004. Having reached Indian diaspora in all significant markets, we started targeting markets with a liking for Indian content. This journey commenced with the launch of Zee Aflam in MENA region. Our international presence makes us one of the largest Indian entertainment brands and we want to make this brand stronger, going forward.

What are the factors you consider while launching a channel for non-Indian audience?

The proposition to launch a new channel begins with identifying markets where a content gap

exists and we can leverage the strength of our library to offer differentiated content. This involves extensive research to understand the market dynamics including learning about consumer preferences, competition and market size amongst others. This is a lengthy process and only a few of the markets meet our criteria for launch. We are happy that most of our launches targeted at the non-Indian audiences have been received well. Our channels in the Middle East - Zee Aflam and Zee Alwan - have been performing well for a long time. One of our recent launches, Zee World, consistently ranks amongst the top three channels in the South African market.

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