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ZEE5 Originals' content cost to be 3x more than TV: Punit Goenka

The company stands with exclusive digital rights for more than 3,000 titles

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MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s (ZEEL) digital venture ZEE5 has shown impressive growth in a very short span of time. To continue taking rapid strides, the Punit Goenka-led company will beef up its content investment for originals as well as film titles. While ZEE5 is betting big on quality entertainment, the  content cost for digital originals will be around three times more than the television business.

After Q2 results, ZEEL managing director and CEO Punit Goenka spoke about content cost, strategy, marketing plans for ZEE5 in an earnings call. “The content cost will not be similar to television, they will be higher. If you leave out the things like Karenjit Kaur, etc., I think you can safely assume a 3x kind of a number in your content cost compared to TV,” the media veteran commented.

As of now, ZEE5 has released 29 originals and the pace of new launches is expected to pick up in the second half of FY19. Initially, the target of 500-600 hours of original content without dubbing was set. According to Goenka, the company is on track to reach that goal.

The episodic lengths of the properties will also be expanded as the platform has got more traction for 1 hour episodes compared to 0.5 hour episodes. However, there will be short-form series as well as long form, mostly depending on the storylines.

“Unlike television, where it's a factory and we have to fill 260 episodes a year, here, we do not have any of those benchmarks or yardsticks. Here, an episode can range from 35 minutes to a full-length feature film, which could be also a web series,” he added.

Notably, since its launch, ZEE5 has emphasised on “content in the language of comfort” which has clearly yielded results. Consumption in regional languages is far more than in Hindi. Both in AVOD and SVOD front, the regional languages are contributing almost 60 per cent of the viewership. Hence, the company will churn out more regional content going forward.

However, it will also expand the number of movies in the library. Currently standing with exclusive digital rights of 3000 movies, the titles will be brought on gradually on the platform. “So over the next three months, you will start to see all of the 3,000 titles available on ZEE5,” Goenka said.

While the company is aiming at moving more traffic to the app version over web version, it won’t sideline latter as it is the funnel to attract early users. Before downloading the app, consumers usually go to web version to test the waters.

Recently, ZEEL buried the hatchet with Reliance Jio and renewed its content deal. According to the deal, ZEEL’s linear channels will be available on JioTV and the rest of the content will be available only on the ZEE5 platform.

 On live content front, the company will get paid for the content it shares with the telecom behemoth. As Goenka said, end consumer usage and data will all come to the company. If a consumer wants to access the content behind a paywall, they can pay for both or even individually.

Standing with all the plans chalked out, Goenka confidently expects its digital entertainment platform to contribute 30 per cent revenue to its topline in five years.

 “If it is anything less than that then it is quite disappointing. And keep in mind that my overall business also will continue to grow,” the exec said on an optimistic note.

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