New tariff order helped ZEEL's strong domestic subscription revenue growth in Q1 FY20

Domestic subscription revenue for the overall year to grow in mid-twenties.

MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) experienced strong growth in domestic subscription revenue in the first quarter of FY 2020 where the new tariff order played an important role. The leading broadcaster has guided for domestic subscription revenue for the overall year to grow in mid-twenties.

“The implementation of the new tariff order has allowed us to price our channels in line with their popularity, thereby leading to a sharp improvement in monetisation. Additionally, uniformity in pricing across platforms and increased transparency have led to a step jump in this quarter’s subscription revenue growth,” ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka said in an earnings call after Q1 results.

The broadcaster also witnessed sharp growth in subscription revenue in the southern market too. Apart from the digitisation of the Tamil market, the new tariff order also played an important role here.

Goenka, talking about the growth in the Southern market, mentioned that either ZEEL channels were free in certain markets or their pricing was not proportionate with their viewership share while the new pricing regime gave them the opportunity to re-price content.  He pointed out that the tariff has been frozen since the last 16 years and no price change was done since then for any of the channels after launch.

“Despite having built significant viewership over the last several years, our channels were really not priced in line with their popularity. Under the old tariff order, it would have been a long journey but the new tariff order gave us a chance to reset this pricing. So, that has allowed us to significantly improve our monetisation,” ZEEL corporate strategy and investor relations head Bijal Shah commented on the overall subscription growth.

“And on top of this, in this tariff order, discrimination between the platforms is not possible, which has also led to an improvement in subscription revenue growth. So, this is much more on expected lines. In fact, for the last 2-2.5 years, we have been guiding that tariff order will allow us to properly monetise the viewership which we have, and we are seeing that evolving the way we had envisaged,” he added.

However, the broadcaster did not outline any clear guidance in terms of advertising growth but Goenka did mention that ZEEL would beat the industry growth.

Goenka said this fiscal year also will not be very high on free cash flow generation despite slight improvement. But next year onwards, there will be a lot more cash conversion from the company’s bottom-line to cash with an actual ramp-up in free cash flows.

“It is the first quarter right now, so a bit difficult to give you an exact amount, but total working capital investment in FY20 will be in the range of Rs 500-700 crore, that is the kind of increase we will see in total in working capital in full year FY20. It could be closer to the lower-end of the range but we just want to keep some buffer for ourselves right now,” Shah noted.

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