Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global

Zipping across the world – Zee5 Global’s Chief Business officer Archana Anand chats with ILP

ILP: You’ve been at the helm of Zee5’s international foray into 190 countries across the globe barring China and the US. Tell us about some of your early learnings.

Archana Anand (AA): It’s very early days yet as we’re just getting started with our campaigns but we’re seeing some superb traction so far. We launched our brand campaign ‘Dil Se Desi’ in November, officially announcing our arrival in APAC, MENA and Africa. This campaign taps into the insight that Indians and South Asians today, wherever they are, are fundamentally rooted in and proud of their culture, and are ‘Dil Se Desi’.

Our campaign vibrantly celebrates this emotion and has been wonderfully received among the South Asian diaspora across countries. We’ve also announced some key partnerships like Netrange, Zeasn etc that will help us reach millions of viewers across APAC, MENA and Africa. We have several more such partnership announcements lined up over the next few weeks. Our sponsorship of Northern Warriors as a new team in the Sharjah T-10 league helped us gain a lot of visibility, especially as they went on to win the tournament. We have a lot of exciting plans and announcements in the pipeline, so it’s a great start!

ILP: Are you targeting the Indian diaspora or looking to convert foreigners from friends to fans?

AA: The Indian diaspora is surely our core target audience given the direct relevance of our content. However, we have content across 12 languages including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu etc which is relevant for not just Indians but South Asians in general, with content and stories and a cultural context that they can strongly relate to. OTT players across the globe are turning their attention to offering more localized content as more and more people coming online, especially in developing countries, want content in their local language. This is exactly the need-gap that ZEE5 fills. ZEE5 is that one-stop destination that not only Indians but South Asians across the globe have been waiting for where they can get over 1,00,000 hours of entertainment content across genres in their preferred language.

ILP: How do you navigate the sensitive matter of pricing & revenue models – for eg while countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh will have a combination of AVoD (advertising video-on-demand) and SVoD (subscription video-on-demand) with introductory offers for the latter ranging from $2 to $10, others like the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands will work entirely on the subscription model? Is there a median pricing you are working on?

AA: Our business model varies by country depending on the size of the market and the propensity to pay. In most cases we are freemium ie we offer a host of content that’s free i.e. ad supported. However our premium content especially Originals is behind a paywall. Our pricing across markets is again basis the propensity and ability to pay in that market and ranges from $2-$10.

ILP: Prior to Zee5, Zee TV’s digital play was largely focussed around its LIVE TV service called Ditto TV/OZEE, which did gain some amount of traction, has that service been scrapped and morphed into the new Zee5 app?

AA: With the way digital was growing, it really was a natural transition for ZEE as a media conglomerate to consolidate its OTT offerings dittoTV and OZEE into one single, scalable offering that would be the single digital destination for the Group, which is ZEE5. ZEE5 has not only Live TV but also the largest bouquet of VOD content across languages. It offers 60+ live TV channels, as well over 1,00,000 hours of content across 12 languages, across TV Shows, Movies, Originals, Videos, Cine plays, Music and so much more, and is the largest destination for language content.

rangbaaz

ILP: Another phenomenon that seems to have dominated the discussion around OTT services is the glut for original content. Is it just old wine in a new bottle? How does Zee5 plan to compete with services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hotstar on the global stage?

AA: The biggest strength we have is our language content offering across the board, be it TV shows and dramas or movies, and also Originals. We have over 1,00,000 hours of content across genres which we keep adding on to. We have a slew of Originals already launched and many more in the pipeline which are available across key languages. Our recent Original productions like Tigers and Rangbaaz have been extremely well received and appreciated. The digital platform allows for greater experimentation with bolder themes and storylines and that’s what viewers appreciate.

 

ILP: Tell us about some of the new content you’re creating as well as licensing for the service?

AA: We’re creating a host of originals across 6 languages. We launched our first Original film, Tigers in November. We’ve just launched another tentpole show, Rangbaaz, which chronicles the journey of one of the most feared gangsters of Uttar Pradesh from the ‘90s, and this has been superbly received. Rangbaaz will be available in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam. We have a whole line-up of some very compelling Originals for 2019 – again across languages. All this content is exclusive to ZEE5.

ILP: Does Zee5 plan to bundle its service with cable operators or e-commerce players to ramp up subscribers?

AA: We will be exploring all relevant ecosystem partnerships in order to ensure the largest possible reach and potential audience base for ZEE5. We have recently announced a strategic partnership with NetRange & Zeasn for their line of smart TVs. We’ve also got a lot of other key partnerships in the pipeline and these will be announced over the next several weeks. These partnerships are across IPTVs, Telecoms and OEMs.