The newly-launched over-the-top (OTT) offering from the global media conglomerate Zee Group is expected to make significant contributions to its overall revenues. Amit Goenka, chief executive officer, Zee International and Z5 Global, is of the view that in the next 25 years, a majority of growth will come from digital. And with BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) doing digital ratings as well, it will help the ecosystem grow and substantially explode going forward. In conversation with Ashish K Tiwari, Goenka shares more details about ZEE5, its content offering, pricing and more.
Q. Could you take us through the company's journey in the OTT space?
A. Basically, we took insights and conducted research with the user base across our two existing platforms (dittoTV and OZEE). Using the feedback, we have put together the right experience and content to be able to cater to today's market. We entered OTT in 2012 and a lot has changed since, more so in the last few years like cost of bandwidth and reach, availability, affordability and penetration of smartphones, etc. The new OTT platform ZEE5 is a culmination of all of that and has been built basis all of the research and data we had to cater to the drastically changed consumer environment across urban and rural areas.
Q. How is ZEE5 different from the earlier platforms?
A. ZEE5 offers content across 12 languages, browsing capability across 11 languages, features like voice search that's more relevant for tier-II and -III towns where consumers are just getting on to the smartphone and OTT platform bandwagon. Being new to the phenomenon, search and discovery is fairly new to people in these markets and voice search helps in getting over that hurdle. Another very important feature is 'download to you', without which any offering in the Indian market is incomplete. This apart, there are various other small features, like consumers can continue to browse (the app for more content) while simultaneously watching the content. At the back-end, we have adopted a multi-CDN (content distribution network) strategy, based on a real-time performance-based selection that ensures a high quality, superbly optimised video viewing experience for viewers across all devices. Apart from enhancing the user experience, the content offering is far more enhanced compared to the earlier platforms.
Q. Tell us about the content offering of ZEE5?
A. We are putting a whole lot of international and original content on the platform. Bringing in original content, I would say, is the need of the hour today. The digital audience is always looking for something new/different and not necessarily the same content that's on television. And if you want them to pay for it, then you need to give them compelling content that they are willing to pay for. New movies across languages is another offering on the content side. Dubbed international content is being made available across six languages - Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, and of course, Hindi. We will also have all the Zee Theatre shows produced and made available on ZEE5.
Q. You are offering a combination of free and premium content on ZEE5. Is that correct?
A. Majority of it will be free. The premium content will include international shows, original shows, acquisitions, redirected (fast-pacing of our existing shows and dubbing for a different experience to audiences who may not have seen it in the long form) and so on. We are experimenting with a lot of original and premium content, and depending on what works, we will do more and more of that in the future.
Q. Will it be only Zee content or you will also have content from other channels?
A. Since all other players have their own OTT services, we will not have their content on the ZEE5 platform. Our linear TV offering will continue so we will have third-party content, especially in the news genre and some of the southern language content.
Q. Will the new OTT platform be made available globally?
A. Yes. We are launching it in India for now, and over the next three months, we will roll it out in the global markets.
Q. Is ZEE5 an app-only offering or will you make it available on the website as well?
A. It's both, responsive web as well as app on the iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and both iOS and Android are capable of casting to a large screen if you want to. ZEE5 also supports Chromecast. The progressive web app has been built with Google, which gives you an app experience without downloading the app, which is also a very good feature. That's because people with lower-end smartphones generally do not have large storage on their devices and this helps in giving them the app experience without having to use up storage on their devices.
Q. Is content consumption more on the app or the web?
A. Our experience with OZEE shows it is 50:50 between app and web. With ZEE5, since we are spreading the content to tier-II and -III cities. I would think the web may be higher to start with.
Q. How are you pricing the ZEE5 offering?
A. The actual pricing is Rs 150 (per month) but we are doing a launch offer at Rs 99 (a month) for the first 12 months. Depending on the traction and feedback from the market, we will take a call on whether to stay at Rs 99 or go to Rs 150.
Q. Will ZEE5 be available on JioTV as well considering the huge customer base there?
A. Our live offering is already there on JioTV. As far as our premium offering is concerned, we are still in talks with Jio and will partner most telcos going forward. We haven't concluded any deals yet so wouldn't want to talk much about it.