‘Reaching the fragmented South Asian audiences across global markets isn’t easy’

After establishing a strong foothold with South Asian audiences across the globe, ZEEL’s OTT platform ZEE5 Global strategy is to now make an aggressive local play in key markets.

ZEE5 was soft-launched across 190+ countries on 2nd October 2018 including the UK, Canada, and Europe. By the last quarter of FY20, ZEE5 intends to be available across all markets except North America.

TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with ZEE5 global chief business officer Archana Anand to find out more about the OTT platform’s global strategy.


What progress has ZEE5 made globally over the past year?

We’ve had quite a dream run for our global business. I don’t think any Indian OTT player has achieved so much in so little a time. We had an excellent start, becoming the #1 OTT platform in markets like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka within just a few weeks of launch. We’ve seen a really strong uptake in the Middle East, and our partnership with LuLu is building out very well.

We’ve also got some fantastic business partnerships in place across the globe and many more in the pipeline. We’re seeing strong growth in subscriptions across the board. We had massive traction on the recent Diwali pack offer, with Annual pack subscriptions growing threefold over a period of just one month, with the highest pickup coming from markets like Middle East, Singapore, UK, and Canada.

For 2020 what goals have been set?

We’re really happy with the inroads we’ve made so far in terms of targeting the South Asians across the globe, especially given that we’ve done this with very tactical spends and marketing. The traction we’ve seen and the learnings across markets gives us great confidence to roll out our plans in 2020. We now will look to go all out and have a much larger play in select markets, not just as a South Asian player but as a mainstream player, and that strategy is being worked on at this point.

Which are your top three markets in terms of consumption?

Markets like the Middle East, Bangladesh, Australia and Malaysia are where we are seeing the highest consumption, and this is growing consistently. These markets have either a strong diaspora audience or a huge direct affinity for our content and are driving the huge traction.

Could you talk about some of the telco partnerships and do these work on a revenue-sharing basis?

Telco partnerships are a key route for us as we expand across markets, as it enables us to reach out to their huge subscriber base and quickly achieve scale as well as offer a seamless payment option to subscribers. We already have strong telco partnerships in place across global markets which are showing great traction. We have a slew of new partnerships also in the pipeline across APAC and the Middle East, that is expected to go live within the next several weeks. All these partnerships are on a revenue-sharing basis.

Are you experimenting with different price points?

Yes. We have different packs and price points across markets based on the ability and propensity to pay in those markets, We regularly review these to ensure that our pricing stays very competitive.

We also have customised packs for select markets for audiences looking for content in specific languages, like a Tamil pack in Malaysia and the South packs in the Middle East. With these packs, subscribers pay only for the content that they want and not for the entire bouquet. These packs are also doing superbly.

We also keep rolling out offers. For instance, our recent Diwali pack offer on the Annual pack saw a massive uptake, driving a 20% increase in our total subscription revenue during the period.

What efforts and investments are being made on the backend like improving the User Interface and offering voice search?

We are investing heavily in technology and constantly working to better the product and user experience. We have partnered with multiple players across the spectrum to bring in greater personalisation, stronger data analytics, etc.

We are integrating many other tools that will hugely improve the viewing experience and help drive greater user engagement. Micro- segmenting and targeting is critical going forward, as is personalisation and all these tools will enable us to do this much more effectively. We are also partnering with industry-leading & world-class infrastructure players to enable excellent viewing experiences and content discovery.

What marketing activities is ZEE5 doing to create awareness?

Reaching the fragmented South Asian audiences across global markets isn’t easy, so identifying the specific areas where we can target them becomes key. On-ground marketing is a route that’s worked really well for us as it also gives us a chance to engage with our audiences. We have rolled out various on-ground events across UAE, UK, Malaysia, Australia, etc. including organizing screenings of popular Bollywood films, collaborations with festivals for South Asian audiences like Manchester Mela in the UK, etc.

We have jointly collaborated with LuLu in the Middle East to roll out some hugely successful events including the recent ‘Celebrate Diwali with Dia Mirza’ event. We also extensively leverage our network channels to drive visibility across markets.

How much of ZEE5’s revenue comes from international?

In international markets, we’re targeting about 40 million South Asians who are scattered across the globe, so our addressable audience base is much smaller. Despite this, we’ve seen some great traction.

Our two biggest victories have really been our rapid growth across markets, and the fact that our ARPUs in international markets are really healthy- it goes as high as $8 in cases. So even though our addressable base is much smaller, our revenue per user is really strong.

Are there some markets where advertising plays a bigger role?

Yes absolutely. Our global strategy is built around markets that are strong AVOD markets and those that are strong SVOD markets, and each has a very definitive focus. So for AVOD markets, we would look at driving strong user base growth and advertising focused strategies.

How big a challenge is growing daily active users (DAUs)?

DAUs are really the key health metric we track for ZEE5 Global rather than monthly active users (MAUs). Of course, with this we really need to be on our toes to ensure that our content is absolutely fabulous and relevant to the local market, that our user experience is fantastic, and that we are constantly driving initiatives to ensure that the users have enough reason to come back on to our platform day after day, organically.

When is ZEE5 launching in the UK, Europe, the US, and Canada?

Our soft launch across 190+ countries on 2nd October 2018 included the UK, Canada, and Europe. We have already started going loud in markets like the UK and these are showing great traction. Launching aggressively in other markets is around the corner. By the last quarter of FY20, we would have launched across all markets except North America.

What is the reason for the staggered launch of ZEE5 globally?

We have already launched across 190+ markets so it’s not a staggered launch- in fact, we are the only Indian OTT to have done a simultaneous launch across the globe at one go. When it comes to going aggressive, especially in the more developed markets, we were very clear that we had to have a strong connected device strategy in place since much of the video consumption happens on large screens, so we pushed out our marketing plans till that fell into place.

ZEE5 operates in five foreign languages. How is this being scaled up?

The soft launch helped us get a strong sense of the individual markets and the overall demand potential for our content. We have a lot of learnings about local market nuances, content preferences, etc. You will see us going quite aggressive in select markets, with a full-fledged strategy in the last quarter of this year or early next year.

Is there a danger of cannibalisation between Zee5 and the linear broadcast business abroad?

No- we see it as very incremental. We believe that viewing on the mobile screen is still very much on the go for any time, anywhere viewing. Appointment viewing is still important today. Having said that, we have a strong library of edgy Original millennial content on ZEE5 which is only available on our platform and nowhere else, so we’re really trying to bring in the younger audiences on to ZEE5 and build up a strong base.

Is most of ZEE5’s viewing happening on the mobile phone abroad or is it through connected TVs?

Our markets are extremely diverse. Within APAC itself we have 60+ countries, ranging from countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on one hand, and Australia, Singapore on the other so we see both types of consumption for sure. Africa is currently a very mobile heavy market; the Middle East again has a huge viewership on mobile. Largely, markets like Europe and Canada are more large screen driven.

ZEE5 is also looking at creating local content for overseas markets. Have plans been firmed up in this regard?

We’re in the process of firming up our plans on this front. This will largely be executed next year. It’s early days yet so we can share some details on this at a later date.

Finally, how has ZEE5 benefited from the tie-up with ALTBalaji? Can we expect more such deals next year where OTT platforms combine resources?

It’s a fabulous partnership with some great storytelling getting added on to our platform. Shows like ‘Coldd Lassi’ and ‘Fitratt’, among others, have got some strong traction and love across global markets, and help us in widening the audience base.

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