‘ZEE5 Global’s plan is to move beyond targeting just the South Asian audiences’

ZEE5 Global chief business officer Archana Anand has laid out her priorities for the service in 2020. The key focus markets for the platform are Bangladesh, Canada, and the Middle East. The aim is to make it more mainstream and go beyond just the South Asian audience. At the same time, the company is still working on the US strategy. TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with Anand to talk more about ZEE5‘s global strategy.

Excerpts:

For 2020 what goals have been set for ZEE5 Global?

Our vision for taking ZEE5 global was really to ensure that all the content that we’ve been creating for Indian audiences is now taken to the 40 million South Asians scattered around the world who love Indian shows and movies. So our first and primary area of focus is to really make ZEE5 a household name for people across the globe i.e. when they think of South Asian content across any of our 12 Indian languages, ZEE5 should be absolutely top of mind for them.

Secondly, this year we will also be taking ZEE5 mainstream. Over this year, we want to move beyond targeting just the South Asian audiences and create fabulous content and storytelling for mainstream audiences. We have identified some specific markets where we intend to not only reach the South Asians but also the local audiences and launch full force in those markets. We’ll share more details of this in the coming months.

What is the game-plan to get there?

We are aggressively partnering with telecom and ecosystem players across global markets to quickly scale up our distribution. We already have multiple partnerships across countries like Bangladesh, Middle East, Australia, Sri Lanka, etc. which are ramping up superbly. These partnerships not only help us reach their massive subscriber base but also help us in driving targeted visibility for our content.

We are simultaneously also driving strong Marketing partnerships in key markets like the Middle East, Singapore, etc. with retail players like Lulu, Choithrams and others for various local consumer marketing initiatives, and these have helped us drive great visibility and engagement.

We have further identified a set of markets where we will go much deeper with strong localisation initiatives to target mainstream audiences. Bangladesh is the first such market where we have announced a set of localisation initiatives including local content production. Additionally, we will also be launching a massive nationwide Talent hunt called ‘Bangladesh’s Global Superstar’ which will give an opportunity to new talent in the market to feature in a ZEE5 Original. This will be launched as soon as the current situation on the ground improves.

We’re targeting the South Asian diaspora in our first phase, which is about 40 million people spread across international markets. We’ve seen fabulous growth over the year with success across multiple markets, driven by our content and various consumer marketing initiatives. We’re currently averaging over 6 USD globally which is extremely healthy. Now we look to expand this base manifold by going mainstream across markets like Bangladesh, Canada, and MENA.

Which are the key markets that ZEE5 Global will focus on in 2020?

In 2020, we will focus on key markets like Bangladesh, Canada, and the Middle East.

What is the plan for the US?

Currently, our plans for the USA are still work in progress. We’ll share more details on this at a later date.

Now that ZEEL has closed its linear TV business abroad what uptake is expected for ZEE5?

That’s incorrect. ZEEL has not closed its linear business abroad. We continue to evaluate operational efficiencies and have moved certain channels to a pure digital play on ZEE5. In fact, our proposition on digital has made a lot more content available to our customers as compared to earlier.

What is the revenue split between subscription and advertising?

We have a fairly equal split between subscription and advertising revenue. Our SVOD Revenue business is growing out quite strongly and we are also working very closely with telco partners on multiple joint initiatives to ramp up revenues further. Our Ad business is also building out superbly and we are already a premium advertising destination for many key brands like Mercedes, Lexus, etc. However, these ratios are quite varied when it comes to individual markets. We have some markets that are heavily AVOD focused and some that are very SVOD focused.

Over Diwali ZEE5 Global saw strong traction for its special offer. What other offers will ZEE5 Global come out with?

We keep running various offers which have seen huge traction. We have seen a great uptake on our Annual packs with our offers across global markets with Canada, Middle East, Bangladesh being key drivers. In fact, we have just launched a campaign in APAC and MENA where we have encouraged people to #StayHomeStayEntertained” with a special offer, and that’s seeing some huge traction.

With the Roku deal done this year is ZEE5 now covered in terms of device partnerships?

Yes, we are present across all key devices and platforms. Our deal with Roku TV has given a potential audience of 37 million people across 190+ countries access to over 100,000 hours of our content. We’ve also just launched the ZEE5 app on Now TV in the UK market. All these partnerships are key in helping us get strong distribution in developed markets, where connected devices and smart TVs are hugely widely used for content consumption.

Does the CoronaVirus provide an opportunity for the growth of consumption of streaming platforms like ZEE5 Global given that people will stay indoors?

Absolutely, and we’ve already seen a substantial spike across the last few weeks. With home-containment becoming the new way of life, entertainment has become a key go-to option for everyone, especially on online platforms. Globally, we have observed an increase in viewership week on week. Viewership has surged by 15 -18% across all our content categories including movies and ZEE5 originals. Among the regions, we’ve seen the highest spike in MENA and Canada with viewership jumping by 20-25% and continues to grow. Additionally, we have seen a 60% jump in new subscriptions globally in the month of March which has also led to the spike in viewership.

Having said that, this is a critical and challenging period for all of us and I would urge people across the globe to take the call to self-isolate very seriously and work towards flattening the curve. We sincerely hope that we can collectively overcome these unprecedented times and come out stronger on the other side.

On the flip side, on-ground marketing activities will not be possible. So how will ZEE5 approach marketing this year?

That’s the advantage of being part of a vast network like Zee. We are using all our social channels across linear and digital as well as our extensive linear channel presence to go all out and offset the absence of ground activities. We are also exploring barter partnerships with key online players for visibility to keep the momentum going.