ZEE5 plans to create original content for int’l markets in 2nd phase of global expansion

MUMBAI: ZEEL-owned video on demand (VoD) platform ZEE5, which recently went live in 190+ countries, plans to acquire as well as create original content for local audiences in various markets in the second phase of its global expansion.

However, the first priority for the platform is to build loyalty among the South Asian diaspora. The ultimate goal is to rapidly build scale and make ZEE5 a global platform.

The media conglomerate has adopted the freemium model for the international markets. While AVoD and SVoD will go hand in hand, the plan is to move consumers towards SVoD model over the time given the fact that consumers in matured markets have a greater willingness to pay for quality content. To ensure a wider reach for the platform, distribution tie-ups are being done with several players globally including telecom carriers.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, ZEE5 Global chief business officer Archana Anand said, “We intend to be the largest language platform globally. We intend to rule the entertainment space and to connect with audiences globally. Within the next six months, we want to become a top two platform in terms of brand and recall for the entire South Asian audience. We will also acquire and create content for the local audiences globally at a later stage.”

On being queried about the business model, Anand said, “Our business model is largely freemium. A whole lot of content will be in the AVoD space. Then our premium and original content and premium movies will be behind a paywall. This is the model that will exist in the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and North Africa, Canada, and the Caribbean. Europe will be on an SVoD model. But all this is open to seeing the market dynamics and making calls.”

ZEE5 counts Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Australia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong as some of the key markets in the Asia Pacific. In the Middle East, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been identified as big markets. Similarly, in Europe, the focus will be on the UK market.

“In the first phase for this fiscal, we are running the ‘Dil Se Desi’ campaign which is entirely geared to capturing the heart and love of the South Asian audience. Even in the old days with our older platforms, we saw the kind of audiences that came for our content. Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepalese, and Sri Lankans apart from Indians came to our platform in droves. So at the first level this great Indian content that we have created will go out across the globe and capture the diaspora sitting across the globe,” Anand stated.

Apart from the ‘Dil Se Desi’ campaign targeted at South Asian diaspora, the platform will roll-out two more campaigns for the Pakistan and Bangladesh market. The theme of the campaign is ‘Share The Love’.

Talking about content consumption trends, she noted that there is a huge appetite for South Asian content abroad. She cited the example ZEEL which has been able to spread far and wide.

“Definitely our TV shows and dramas have a lot of love across the globe. Movies is another important genre. Regional whether it is Marathi or Bengali shows do really well. We are confident now that our originals will be well received and we are taking our originals across languages. As is the case with India our aim globally is to be number one in the entertainment sector. With the language breadth and width that we have we will be heads and shoulders above the competition,” she averred.

In terms of business model, the company sees a huge opportunity in the subscription model and aims to reduce its dependency on the ad model. “People believe that in the long term it is the SVoD model that makes sense. The price is $7-10 a month for different markets. We have monthly, annual plans and in time we might have shorter duration plans.”

On the distribution front, she noted that a lot of distribution partnerships have been closed. “We are being aggressive. You will see us tying up with many telcos across the globe. In many cases, telcos are launch partners. We will also have tie-ups with retail outlets. We are talking to everybody in the ecosystem that makes business sense for us. We have a team that is going across markets and making pitches.”

The deals she noted will come in different forms. Some deals could be upfront while some could be on a revenue share basis. ZEE5 will also explore a lot of bundling opportunities.

Queried about the audience size of the Indian diaspora, Anand stated that there are close to 30 million Non-Resident Indians (NRI). If one also includes countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh then the number rises to 100 million. The audience goes across and is not limited to the young audience. That is because mobile is a second or third screen that people consume when they are on the go or at work.

From a P&L perspective, she noted that the challenge is that the expenses that go into creating a digital business are pretty stupendous whether it is content creation, marketing or streaming. “These three are big cost heads. The ability to make the math work has a direct correlation to the ad sales revenue and subscription revenue that we get. That has a direct correlation to the ecosystem, the ease of payment and people’s propensity to get on-board and subscribe.”

She further stated that the business model evolves every day as digital grows and as the ecosystem grows. “The ability to breakeven just gets better every day as you plan things. For the global market, I would look at profitability as a whole. My ability to spend on digital marketing in one market versus another is based on that markets propensity to receive it. I have to make the markets that have a propensity for digital successful.”

As far as ad deals are concerned, ZEE5 will focus on sponsorships and brand integration since it is creating a lot of originals. “Native advertising is where the effort is all going to and we are very clear that people on the ground doing ad sales are not just selling inventory. Branded content will play an important role as will integrations. Sponsorships are also important as they are upfront and good,” Anand said.

ZEE5 is in the process of hiring ad sales professionals in different markets. “I will see whether I can hire people locally or if I need to hire there. I see if I can work completely in-house or if I can deal with consultants. Everything is about cost effectiveness based on what I will get in return. Nothing is hardcore in that sense. The conversation is dynamic in terms of what we need to do. The management is 100% supportive in ensuring that everything needed to run the business successfully will be provided.”

While not divulging numbers, she noted that revenue from abroad while at a smaller percentage today will grow and become substantial in the future. She is bullish as some countries are completely or are going digital. This is where creating local content will be important and as a result, the sky is the limit.

She noted that strong research will go into creating local content. It will be based completely on research and consumer insights. Among other things, the company will look at what the competition is doing if there is a need gap that can be met. She pointed out to a recently released global study that shows that people want content in their local language and that is exactly ZEE5’s gameplay.

In terms of making the content discovery process easier, ZEE5 has a usage and retention team that works with scientific data to ensure that the right kind of in-app notification goes to the right kind of individual based on all of his/her historical consumption patterns.

“This is the most direct way to communicate with users. We have a Recommendation Engine that throws up content based on past viewership. These are the two most compelling ways of targeting individuals,” she said.