When Zee Entertainment launched the new avatar of its digital entertainment platform ZEE5 (earlier OZEE, which was the Zee Network's catch-up TV platform) in February 2018, the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video were already aggressive with their respective content acquisition strategies and Hotstar (the digital offering of Star India) was busy acquiring consumers on the back of its sports properties. The likes of Alt Balaji, Voot and Eros Now were also there in the market. Being a late entrant, ZEE5 built its business on the back of language content. "We built our UI (user interface), UX (user experience) and content strategy around 12-14 languages and our app is available in all those languages. The first thing we ask on our app is to pick your language," explains Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India. This strategy has enabled the platform to make strong inroads into tier-2 and tier-3 markets.
While apps (available in 12 languages) offer catch-up TV content of the Zee Network's bouquet of regional channels, the digital entertainment platform on average has been coming up with two original shows every month in Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil, which are meant for its premium consumers. The regional strategy has helped ZEE5 increase its monthly active users from 21.7 million in the first quarter of 2017/18 to 76.4 million in the first quarter of 2019/20. The average time spent per user is close to 33 minutes and the app attracts as many as 6.6 million users, claims Katial. The platform has also launched regional packages priced at Rs 45 (vis-a-vis the regular package of Rs 99 per month). "It's a good entry gateway for people to move to premium from ad-supported platform," says Katial.
While ZEE5 has always had a 'freemium' (with 50 per cent of its users being advertiser-led) model, it is now trying to encourage its AVOD (advertising led voice on demand) customers to go SVOD (subscription-led voice on demand) through spin-offs of its successful TV shows on the digital platform. "For instance, our show, Jamai 2.0, is a spin-off of our successful TV show, Jamai Raja, while Ishq Aajkal is a spin-off of Ishq Subanallah. This has moved regular catch-up TV audiences to watch a premium show by paying for it," explains Katial.
Apart from its regional focus, the platform has on an average been doing four Hindi originals a month such as Final Call, Kaafir and Rejectx, through which it has been trying to appeal to the millennials and the premium metro consumers. The OTT platform hopes to be profitable three years from now.