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Zee5 eyes 100mn user-milestone in 12 months

Video streaming platform Zee5 is making significant investments in strengthening its content library and enhancing the user experience as the company aims to hit the 100 million user- milestone in the next 12 months.

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Speaking to PTI, ZEE5 India Chief Business Officer Manish Kalra said the platform has seen strong growth in the past few quarters.

“It’s (investment) is significantly higher year-on-year with an intent to provide the right content to the user and best-in-class user experience with an intent to win the market…The pandemic did act like a big shot in the arm for all online businesses, we also saw benefits and saw significant growth,” he said.

Kalra noted that the pandemic has also driven a change in consumer behaviour, opening a large opportunity for the players.

Talking about the business, the executive said Zee5 gets about 66 million users every month.

“Our strength is pretty much having regional content which connects with “Bharat”, so regional stories, stories from the heartland, stories which are relatable have helped us acquire these users. Also, our strength is Zee as a parent company, which is one of the biggest content production companies in the country, so we leverage that strength,” he added.

Kalra said tier II and III markets are a priority for the company and that it expects to hit the 100 million-user mark in the next 12 months.

“…because we were already 65-66 million, that number is within our reach. The growth is good, we are happy with the momentum we are getting and we would love to grow fast from this, so 100 million should happen sooner than later,” he said.

Zee5 competes with players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+Hotstar in the over-the-top (OTT) segment that has seen massive growth in the Indian market in the past few years on the back of cheap data tariffs and the availability of affordable smartphones.

The adoption of these digital platforms was further accelerated during the pandemic amid restricted social activities like visits to movie theatres.

While the competition has intensified in the space with large players as well as smaller ones vying for viewer”s attention and wallet, Kalra believes the differentiation will come from the kind and quality of content presented to the audience.

“Research tells us users are willing to pay for a maximum of three or four subscriptions. So, who will win that three subscriptions basket is someone who gives them (users) stories that they like, someone who”s able to understand their aspirations and offer real, relatable stories in their languages,” he said.

He added that Zee5 is focussed on leveraging its strength in content, its understanding of Indian consumers and bringing in original content and films from various languages to its platform.

“This year would be the year of regionalisation, bringing in more vernacular content, winning in South markets, going to the east and bringing in content that people like to consume, and that”s where we”ll put our bets. Everything is consumer-first and understanding their intent and aspiration will help us create a win-win proposition,” Kalra said.

The executive also highlighted that original content is a big investment area for the company, and that it will add many original premium shows as well as movies across languages, including Tamil, Telugu and Bengali.

Asked about his views on the recent government regulations for OTT platforms, Kalra said the company has always supported self-regulation.

“I think what the government has given us is guidelines to adhere to. Somewhere we were already working with the likes of IAMAI to bring in self-regulation. So it”s good that the government has taken that initiative. It gives choices to the consumers, gives more power in their hands, and us being a consumer-centric company, I think it”s important for us to ensure we adhere to the guidelines and cater to user needs in the best possible way,” he said.

The government has recently unveiled rules for over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital media that include a code of ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism. Among other provisions, OTT platforms would have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories – U (Universal), U/A 7+ (years), U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).

Kalra said the classification of content will help viewers to decide on the content they want to watch.

“They can make the decisions on what they watch with parents, as a couple or alone. So, definitely, we will use the guidelines and adhere to them as well as keep ensuring that self- regulation is a priority for us,” he added.

To a question on whether these regulations would be restrictive for content creators, Kalra said there is a mixed view.

“…we will obviously keep filters in mind while executing those stories, the power to tell those stories is something which will get more attuned to the guidelines and self-regulation. There would be learning on both sides. Considering it”s in the interest of the consumers, we want to ensure that we provide the best experience and power to them,” he added.

The platform has also launched a new campaign ”ATM”, an acronym for ”Any Time Manoranjan”.

Targeted primarily at the TV viewing audiences across tier-II cities, the campaign will be launched in various languages – Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali.

“We aim to acquire new users and encourage TV watchers to download the ZEE5 app…Through our ability to deliver multilingual purposeful content across various devices, ecosystems, and operating systems, we want to target the gap between the TV watching audience and OTT users by introducing them to a world of real, relevant, and resonant Indian stories on our platform,” Kalra said. Outlook India

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