Decoding ZEE5’s regional strategy & focus on bringing inclusion in entertainment

With an increase in diversified and quality content consumption from across the country owing to the pandemic induced lockdown, entertainment has become an essential need and OTT platforms have gained massive popularity. While this has resulted in a surge in demand for regional content, including Punjabi, there aren’t many options available at the consumers’ disposal, giving rise to a huge uncatered demand.

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With its content slate, ZEE5 aims to address the content demand of 3 crore+ Punjabi native speakers in India, offering a robust library of Punjabi content at the tap of a button, thereby making deeper inroads into the country, and furthering its aim for entertainment inclusion. In line with the brand’s focus on deeper regionalisation, ZEE5 is all set to strengthen its footprints in Punjab and neighbouring areas of North India with a full content slate in Punjabi, power-packed with web-series, Originals from Zee Studio, and stories straight from the heartland across genres. With the surge in regional language consumption on OTT platforms and demand for varied content, ZEE5 has made a strategic move to address the under-catered audiences with a focus on bringing inclusion in entertainment.

In conversation with Adgully, Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India, speaks about how ZEE5 has geared up to cater to not just the Punjabi-speaking markets, several other regional markets, strengthening its overall content strategy, the key focus areas in FY2022 and much more. 

What is the significance of Punjabi-speaking markets for ZEE5 and the rationale behind the brand’s focus on regionalisation?

Punjab is a highly relevant and significant market for us and we also realised in the process that it is kind of underserved on the content that is being made available to them by the OTT platforms. Further, based on the research and data that we could get, Punjab is super high on being led by singers, musicians, brand and good quality movies already being produced, so we are using it as kind of an entry to bring in their movies from a good star cast. We are using the strength of production houses like Zee Studios and our TV network, Zee Punjabi, to bring in good content to this audience and hold on to Punjab as the big gun and the next entry point for us. 

How has the outlook been towards the expansion with the first-mover advantage in this segment?

First mover advantage always helps. Our intent is to go there and connect with the audience, build a connection for the brand, introduce ZEE5 to them, talk to them in a language which they understand, create the promotions and all the marketing for the audience, local influencers and local stars. So, definitely first mover helps – it helps us to acquire more subscriptions and build awareness for the brand and basis the content that we launch, we will learn in the process of working, in terms of what we should do differently or better, but definitely first mover helps. 

What are your plans and initiatives undertaken to offer holistic entertainment to viewers with quality content choices and a robust app experience?

In terms of app experience, our app is now very light; it is one of the lightest apps in the OTT space, compared to any of the other apps. It is good for users in India, offering a good experience even though they might be watching on a low end device. We have content in as many as 12 languages on our platform, and even the display language can be aligned to the users’ native language. In terms of our content line-up, we are highly focused on ensuring good quality content for our consumers, which is relatable and realistic. From that perspective, we are going ahead with the initial plan of launching 6 Punjabi movies on ZEE5 in the next 3 months and following it up with more movies and Originals.

The plan obviously is to understand the consumers, their preferences, give them the right content and a good experience on the app and also running a good marketing campaign simultaneously. We are launching a new campaign in Punjabi, titled ‘ZEE5 - Rajh ke Vekho’ (Watch it to your full), to promote the great content that we have on ZEE5. 

Could you share some of the highlights of the new Punjabi content releases and ZEE5’s focus on local content?

As I said earlier, we are launching 5-6 Punjabi movies on ZEE5, including ‘Puaada’, which has been the biggest theatrical hit during the pandemic times. Apart from ‘Puaada’, there will be other movies such as ‘Jinne Jamme, Saare Nikamme’, ‘Kismat 2’, among others, that are lined up for launch on ZEE5. 

The platform’s objective is to bring ‘entertainment inclusion’ by catering to underserved markets across the country. Could you share some more information on this?

We strive to cater to the underserved markets or where the appetite of the consumers is high. Punjab definitely is an underserved market, so we want to cater to that. We have realised that the appetite to consume entertainment is much higher in the regional markets, such as Telangana/ Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and so, we would want to double down on that as we move forward. Thus, you will see us bring in more and more Originals, and hit Tamil movies released in theatres; in fact, we are launching one movie next week. West Bengal is another market that we are focussing on a lot, where you will see us bringing in more Originals and movies. The intent is to provide whatever content that our consumers want, wherever they are. 

How does the line-up for ZEE5 look like for the remaining part of the year? What are your focus areas in FY2022?

With shootings being compromised in the first half of the year due to the pandemic, there has been a delay in the production of our Original series. But since the normal shootings have now resumed, you will see a lot of our Original series coming up soon.

We are also elated by the success of ‘Radhe’ and ‘Friends Reunion’, so we will be bringing in more Bollywood movies on our platform as well as Tamil and Telugu movies. The plan is to keep scaling up and delighting our users and potential users so that they subscribe to our services and get entertained more and more.

(Edited and Additional Inputs by Shanta Saikia.)


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