On its 1st Anniv, ZEE5 announces 72 new Originals, strengthens regional focus

Ushering in its first anniversary, ZEE5 has announced an extensive line-up of 72 new Originals on the platform till March 2020. In keeping with ZEE5’s focus on regional content, this includes shows across multiple genres and languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam. 

The OTT platform also announced an anniversary offer, where subscribers can avail a 30 per cent discount on both annual subscriptions – all access and regional, as well as an additional 50 per cent cashback on Paytm. 

Commenting on the milestone, Amit Goenka, CEO, International Broadcast Business and Z5 Global, said, “It is a very proud moment indeed for us as we celebrate the first anniversary of ZEE5. A year in, we have seen how ZEE5 has, in fact, bolstered the network channels’ fanbase through its Before TV and catch-up content offerings. With its strong content library, the platform has established a niche for itself in the regional markets of our country – a space that has always remained a focus for us as a Group. In the next few years, we will be investing in ZEE5 to make it the most widely subscribed and viewed Indian entertainment app globally.” 

Speaking at the occasion, Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India, said, “This past year has been an enriching journey for each one of us who have been a part of it and being the fastest growing OTT platform in the country is testimony to the continual efforts of the team and support from our partners. Since our launch in February 2018, we have achieved milestones not just on the content front, but under multiple pillars, including Partnerships and Technology. Our aim through all our initiatives has been to bring a seamless viewing experience for our subscribers, no matter where they are or what their preference is. The learnings have been immense, and from it we have emerged – stronger and bigger. In 2019, our aim is to outdo ourselves in terms of the concepts & shows and technology we drive through ZEE5 and the announcements today are proof that we are fully poised to take this on.” 

Speaking further on the year ahead, Katial said, “The regional markets is where the future of entertainment lies – our next viewers will come from there. We are cognizant of this and building an ecosystem to add more value to our stakeholders in these markets. To celebrate our first anniversary, we have a special offer for our subscribers as well.” 

In an interaction with Adgully, Manish Aggarwal, Business Head, ZEE5 India, speaks about the OTT platform's one-year journey, the strong focus on regional languages, self-regulation of its content and the road ahead. Excerpts:  

What have been the key milestones in ZEE5’s one-year journey?
The number of Original shows and the languages that we launched in have been the big milestones. Today, even the Googles of the world don’t support as many languages as we do. We are the only one to support content in 11 display languages. We give users the convenience to select the language of their choice when they watch any show. Our objective is to have a customer-first approach and make sure that ZEE5 is available where the audiences are. Whether it is a feature phone or a high-end smart TV, we want to make sure our viewers get a high-end experience. 

What have been your learnings from 2018?
2018 was a year of achievement for us, where we really scaled up in the category. When we started this journey, a lot of people questioned whether we would be able to deliver the promises that we were making. We have successfully created a large base of audiences. ZEE5 is a fremium model; whether from the free content side, AVOD side or SVOD side, we have created a large base for ourselves. We have scaled up in different genres of content – be it biopics like ‘Karenjit Kaur’ or first time crime thrillers like ‘Rangbaaz’, which was completely on the UP hinterland or a procedural cop drama like ‘Abhay’. We have tasted success not just with languages across markets, but we have discovered that good content is not dependent upon language across markets. We have started dubbing our content across all of our languages as good content can surpass boundaries. 

As the fastest growing OTT platform, how has your subscriber base grown?
As of December 31, 2018, we had 56.3 million monthly active users. That is on the free content side. We have a huge growing subscription base. We were the industry first when we launched the regional Video on Demand packs for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages on November 1, 2018. Those are giving high double-digit contribution to the national packs. This is a global first as even global OTT players have never looked at sachet pricing or regionalising their pack. It is usually buffet pricing. But we had audiences in sight who were telling us that there might be consumers who would be looking at content from just one language. We started with the Tamil and Telugu packs on November 1 and gradually introduced Kannada language pack as well. It is really heartwarming to see all the three language packs deliver high numbers for us. 

What kind of content are the viewers skewed towards?
It is a mix of content and will be difficult for me to pick just one kind of content. One of the top markets that we are getting traction from is the UP region and Maharashtra. UP is delivering numbers not just in terms of viewership, but also in terms of subscriptions for us. On Republic Day, we released docudramas like ‘Lal Bahadur Shastri’ and ‘Khar, which were very well received. On Independence Day last year, we released ‘Veer Gati’, which, too, was positively received. That’s the beauty of the OTT platform, where there is so much of depth and choice; depending on who you are and where you are from, there is content available in the language of your choice. 

What are your thoughts on OTT content coming under regulation?
As far as ZEE5 is concerned, we strongly believe in self-regulation as an approach. We are one of the industry leaders who went and signed the self-regulation pact as a group of OTT players. As far as content is concerned, ‘Rangbaaz’ is a classic example; if you look historically at other crime thrillers – whether in terms of Hindi movies or even on other OTT platforms – they showcase graphic violence and strong language. But we have always believed that great content requires a strong script and great storytelling. It is not dependent on sleaze or foul language. You will see our strong storylines in the 72 shows that we have announced for 2019-20. We will not compromise on good content and storytelling and will make sure that it is available to audiences across platforms. We are now available on all platforms like LG, Samsung, Amazon Firestick TV, and Xiaomi, etc. 

What are the content partnerships that are you planning in the year ahead?
Today, we are working with almost every director and artist – whether they are from Bollywood, Tollywood or Kollywood. We are in strong relationships with everyone – in Tamil, we have worked with Karthik Subraj who has directed Rajnikanth’s movie; with Amrito in Bengal, who produced ‘Kali’ for us; in Hindi, we are partnering with Dia Mirza and Goldi Behl. The list goes on and on. 

What are your targets for 2019?
We have deep targets, I assure you. We are talking one-and-a-half show launches per week. Nobody comes even close to that.

Meanwhile at the star-studded event, ZEE5 unveiled the logos of the following shows: 

  • Hindi – Rangbaaz Season 2, Karenjit Kaur Season 3 (with Sunny Leone), High Priestess (Amala Akkineni’s digital debut), Skyfire, The Final Call (starring Arjun Rampal and Sakshi Tanwar), Mystic Rose, The Sholay Girl (starring Bidita Baig), Mirror (a short film), 377 (starring Maanvi Gangroo and others), Poison (starring Arbaaz Khan, Freddy Daruwala, Tanuj Virwani), Bandit Queen
  • Telugu – Ms Subbulakshmi (starring Lakshmi Manchu), G.O.D. – Gangs of Dharmapuri (starring Aditya)
  • Tamil – Postman
  • Bengali – Sharate Aaj (starring Parambrata Chatterjee, Payal Sarkar and Riddhi Sen)
  • Marathi – Sex, Drugs and Theatre, Hutatma (starring Anjali Patil, Vaibhav Tatvavadi & Abhay Mahajan)
  • Malayalam – Aarpoo, Porn Ok Please



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