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While OTT’s growth is surreal, what TV offers is irreplaceable: Shaurya Mehta

&flix, the English movie channel from the Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) stable, is celebrating its first anniversary. The channel, which replaced Zee Studio, is the second English movie channel under the ‘&’ brand. Over the past one year, &flix has been home to the biggest blockbusters such as ‘Spiderman Homecoming’, ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’, ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Jumanji’. Since its launch in 2018, the channel has engaged its viewers in innovate ways – be it the larger-than-life tweet to reveal, missed calls from superheroes or an all expense day out for couples – all tying back to its core proposition. 

As part of the first anniversary celebrations, &flix has also rolled out a 360-degree campaign, called #EverydayLeap. 

&flix premiered over 40 films on the channel in the first year. The plan is to premiere 25-30 more in the year ahead.

Read More: &flix inspires viewers through a powerful anthem #VenomInMyVeins

In an exclusive interaction with Adgully, Shaurya Mehta, Head - Premium Channels, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), speaks at length about &flix turning one, the English genre in India, the post TRAI tariff regime scenario, impact of the growing march of OTT and more. Excerpts: 

How has the English genre been performing post the migration to the new TRAI tariff regime?
What the new regime has largely done is put the choice in the hands of the audience. With this, there is greater need especially for the English channels to reach out to the consumers and talk to them, and that’s what we are focusing on. Over the last few months, we have done a few events as well as a campaign where we ran through key consumer insights. 

English entertainment consumers need to take the initiative to reach out to the operators and subscribe to the channels of their choice. The 2 ad films that we have released featuring Anurag Kashyap and Sivamani highlight that a even a well-known personality could be mistaken about his consumer choices. The operator doesn’t know about your channel preferences, hence you need to tell your operator what you want to watch. So, in a bid to raise consumer awareness about the new MRP we reached out to 25-odd extremely targeted viewers on the digital side, while on TV we had 25 million targeted audience. The campaigns did very well. 

Now that &Flix is one year old, there is a need to further reinforce the brand in the consumers’ minds. In the English entertainment space, the brands that invest in themselves and do a great job of reaching out to the consumers will eventually gain from this regime. We are in the transitory phase and by the time we get to the steady state, the strongest brand will get stronger and that’s where we want to make sure we invest in – whether it is through marketing campaigns or content line-ups. This past year on &Flix, we’ve had the highest number of movie premieres and significant number of blockbusters. Going forward, we will continue to invest in content and we strongly believe that the brand will stand out. 

What have been the key milestones in &Flix’s one-year journey?
When we launched &Flix, we had certain success parameters that we wanted to achieve, and now when we look back and see the achievement, we are extremely proud of ourselves, The one key thing was obviously moving from Zee Studio to &Flix was a big brand upliftment – the premier positioning and the packaging – we have come a long way with that. The second key thing has been our content line-up. If you look at the top 10 premieres from the ratings perspective, you will see that the majority of the audience has been on &Flix in the past year. If you look at the period between December 2017 and December 2018, the English genre has grown about 3 per cent, whereas &Flix has grown by close 50 per cent. HD is more significant now and no longer a small concept. &Flix HD has done extremely well, growing by 250 per cent in the same time period. &flix HD stands at No. 2 in the genre. It resonates well with the consumer base that we are targeting, which is the urban English viewers. 

The criteria for content on &Flix is that the movies have to be box office success commercially. 

Could you tell us more about #EverydayLeap campaign?
For #EverydayLeap, the idea is to encourage the viewers to break through the monotony and leap beyond what’s possible. Keeping the campaign thought in mind, we have engaged in various activities across major markets. Additionally, leading up to the big day, &flix has launched ‘7 Days 7 Leaps’ – a property that presents viewers with the best of the best movies like ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘Venom’, ‘Captain America: Civil War’, ‘Spider-Man 2’ and ‘Men In Black 2’. Moreover, as an anniversary special, &flix has launched ‘Best Flix Forever’, a month-long property bringing top-rated movies such as ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest’, ‘Men in Black 3’, ‘Black Water’, ‘The Reef’ and ‘Gods of Egypt’. 

For instance, for the premiere of the movie ‘Venom’, we had launched a 360-degree campaign Venom One, which was insight driven, disruptive and across different platforms. We also released a Venom anthem, where we collaborated with Ranveer Singh’s music venture and artists like Kaambhari and Slowcheetha, besides having a Venom block party. 

For the upcoming Hollywood release ‘Men In Black - International’, we will have a special screening for &flix at the theatre. A similar cinematic experience is planned for the upcoming movie ‘Spiderman: Far from home’ in July. 

With the unprecedented growth of the OTT segment and also the growing consumption of English content on OTT, do you see this impacting viewership of the English genre on TV?
The early adaptors of OTT have a larger section for English content viewers and after 5 years or so English will not be the POV. The need for OTT and the growth of OTT is surreal as well as significant. But is it affecting the consumption on TV? Maybe yes. Is it cannibalising it completely? No. And that’s where I draw a line. 

The world that we live in now is growing superfast and studies show that TV has become the dining table, allowing families to come together and consume. The relevance of TV is huge, and TV still allows for seamless and curated content, compared to OTT, where you still have to search for content. What TV is offering is irreplaceable. However, the OTT platforms are bringing in fresh new audience that would otherwise never have been exposed to English content and it helps as they are getting exposed to American shows and as a market where the English speaking audience is growing, the aspirational India grows. I think English content will grow on OTT platforms. 

What is the criteria for selecting the movies for airing on &Flix?
&Flix is largely skewed towards box office hits and that is a born criteria. The second criteria is diversity in the movie content – be it action, thriller, creature-feature, thriller, comedy or rom-com. The content is both for individual viewing and family viewing, there are multiple parameters that go into selecting movies.

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