ZEE aims to take the Hollywood experience to the next level in 2021: Kartik Mahadev

Shrugging off the disruptions of the year gone by, businesses and agencies are looking for a strong revival in 2021. Over the next few weeks, Adgully – as part of its annual TRENDING NOW endeavour – will be presenting the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of 2020.

Kartik Mahadev, Business Head, Premium Channels, ZEEL, talks about his vision for 2021, which involves giving a bigger and better Hollywood experience to viewers, connecting with the ‘Many Bharats’ and leveraging content curation for greater engagement.

Outlook for 2021: Taking Hollywood to the next level

Today, there are a whopping 216 million+ viewers watching English Movies & Entertainment channels (BARC, All India, Week 01’20- Week 49’20). To put this number in perspective, English entertainment viewers in India are larger than the combined population of England, Canada and Australia. Another promising trend is the Box Office share for Hollywood movies in India; various industry reports highlight a growth of 15% CAGR over the last six years, with an estimated Rs 1,595 crore in collections, second to only Bollywood.

To these passionate fans, waiting for movie premieres got longer with out of home entertainment avenues reducing and impacting the theatrical releases in 2020. There is some reason to cheer in 2021, with an exciting line-up of Hollywood releases in the pipeline. &flix has consistently looked to solve for the consumer challenge in the English movie genre with a focus to improve fan experience on television and a key disruption in this space is reducing the wait time for Hollywood premieres by half. With our fastest to TV premieres of Hollywood’s biggest hits, we truly aim to take this experience to the next level in the year ahead.

Connecting with the ‘Many Bharats’

At a macro level, interest in English content is growing. There is a whole set of audience moving from regional to English content as they become more comfortable with English as a professional, conversational language. Today, Hollywood movies aren’t just for the English-speaking audiences living in metros, as we see movie enthusiasts in Bharat and India with the same level of passion and connectedness to the global fan following. Findings from the &flix study further validate this by revealing that 9 in 10 movie lovers watch both English and Hindi/ Regional movies. The study also indicates how 7 in 10 Bollywood/ regional enthusiasts enjoy dubbed versions of Hollywood films, but find limited options of movies in their preferred language.

We have designed unique offerings such as World Television Premieres, Multi-Language block, Flix For All on &flix and locally nuanced content on Zee Café, that will stand out as enablers of bringing an aspirational, English-comfortable audience onboard. Moreover, our offering of bringing multiple blockbuster premieres on &flix within months from their theatrical release and in the language of your choice along with ZEE’s pan-network property ‘Ticket To Hollywood’, has helped engage with a broader pool of enthusiasts thus fortifying our position across markets.

Television will continue being the preferred medium for Hollywood

Owing to the current situation, a larger audience at home is looking for quality content. The lockdown has showed us that the viewers choose to watch television for the curated content experience it provides, to not just individuals but the entire family. The recent &flix consumer study, titled ‘Hollywood Is For Everyone’, revealed that for 82% movie lovers, TV viewing comes closest to the big screen experience amidst lockdown in addition to 81% who think television to be ideal for family bonding. Further, as compared to OTT, 78% movie lovers find TV viewing experience to be bigger and better along with 76%, who find it more economical. With out-of-home entertainment options being limited in the new normal, television will continue to be the entertainment destination for individuals and families. This immediate context is an opportunity for growth.

Content curation will continue to be the big differentiator

Among the many worries that one may have, choosing the right and relevant content shouldn’t be one. The lockdown has showed us that the viewers choose to watch television for the curated content experience it provides to not just individuals but the entire family. When it comes to Digital VODs, content discovery will continue to pose a challenge to viewers looking to unwind with quality content. A typical viewer ends up surfing endlessly to explore content that best suits their tastes. This is where television channels that understand their consumer and curate well, delight the viewer. The &flix consumer study also revealed that 71% movie lovers consider television to be niftier as they do not have to browse through content as compared to OTT.

In the larger scheme of things, curation of content on television that lends to co-viewing, making TV for a great community experience for family and friends, will emerge as the big differentiator. With leading OTT platforms now making the transition to linear TV globally and a newer platform emerging as content recommendation services for streaming platforms, it just speaks volumes for ease of viewing and discovery that our audiences embrace when it comes to television.

Keeping curation at the core, we at Zee English cluster have constantly introduced new programming formats and properties that best suit the needs of our ever-evolving viewers. Being the destination for discovery for the best of English entertainment and movies, the coming year will see marquee properties and titles across our channels as we continue to enthrall and entertain our discerning viewers.

Looking back at 2020

2020 was an eventful year for Media and Entertainment, one that propelled the entire ecosystem to pause, rethink and recalibrate. While just as other sectors, M&E too was impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, what’s key to note is that the impact varies across individual segments and verticals. From a macro lens, according to KPMG’s Media & Entertainment Report 2020, the Indian M&E sector grew at a rate of 7% in FY20 to reach a size of Rs 1.75 trillion, a CAGR of 10% over FY 16-20. Needless to say, that the impact was more at a granular level across segments. Having said that, despite the challenging business environment, 2020 was a year of adaptability, growth and innovation.

On the outset, the M&E sector faced significant disruption with the lockdown forcing all forms of outdoor entertainment to shut down and content supply chains to dry up. On the other hand, extended lockdown meant a surge in digital and gaming. When it comes to Television, it continued to be the largest segment and had a reasonable year with a 9% growth in overall revenues in FY 20. This was majorly driven by growth in subscription revenues post NTO 1.0.

During the lockdown, Television came across as a trusted medium. We saw significant growth in TV viewership, led by more walk-ins as well as more time spent on television. The ZEE English cluster of channels grew by 93% (Week 12 – Week 22 vs Week 1 to Week 11 as per BARC data). &flix, the Hollywood blockbuster movies channel, had one of the most engaged audience in Mega cities, with 56 minutes (Week 12 – Week 22 as per BARC data) average weekly time spent on the channel. This, given the context of the lockdown tells us that the audience finds content on television compelling and comforting. The lockdown has showed us that the viewers choose to watch television for the curated content experience it provides, to not just individuals but the entire family and English entertainment viewership grew by 45% as compared to last year (As per BARC @ All India 2+ U+R data, Week 12 – Week 22’2020 vs Week 12 – Week 22’2019).

This year, we at ZEE English Cluster introduced tactical changes in our programming with specially curated properties to suit the entertainment needs of a steady subscriber base. For instance, Zee Café added 300+ hours of new content, which includes the latest season of dramas such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Nancy Drew’ and ‘Evil’ and iconic sitcoms such as ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ along with the original airings of the celebrity chat show Starry Nights GEN Y. Recently, we launched the channel’s first-ever original production ‘Dance With Me’ with celebrity dance experts Shakti Mohan and Mukti Mohan. The year 2020 also marked the milestone celebration for 20 years of we-time with Zee Café.

Moreover, with the growing popularity of Hollywood movies across the country and an aspirational audience looking at movies as a window to the world, we launched ‘Flix for All’ on &flix with top-rated Hollywood movies available in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, which garnered a +41% jump in viewership. Recently, we announced ‘Ticket To Hollywood’ – a pan network offering where we combine the might of ZEE to bring Hollywood closer to the homes of enthusiasts spread across the many Bharats with latest Hollywood blockbusters dubbed in regional languages across ZEE channels. The property was launched with the premiere of the Vin Diesel-starrer ‘Bloodshot’ that was made available across 12 channels in 10 languages garnering a reach of 29 million. In addition, our fastest to TV premieres of blockbusters like ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ and ‘Bad Boys For Life’ enthralled audiences through the year while delivering value to our brand partners. True testimony to this is the premiere of ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ on &flix and a simulcast on Zee Cinema clocking a whopping 34 million impressions. (BARC; TG : NCCS AB 15-40, Megacities, Pre Flix For All Period- WK 45 2019- WK 14 2020, during Flix For All Period- WK 15 2020 - WK 37 2020).


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