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ZEE5 intends to be No.1 entertainment destination for S Asians in 6 months: Archana Anand

In a move to target the South Asian diaspora and beyond across the world, ZEE5, the digital entertainment platform from Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), has gone live in 190+countries globally. ZEE5 offers multi-genre content, including news and entertainment across English, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Gujarati and Punjabi.

Outlining the global strategy, Amit Goenka, CEO, Zee International and Z5 Global, said, “With the launch of ZEE5 across 190+ markets, we have moved into the next phase of our growth story. Launching ZEE5 globally rather than in a staggered manner has been a conscious move in order to capitalise on the tremendous love and following that the brand has amassed over the years overseas. This new chapter further strengthens us as a Media & Entertainment behemoth and reiterates our claim to the India story, bringing to our audiences around the globe an unrivalled content offering, using robust technology.”

Speaking on the soft launch, Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global, said, “With over 100,000 hours of content across genres and languages, ZEE5 is the singular platform that Indians and South Asians have been waiting for. With the launch of ZEE5 globally, we intend to own the India peg completely and be the unequivocal go to destination for Indian content for South Asians and beyond, wherever they may be.”

The ZEE5 App can be downloaded from Google Play Store and very shortly from the iOS App Store. It is also available on the ZEE5 website. Other platforms in the pipeline include Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, connected TV apps, etc.

ZEE5 will follow the freemium pricing model, with both free and paid premium content, to cater to a mix of audiences across markets. Viewers who subscribe to the ZEE5 subscription pack will get access to the entire library of content at a special introductory offer price ranging from $2 per month to $10 per month, depending on the region.

In conversation with Adgully, Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global, speaks at length about ZEE5’s global foray, content strategy, engaging the Indian diaspora, the ‘Dil Se Desi’ campaign, and more. Excerpts: 

Please tell us about this global foray.
International is no stranger to us, both on the linear and broadcast side. We are present in 173 countries. We probably have the strongest on-ground presence than any other media company. The diaspora audience is already consuming our content. We are comfortable in and out of the country. So, in that sense even on the digital space moving there after we launched in India was the most natural sequence of events. ZEE5 launched in India on February 14. It was a natural progression for ZEE5 India to go global. In the first phase, we did a soft launch on October 2, where our app and website was available globally. A lot of internal testing has been happening. 

What kind of content did you put out in the first phase?
When the first phase was launched, we had what we internally call – CAT 1 content – which comprises all the content that we create. We know from historical evidence that our content has had great traction with the entire South Asian diaspora, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. Thus, it was very natural for us to make the export call. The ‘Dil Se Desi’ campaign is actually an extension of the previous campaign – ‘Apni Bhasha Mein Feel Hai’. Both come from the same fundamental insight that as Indians and South Asians, we have become more comfortable in our skin today. 

In the language context of India, the story which we have been telling was that for the longest time we had the hang-up of British Raj. English has been the passport to having a right and we basked in that content for the longest time. Now, we have reached this natural content to take references from your mother tongue, your root, so this is the true India. We launched the largest language platform of 12 languages. On the internet, apart from 2 per cent English search, the rest are looking for Hindi and regional languages. So, ‘Dil Se Desi’ is saying that no matter how global I have gone, no matter how much of an exposure I’ve had or no matter how sophisticated I am, today I have this happy pride of being ‘Dil Se Desi’ and I flaunt it. So, it’s a celebration of who we are. 

What are these 12 languages? Are they available internationally?
Internationally, this has been done for the first time. My audience for ‘Dil Se Desi’ is more about South Asians – Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Singaporeans, Sri Lankans, Malaysians collectively. 

We are also there in the Americas, but not North America due to our contractual obligations. But Canada and the Caribbean come into our ambit for sure, as well as Europe. 

How did Publicis go about conceptualising the ‘Dil Se Desi’ campaign?
It was a continuation of the story that we had crafted for ‘Apni Bhasha Mein Feel Hai’ – which was to connect with our root language. That was becoming more and more of a reality internationally and there were hard numbers to prove that. Pride and celebration of that identity was the key. The lines stuck in our minds as it had a lovely emotional connect. If you look at the last part of the film, it conveys that though we may live overseas, we have come together as one family because we are connected by our language, food, culture. 

Currently the film is in digital media. I can’t say about the long term plans right now. 

Who do you consider to be your competitors in these markets?
Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

With this global foray, what kind of a market share is ZEE5 looking at?
It’s a very fragmented market. But in the coming 6 months, we intend to be the No. 1 platform of recall for the South Asian audience for entertainment. When we set up the India story, the boast was that we would become the No. 1 entertainment destination. At the same time, we also decided not to take up sports, as sports is Hotstar’s main stay and also because the overall No. 1 call would always be a tall call in a cricket-centric country like India. Outside of sports, I know that with the content and language that we have, we had a real fighting chance to become the No. 1 in the entertainment space. For the South Asian market, we are thinking of more content. 

What would be the content mix for the global audience?
It will comprise all the that we currently have in India, which includes catch-up content, live shows, movies, originals, digital premieres, music and news. We also have a lot of short forms that we keep creating from time to time, such as our Zee Cine Awards, etc. 

How are you shoring up your movie content?
We have an original movie called ‘Tiger’, which is launching today; then there is ‘Padman’ and ‘Veere Di Wedding’, which are our own productions, among others. 

Recently, we launched a Malayalam channel and that was one of the bastions in the South where we didn’t have a presence. 

What kind of traction have you seen from your older shows and movies?
The diaspora, which is mostly first generation, has a huge appetite for older shows and movies. But we are looking at all types of audiences first generation diaspora, students, the working class, what we consider to be the fourth category, that is the ‘runaway browns’, who are basically people who are nowhere associated with their brownness or Indian qualities. All the other three sets have different varying levels of affinity with their Indianness. There are people abroad who celebrate our festivals in a more traditional way than we do here. So, there’s a huge love for all our shows. For example, when we took off ‘Jodha Akbar’, which was on YouTube in Australia, the audience there reacted very angrily. 

In India, you have tied up with Airtel. Are there similar partnerships lined up with telecom service providers in the other regions, especially APAC, MENA and Africa?
There’s a whole slew of partnership that we have sowed. I think in the next few weeks or months we would be ready to announce them. In the next two weeks, you might hear a lot of announcements on our partners.

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