Tarun Katial on why ZEE5 is more than a video streaming app

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Published: February 21, 2020 8:31:16 AM

Apart from a content deal with ALTBalaji, the OTT platform has entered into alliances with e-commerce portals

 Tarun Katial, Zee5OTT has far more opportunities of distribution than traditional TV

ZEE5, the video streaming platform from Zee Entertainment Enterprises, spent the past year customising the app to suit low-end smartphones. Apart from a content deal with ALTBalaji, the OTT platform has entered into alliances with e-commerce portals to drive subscriptions in its two-year run. Tarun Katial speaks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about what lies ahead. Edited excerpts:

The video streaming space has been grappling with distribution challenges, which have led to alliances of all kinds. How are you tackling this?

OTT has far more opportunities of distribution than traditional TV. That’s because it can be bought and consumed in many ways. We have a variety of partnerships including loyalty programs, offers based on ticket sizes with e-commerce platforms, distribution partnerships, cross-platform purchase alliances, bundled offers through telecom operators, set-top boxes, etc.

We want to have an opportunity to be present at every transaction point with users, and that will only increase as more people transact online. Video streaming platforms have to become a utility for users. And when that happens, people can find many ways of paying — cash, cashbacks, e-wallets, etc.

The number of subscriptions we get through bundles is large and they add very quick scale. I won’t deny that it’s an interesting proposition, but our effort increasingly is to eventually convert a consumer who uses a bundled offering into a direct consumer.

ZEE5 has region-specific subscription packs. Are you also mulling a mobile-only plan like Netflix?

We were seriously mulling a mobile-only plan, but realised that the growth in smart TVs in India has been huge over the last 18 months. Additionally, consumption has significantly increased on smart TVs. This led us to believe that it would be unfortunate to restrict users to plans they will not be able to use on TV. Therefore, we created smart TV apps for TVs across the price spectrum and have proprietary apps for Sony, LG and Samsung. While others have mobile-only plans, we are very equitably priced at Rs 99 per month. So, we didn’t see a scope of price reduction based on restricting the plan to either a device or number of log-ins.

How are you improving ZEE5’s tools and services for advertisers?

We have around 18 ad formats including a video masthead and banner displays. Our fantasy league game (ZEE5 Super Family) can also be monetised with ad integrations. We are also making huge investments in ad tech, and in about 12-14 weeks, we will have a tool that will allow for self-serve, optimisation, campaign management and targeting consumption-led cohorts. This tool will be in the league of the big tech companies like Google and Facebook. We are the only platform that has server-side ad integration for the Jio KaiOS version.

What will be your content focus in the next fiscal?

We will be producing 80 originals in the next fiscal. We have seen that direct-to-digital movies do very well, so that’s one area that we want to invest in. We hope to have 30-40 such movies across languages this year. We have identified more than 27 taste clusters — rom-coms, crime thrillers, prison-breaks, etc. From these, we choose genres that are expected to have the biggest traction in terms of lifetime value and ARPUs, and develop content around them.

You struck a content deal with ALTBalaji last year, which is indicative of consolidation in the industry. How do you see this space evolving over the next few years?

We co-produce content with ALTBalaji. We believe that partnerships like these can work if the production company has the capability to scale up. We would like to do more of these large partnerships, but unfortunately there aren’t many such options available in the country. If we see an opportunity that has both volume and scale, then we will definitely consider it.

Any video streaming platform needs to have a serious volume of content to survive. Therefore, broadcasters are at a unique advantage because of their years of investment in creating a library of content and their inherent production backbone. Then there are players that form the long tail and they will always be at a disadvantage because creating digital-only content, which requires a long gestation period, is tough.

Read Also: Pocket Aces’ Anirudh Pandita on life beyond work

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