India has shown that Freemium can exist: Yogesh Manwani, ZEE5

Yogesh Manwani, Head AVOD, SEO News and Stories, ZEE5, shares why 2019 has been a special year for them and how 2020 too holds a promise of being bigger and better

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Published: Dec 27, 2019 8:48 AM  | 6 min read
Yogesh Manwani

ZEE5, the digital streaming platform, will complete 2 years in Febuary 2020 but in this short span the platform has made some impressive strides. It claims to be now the largest producer of Originals, over 80 released so far, and has content available in 12 languages in India. It also has a Bollywood library to boast of, a robust distribution network and it also claims to be the biggest ConTech brand in India.

We caught up with Yogesh Manwani, Head AVOD, SEO News and Stories, ZEE5, to tell us how 2019 fared for the network and also for brands that have chosen to advertise with them.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Zee5 defines its Ad suite as one of a kind, what is your USP?
The entire package put together makes it very unique. We have four offerings under it. Ad Vault that basically is various kinds of ways an advertiser can find themselves or their brands present on the platform. Then there's Ampli5 that helps brand owners amplify their brand message using the power of our content and characters and our tools. Wishbox helps brands engage with consumers in the moment of truth, to actually do e-commerce. Then we have PLAY5, our gamification product, that helps brands engage with consumers in an interactive manner. All of these four things put together are backed by CDP, which is our customer data programme, which helps brands in doing targeted, relevant and contextual advertising. Ths makes this entire thing unique. There is nobody out there who can offer this package put together. A brand can choose depending on their objective, on their challenge, on their target consumer and target market and also investments. They can choose to invest in either or a combination of any of these products, and therefore, leverage it to its fullest. That kind of offering makes it very unique. The biggest advantage is also the volume and the nature of audience that we deliver to advertisers backed by the power of our content in the regional space and national space. That obviously is the biggest added advantage that an advertiser has.

What is ZEE5 doing to ensure transparency for brands in the absence of a common digital measurement system in the OTT space?
In our early conversations with brands itself, we took cognizance of the fact that rightfully so, brand owners and advertisers need to have some feedback mechanism on the return of their investments, and whether their goals and objectives are being met or not. In the absence of any universal measurement currency, we as a responsible brand decided that it is important for us to ensure that we deliver this to our advertisers. We have taken the time and effort to see how we can deliver transparency to our advertisers, which helps them measure the return on investment. And there we have invested in two or three kinds of tools. Whether it's Nielsen DAR or Moat, we've integrated both onto the platform. We also encourage brands to work with us to do brand lift studies that depend from advertiser to advertiser. It is their prerogative and choice but we are more than happy to help and we encourage advertisers or brand partners. We do a brand lift study because that's really the proof of the pudding to tell them the efficacy of not only the medium, but also efficacy of their communication.

While AVOD platforms draw in the advertising money, SVOD too has been showing promise with consumers willing to pay for good content. Which model will 2020 belong to?
I think India has in that sense led the way in the digital, video and OTT space to show the world that the business model of ‘freemium’ can exist. It's been very unique to us as a market and naturally so because we have such a large consumer base, and such a diverse consumer base. This model I think, is most apt for our market and in that sense, I think the premium and the AVOD & SVOD models will continue to coexist. Obviously, the acceleration on both fronts will be at different paces and in different directions. I think SVOD will also continue to grow and possibly, in terms of acceleration, slightly faster. AVOD will continue also to grow, in my view, with the advent of not only new content, but also new distribution mechanisms that have come into place, as connected devices become more and more popular. I think AVOD will continue to grow even more because more people will start consuming content on the larger screen also. We at ZEE5 are all set and our investments are in both directions. I think 2020 will belong to ZEE5.

What are your trend predictions for 2020?
I think trends wise, especially in OTT regional languages will continue in my view. I think it will only get stronger. More and more regional and language content will continue to win over, I think personalization will become even more important. Connected devices, which is basically people starting to consume non-linear content on larger screens or televisions, is going to be on the upswing. Related to personalization will be investments in AI and ML, because eventually you need that to be able to deliver personalization.
Has 2019 been a tough year on the back of the economic slowdown?

We launched last February and in that sense, we've seen significant growth that has happened for us. We've made significant efforts for various parts of the businesses. Whether in terms of content, whether it is AVOD or SVOD content, putting stories out, in terms of technology, all the things that we have done to ensure that we are available across devices, across handsets, across models, while also ensuring that you have an app which works even on a 2012-13 phone. This effort has resulted in the numbers that we see whether in terms of users, watch time, video views, growth, our brand partners, all of that is only encouraging and it's been a great year for us.

It gives us more motivation and encouragement to keep continuing on the same path. Obviously, there is a macroeconomic environment, headwinds that you kind of battle against but I think we have come out well out of that. I think for us, it’s been a good year.

exchange4media’s upcoming OTT focused event titled 'One Demand Video & Audio Content Awards and Conference ' slated for March 2020, will be holding in depth discussions on industry trends and challenges, regional play, business models and much more with stakeholders from the OTT sector.

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