'Radhe' was a big game-changer for ZEE5: Amit Goenka

Catch the full conversation with Goenka, President — Digital Businesses & Platforms, ZEEL, tomorrow

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Aug 30, 2021 9:16 AM  | 6 min read
amit Goenka

Media conglomerate ZEEL's strategy to experiment with multi-platform release of Salman Khan's 'Radhe' in theatres as well as on ZEE5 and TVOD service ZEEPlex has worked well for the video streaming platform. The digital premiere of 'Radhe' also marked a major shift in ZEE5's strategy to go for big-ticket content releases.

Such was the frenzy that ZEE5’s servers had crashed after too many users took to the streaming platform to watch the Salman Khan-starrer film. As per the initial data, 'Radhe' notched 4.2 million views on ZEE5 and ZEEPlex, which rests on ZEE5 and is also available on leading DTH platforms like Dish, D2H, Tata Sky, and Airtel Digital TV.

Immediately after the 'Radhe' premiere, the platform launched ‘Friends: The Reunion’, a 2021 reunion special of the American sitcom series 'Friends'. ZEE5 had amassed 1 million views from the webcast of the special episode, which was streamed simultaneously in India along with the USA.

“This year, 'Radhe' was a big game-changer for us. It catapulted our brand in the market due to such a big launch directly on the OTT platform. I don’t think any big movie has taken that route on OTT yet. That was a game-changer, and if you look at the journey from there, we have almost doubled our paid subscriber base in the last four months. We have had some great content and took some tactical initiatives like the 'Friends — The Reunion' episode. We continue to look out for these kinds of opportunities, but at the end of the day we are selling content,” Amit Goenka, President — Digital Businesses & Platforms, ZEEL, told exchange4media and Impact Magazine in a wide-ranging interview.

For original content, ZEE5 will focus on web series and movies across five Indian languages, while staying away from English entertainment and sports content. “Under the new strategy, we have definitely decided to focus on quality versus quantity. From an earlier 75 shows, we are now focusing on three-four big shows in each language in a year. We are focused on five main languages currently — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali,” Goenka revealed.

About English content, he said that the consumer base is low while the acquisition cost is high. “We don’t intend to do English content, nor acquire English content. We believe it is too expensive and if the total subscriber base in the country is 35-40 million, the maximum audience that wants English content is around 3 million. This is my personal assessment,” Goenka expounded.

As a company, ZEEL is not interested in sports, since the economics of that business is still broken. “We don’t think sports as a genre is viable in this country. There are a handful of sports properties which make money, and the IPL is probably the most profitable one. Apart from that, most sporting properties in this country have not made money in the longest time,” the veteran executive pointed out.

Reminiscing about the three-year journey of ZEE5, Goenka said that the platform has come a long way despite being a late entrant in the OTT market among the broadcaster-owned platforms. ZEE5 was launched by subsuming ZEEL's existing video streaming platforms OZEE (AVOD) and Ditto TV (SVOD).

“It was exciting when we launched, the industry itself was going through a big shift with Jio coming in. The video boom really started off in the country with the entry of Jio and the data prices crashing. It was exciting as we did a lot of firsts like launching in 13 languages together. Being the last entrant among the broadcast OTTs, we wanted to differentiate ourselves. It was a good start, we ramped up quickly as we had a base from our earlier OTT platform which was OZEE. When we transitioned from OZEE to ZEE5, we started off with almost 7 million users on day 1, and we quickly grew to 50 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) within the first six months of our launch,” he noted.

ZEE5 has shown promising growth in the last eight months since Goenka took over the business. “It’s been about 8 months since I took over, and we have grown from about 4 million daily active viewers (DAUs) to now about 7 million (DAUs). Our MAUs are now 77 million, which will translate to monthly active viewers of about 42-43 million.”

The platform has seen increased stickiness and consumption, thanks to certain product level changes. “If I look at the product journey of the last 6 months, we have improved the product drastically, due to which consumption has increased. So even though my user base has not grown dramatically in terms of overall MAUs, my app users, which used to be at around 14 million in February-March, are today at 35 million. So we have grown our app user base drastically.”

Rather than looking at vanity metrics, ZEE5's focus has strategically shifted towards real metrics and quality users. “It is a big shift for us to not go for 80 or 100 million, but to go for quality users. That’s what we have done in the last six months. Earlier, my monthly users would come seven times on the platform, now they are coming 12 times on the platform. They were watching for 22-23 minutes earlier, now it is 40 minutes,” Goenka averred.

He further stated that the quality of user has gone up due to product level changes like improving app load time, reducing pre-roll ads, among others. “My impressions per user have gone up for the AVOD advertisers. So there is one user who would give me 50 impressions in a month, now he is giving me 150 impressions. So these are the kind of shifts we have seen in strategy by undertaking several changes on the platform and on the content side,” Goenka stated.

Instead of relying on third-party tech vendors, ZEE5 has decided to build its own tech team. It has roped in former UIDAI (Aadhaar) Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Nitin Mittal to build the tech team in Bengaluru.

“So we are building our own tech centre in Bengaluru. We roped in Nitin Mittal, who comes from various start-up backgrounds apart from working for UPI and Aadhaar. He is helping us build that entire system. Earlier we were dependent on third parties. Now we are building everything in-house, which is a big shift for us. Recruiting 300+ techies is a big challenge, especially in today’s market. Due to the consumer tech boom in the country, talent is not available,” Goenka noted.

Catch the full conversation with Goenka tomorrow

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