OTT platform Zee5 India to produce over 80 originals next fiscal year

Asmita Dey

Zee5 India will produce over 80 originals in the next financial year starting April 1. The over-the-top (OTT) platform from the Zee group that claimed to have a daily active user (DAU) base of a little over 11 million as of December 2019 has a slate of more than 100 originals at present. The originals (to be launched in FY21) will include content created in partnership with AltBalaji as well as those curated individually by Zee5, said CEO Tarun Katial. "Content has more lifetime value on digital than anywhere else. We will continue to invest behind originals. We are also investing on direct-to-digital movies," Katial told FE in an interview.

Direct-to-digital movies are properties that are listed exclusively on digital platforms and have not been released in theatres. They are different from originals as they are not produced but usually acquired by platforms. Zee5 currently has over 20 such properties.

At a time when consumption of entertainment has become more of an individual, rather than collective activity and viewers choose their prime time as per convenience, content is undoubtedly the key to entice the audience. Netflix is spending a hefty Rs 3,000 crore on India content in the two years starting 2019, CEO Reed Hastings announced in December. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who was recently on his visit to the country said Prime Video will double down on content investment in India. According to a CII-BCG report released late last year, over Rs 2,000 crore was spent on originals across four leading OTT platforms.

For Zee5, content forms the bulk of the costs, followed by customer acquisition and technology, Katial said. "We are in the phase of marketing and customer acquisition-making sure that people are aware of the brand, downloading the app, buying subscription," Katial said. However, CAC per customer for Zee5 is lower compared to other players as catch-up TV content draws a lot of viewers to the platform who later turn pay customers, Katial said.

Subscription content, albeit, still "appeals more" to audiences from Tier-1 cities. "We do have AVOD (advertising video-on-demand) content that is popular among viewers coming from Tier-2 cities," Katial said.

About 550 million consumers are estimated to take to online video viewing in India by FY23, according to a recent KPMG-Eros Now report. To make it more palatable for price-sensitive consumers, Zee5 will launch a new regional Malayali pack priced at Rs 49 per month. The launch, expected in FY21, will add up to its current regional packs available in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. The firm, however, is going slow on its plan to launch a mobile-only pack given that consumption of content on smart TVs has gone up, Katial said.