On Tuesday, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) launched its streaming platform ZEE5 in the US market, targeting the large diaspora audience in the region.
The launch announcement was made by ZEE5 Global Chief Business Officer Archana Anand and Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a virtual event.
What's in store for ZEE5 US?
ZEEL President, Digital Businesses & Platforms, Amit Goenka said, "We have a long association of over two decades with this market, bringing our viewers here the best of Indian entertainment through our channels. With ZEE5, we now look to offer both these audiences and the younger demographic access to a much wider choice of premium content."
According to Archana Anand, ZEE5 would provide the South Asian diaspora a bridge between them, their culture and their languages.
"With this and the rich library of shows we have, I am confident that we will become the preferred destination for South Asian content and woo both TV and Streaming loyalists across all age groups across both South Asian and mainstream audiences in the shortest possible time," she added.
Its content is available in Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, as well as Malay, Thai, Bahasa, Arabic, Urdu, and Bangla (Bangladeshi) with key titles dubbed and/or subtitled in English.
After the US, Canada would be another focus market for ZEE5, Anand added. It would also be launching its campaign in Canada, thereby kicking off its marketing in the country, she said.
What did Chopra Jonas say about the launch?
Chopra Jonas says that people should embrace streaming platforms because they have not only allowed the audience to consume diverse stories but also democratised the film industry.
Chopra Jonas, who made her digital debut with the Netflix movie The White Tiger this year, said that streaming services have made artistes think outside the "formula" of a Bollywood film.
"That's what you're seeing in Indian cinema - the freedom of streaming services is allowing people to have larger thoughts than the formula that existed before.
"That there should be five songs, a fight sequence. That formula has gone away. Now people want to tell great, real stories, with which they identify," the actor told reporters.
Thoughts on the boom of OTT platforms
The 38-year-old actor said the boom of the streaming services, particularly in India, has broken down the monopoly of a "specific number of people", resulting in newer storytelling.
"It's amazing because it gives new writers, actors, filmmakers an opportunity to come into an industry that was monopolised for a long time by a very specific number of people. It's a great time for growth, entertainment and specifically for Indian cinema," she added.
While nothing can be compared to a theatrical experience, the actor said the OTT platforms have brought in a remarkable comfort to the audience.
However, Chopra Jonas firmly believes that the current OTT boom is not an indicator that the "theatrical is going anywhere".
On OTT vs theatre
"The freedom that streaming has provided to audiences around the world is that you can watch a movie at the comfort of your homes. That's amazing.
"It's spreading culture, teaching people, educating them, there's a large, new audience that is being exposed to all kinds of Indian cinema," she added.
The Indian film industry is going through an "exciting time" and people should wholeheartedly "embrace streaming as much as we can", Chopra Jonas said.
"It's not the future, it's the present," she added.
On South Asian representation >at global stage
At the event, Chopra Jonas also said that as an Indian actor-producer working in Hollywood, she wants to use her power to create more space for South Asian artistes on the global stage.
"I have been one of the very few people who have had the privilege of being able to be in the entertainment business in two of the largest entertainment industries in the world.
"My quest is to be able to create more recognition, representation and to be able to have South Asians feel seen and heard, especially within the international community outside of South Asia," the actor added.
As part of the launch, ZEE5 unveiled its line-up of Originals and other films across languages to release on the platform in the coming months, which included filmmaker SS Rajamouli's much-awaited RRR post its theatrical release.
(With inputs from Press Trust of India)