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OTT not hurting English channels but aiding overall viewership growth, says Shaurya Mehta of Zee English Cluster

In a conversation with, the Business Head of Zee English Cluster says India is large enough for both TV and OTT to grow together. He talks about disruption caused by NTO, the growth potential of English channels and how &flix HD is contributing the most to the viewership of ZEEL’s English cluster

Shaurya Mehta

After the implementation of TRAI’s new tariff order (NTO), niche channels such as English, infotainment and lifestyle were facing an uncertainty. Keeping viewers and advertisers hooked to them looked tricky. Amid all this, ZEEL-owned English movie channel &flix was facing a challenge of its own.

&flix not only had the challenge of building its brand proposition but had to attract subscribers in the new tariff regime. With over 550 titles in its library, the channel managed to attract over 130 brands in a year. In the first year of launch, the channel premiered over 40 films on &flix.

Speaking about their growth after the revamp, Shaurya Mehta, Business Head, Zee English Cluster, said, “Our key proposition with &flix was to be home to the best of Hollywood cinema and the best of blockbusters in Hollywood. The other proposition was to have a maximum number of premieres across the English genre. When we look at that from a content delivery perspective, we stayed true to that. We have had some of the biggest hits and the biggest premieres rating wise as well. We have had the maximum number of top-rated premieres.” &flix currently has over 14% market share in its segment.

In an interview with, Mehta spoke on a range of issues, including how the growth of OTT was affecting English channels. 


How much growth has the channel seen since its launch?

From a growth perspective, the English genre in itself may have grown in a low single digit on a year-on-year basis. I am talking about the pre-MRP regime era because obviously after the NTO implementation, numbers cannot be compared on year-on-year basis.

Compared to Zee Studio’s viewership in Dec 2017, &flix’s viewers in Dec 2018 saw a growth of over 50%, while &flix HD grew by 250% during the same period, as it grabbed the second position. HD contribution to our &flix viewership has grown faster. The consumer base &flix is catering to — the premium urban English consumers — is very well attuned to HD and that is where we have probably capitalised more than our competition. This speaks very well about the packaging of the channel, brand positioning and the content. Based on all these parameters, I would say it has been a very successful year.

From the advertisers’ perspective, how was the response? Which categories invested more in &flix?

In this first year of launch, we have worked with around 130-odd brands, which is very significant, being only a year old. These brands are spread across industries; it is a mix of FMCG, automobiles, PFSI and digital consumer companies among others. We had Apple, Google, Mercedes, FMCG brands such as HUL, other consumer brands like Bata. Then there is Axis Bank. So it is evenly spread out and not heavily relied on any single industry. But FMCG, automobiles, PFSI and the digital consumer will probably be the largest from the category perspective.

What key objectives aided the growth of &flix?

We have had some of the biggest hits and the biggest premieres rating wise as well. We have had the maximum number of top-rated premieres. I think &flix has delivered fresh movies and content to the Indian audiences and that has helped the growth of the channel.

Has the market settled after NTO implementation and how long would it take to balance revenues and viewership?

It is very difficult to answer but I would say we have not completely settled yet. But if we look at how consumer awareness was in January when the MRP regime was implemented as compared to consumer awareness now, there has been a remarkable change. Now, the consumer is far more aware; in fact, the awareness has reached 90%.

There were talks of niche channels facing a downward spiral after the implementation of NTO. Is that apprehension still looming and how had &flix fared?

 That apprehension isn’t wrong. We are still in the transition phase, so there is no certain way to pass a judgment yet. As a brand, now the need to reach out and speak to the consumer directly is even higher than before. Brands investing in content or building consumer connect and engagement will thrive and do better in this regime. That is where our focus is.

While the English genre’s reach is not as high as it used to be, what is more important is that the brand will emerge stronger from this. Marketers and advertisers will further recognise its potential and that is where our focus is. Change means everyone has to adapt. Being the strongest brands and part of the largest network means to be able to leverage all the strength and emerge stronger out of that and we look forward to doing that.

 What will be your key focus areas for next year?

Our key focus will be the MRP regime; we have to make sure that we have our feet in the ground as far as communicating and engaging with the consumers is concerned. The need to do that is of paramount importance. Also, how we execute it in our marketing campaigns is important; it is important to have 360-degree campaigns focusing on outdoor, digital and on air. The initiatives will be more disruptive than they have been before as the need to reach out to audiences is more than before. Secondly, we will continue pushing best and fresh content, give out the best of the titles as earlier as possible to the market. We will continue to invest in the brand; the HD viewership is again very critical for us and we see that growing at a strong pace. So &flix HD will play a critical role as far as gaining viewership is concerned.

Is OTT eating into the viewership pie of English channels?

I think OTT and digital will continue to grow at a faster rate than the broadcaster but at the same time, digital is exposing a newer audience. I agree there is a growing need for personal space, which has given a leg to second screen experience, i.e. OTT, but TV has become a new dining table of sorts. There is a lot more family viewing happening on TV and movies benefit from this tremendously. The data we have collected from consumer research has shown that TV allows for seamless, curated and effortless viewing whereas in digital consumers have to seek out the content and make a decision on what to watch. There is a place for that; it is a binary world as it is not this or that. We have a large market and all these platforms are only aiding the overall viewership and it is growing in parallel.

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