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With focus on quality content, we aim to increase our pool of SVOD audience: Manish Kalra

Celebrating five years of creating exclusive OTT content, Zee5 recently revealed a line-up of 111+ titles - featuring originals in Hindi and regional languages, sequels, direct-to-digital releases, post-theatrical launches and docu-series

Manish Kalra

Zee5, the video streaming platform, is setting its sights on an expansion strategy which is aimed at attracting a larger user base and getting more subscribers. Moreover,  Zee Network has over two decades of experience in South and East markets and Zee5 aims at leveraging that strength, Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer at Zee5 India, said.

With a focus on growth, profitability and delivering content that resonates with consumers, Zee5 is determined to create an immersive platform that captivates and delights its audience, as per Kalra. 

Celebrating five years of creating exclusive OTT content, Zee5 recently revealed a line-up of 111+ titles - featuring originals in Hindi and regional languages, sequels, direct-to-digital releases, post-theatrical launches and docu-series. 

Kalra said, “Our strategy is primarily around catering to customer expectations and giving them the content they need. Our strengths lie in India's local and regional languages that we are catering to. Moreover, the Zee network has over two decades of experience in South and East markets and we are leveraging that. So, our strengths, consumer demands, available supply and finding the right mix are the inputs for the strategy. Having said that, being one of India's only homegrown OTTs, we want to leverage our understanding of the country and local languages and be the first movers.” 

“We want to double down on acquiring users and getting more and more subscribers to pay for the content, which will happen when we have good quality content which the consumers want to consume. So, the main goals are growth and profitability and ensuring that consumers love the platform. We see many of our consumers come from smaller towns and low bandwidth areas. Hence, it is also an ongoing tech improvement that we keep doing regarding how the streaming service works seamlessly in those low bandwidth areas,” Kalra added.

As per Kalra, the Zee5 app has a 4.5 rating on Google Play Store, while on iOS, the app has 4.7,  both out of 5, which is a testament to the customers liking the streaming service as well as the content. 

Stating that the market trends are positive and the OTT is a growing industry which gives them confidence, Kalra said, “Consumers want to taste good quality content and additionally, the benefits which OTTs bring on the table is a convenience for the consumers. How we bring more and more consumers online and on our platform is a function of how well we create the content and market it. So, that is a day-to-day challenge and growth opportunity for us.”  

Kalra also shared that their strategy is to build more content and do it faster in terms of local languages - which everyone else may not be able to do as fast as them - because of Zee5 coming from the house of a big TV network which has already established its roots in various languages. 

Kalra believes that OTT is an expanding space. It is the digital industry wherein everybody wants a share of the pie and there is huge investment flowing in. 

Furthermore, he added, “We are one of the few platforms which are investing in direct-to-digital movies because we have tasted success in that.”

“We believe in the power of stories and actors are a medium to tell them. However, if the story is good then the actor who may or may not be so well-known will also do justice to it. At the same time, we do partner with good actors who have now grown bigger. We are not averse to big faces,” Kalra added.

Nimisha Pandey

Nimisha Pandey, Chief Content Officer – Hindi Originals, Zee5, said that with OTTs, the choice which lies with the viewer is multiplied manifold because of the choice of when and where to watch and on what screen they want to watch the content on.

“People who quintessentially didn't watch a particular genre started to explore them. Then we started seeing the viewing patterns and realised that the audience was no more divided by demographics. What happened with OTTs coming in was that people started getting into these taste clusters and they were defined by what they were watching. We are trying to cater to as many taste clusters as we can,” Pandey stated. 

She also opined that sexual and abusive content in web series or movies is not a necessity to make it a hit. “When I get those pitches, I tell them (writers) that it is lazy writing and they are going for an easy grip. The easiest way to pull in an audience is to shock them, which is the easiest way to go about it.”

Audience willingness to pay has evolved over the years in India

Kalra also said that people are now willing to loosen their wallets to subscribe and watch premium content in India. 

“The overall willingness to pay is going up in India. More and more users are seeing the value in the content and entertainment we provide so they are willing to pay more. Moreover, the content cost and the cost of running the platform are also high. It's an evolution and you can’t push people beyond a certain limit. If they love your content, they would be willing to pay more. So, we keep experimenting with price elasticity and we are learning from that,” Kalra said. 

Furthermore, he said, “We are present in 190 countries. In India itself, the penetration of our content is high. We want more and more people in each city to subscribe to our content. The content is travelling geographies and languages and we do see consumption happening so we want to evolve more and syndicate content to other geographies as we go forward.”

Speaking about the subscription versus advertising-based models, Kalra said, "Our AVOD side has a predominantly female audience, comprising about 65-70% of viewers. This is because females tend to consume a lot of TV shows. However, on the SVOD side the situation is reversed. Somehow we also realise, based on research, that a lot of times the purchasing power is with the male of the family. So, that might be the case here."  

Speaking about the new content slate, Pandey said, “As Zee5 reaches its five-year milestone, we are creating ourselves, one story at a time. It is our endeavour to take our viewers on a journey where they explore multiple dimensions within themselves. It gives us immense joy in bringing stories and characters that take our audiences to new worlds and emotions, that they can sometimes relate to and sometimes escape with. We’re working with some brilliant creators who share our vision and passion for broadening the horizons of storytelling.”

For the new content slate, Zee5 has partnered with creators like Dharma Productions, Salman Khan Films, Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, Bhanushali Studios, The Viral Fever (TVF), Goldie Behl’s Rose Audio Visuals, Applause Entertainment, Sudhir Mishra, Vikas Bahl, Vivek Agnihotri, and Nagraj Manjule, to narrate stories featuring actors like Salman Khan, Pankaj Tripathi, Huma Qureshi, Sonali Bendre, Arya, Vijay Sethupathi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, and more.

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