Zee5 to test mobile-only plans to take on Netflix

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on April 14, 2019

Zee5 is betting on device and telco partnerships to bring in new paid subscribers. Currently, less than 10 per cent of the paid subscribers come through partners and platforms   -  Tero Vesalainen

Streaming platform goes on overdrive with many subscription options and new content

Even as Netflix tries to expand its user base in the country with mobile-only plans that cost about half the usual monthly subscription, Zee Entertainment is working on similar plans to expand its paid subscriber base.

In an interview with BusinessLine, Zee5 CEO Tarun Katial said the company is testing out multiple pricing models that will create more options for Zee5 subscribers.

“We are planning 3-4 things. There will be mobile-only packs that’ll be 30 per cent cheaper. We’re toying with single language versus multiple language packs. You can get Tamil and add a couple of languages to that. We are also testing plans that will be supported by limited advertising. In that you can choose the kind of ads that you’d like to see. It will be a cheaper plan subsidised through advertising,” Katial said.

Unlike other OTT platforms that typically have a standard premium pricing, Zee5 already has multiple subscription packs. These include separate packs for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada viewers. An all-access pack that includes Hindi and select English content is priced at ₹99 a month against ₹49 for a single language pack.

Multi language packs

The new plans allows users ou to add multiple language packs together that’ll still be cheaper than the all-access pack. This will help multilingual families that like to watch both Tamil and Kannada content, he said.

The new plans come in anticipation of large investments that the company is making in generating original shows and movies for Zee5, which would put immense pressure on the finances of cash strapped Zee Entertainment.

As many as 72 originals — 60 new shows and 12 new movies — are planned to be launched in the next one year. One new movie and several new shows will be launched every month.

As a next move, Zee5 plans to look at smart TV audience with a difference lens — a group that is willing to pay higher for premium content, and that would want to watch English or international content and doesn’t want to be bothered by any advertising at all.

Hotstar also recently launched new plans to expand its paid customer reach. However, Hotstar doesn’t segregate TV audiences from a wider mobile audience, keeping a standard price across screens — pricing only varies based on the content being offered.

Zee5 hopes that the new pricing models will help it serve smaller markets better with quality content — markets that are primarily mobile based and so far were not able to watch videos because of their entry level phones.

“Digital advertising so far has been a metro phenomenon with some traction in tier-2/3 cities. But this takes it to the heart of rural India where people are not willing to pay for cable TV connection.

Videos could not be served on low-end smartphones. But now with Jio Phone, you get access to video even on very basic phones,” Katial said.

“Our understanding is that a large number of advertisers are trying to reach out to that audience but without much success. We’ve not only been able to re-purpose content for the audience but also have a strong understanding of that audience with our large library of Bhojpuri content and a fairly large content footprint in other regional languages. The content availability is not an issue and now the device and connectivity issue is also taken care of,” Katial pointed out.

Zee5 is betting on device and telco partnerships to bring in new paid subscribers. Currently, less than 10 per cent of the paid subscribers come through partners and platforms. But partnerships will help the OTT player reach the scale where it can hope to be profitable faster.

Published on April 14, 2019

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