‘Lion’s share of investment will be in digital for 2-3 years’

Rashmi Pratap Mumbai | Updated on August 20, 2018

PUNIT GOENKA MD, Zee Entertainment   -  PAUL NORONHA

Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), India’s largest listed media company, is taking baby steps in the ultra-competitive world of over-the-top, or OTT, which delivers content on handheld devices using internet. BusinessLine caught up with Zee Entertainment MD Punit Goenka on the company’s OTT strategy and how it will play the catch-up game after a delayed entry into the space. Excerpts:

Why is OTT an important platform for ZEE’s future growth?

There are two angles to it. One, you look at the audience set that is not available on TV... that is being largely addressed by OTT platforms. About 96 per cent of India is still single-TV households. Therefore, not all family members get access to the TV for long duration. And that’s the audience base we can capture through the OTT space.

Two, in the international market, the traditional form of distribution for TV is becoming very expensive as we have to partner with DTH and cable companies, which take a large piece of the revenue. So, we believe that the OTT strategy for overseas markets will be far better for companies like us.

What kind of investments have you made in your digital platform — ZEE5?

A lion’s share of our investments for the next two-three years will go into the digital space. If we stop investments altogether, we could deliver margins upwards of 35 per cent. We will still invest everything above 30 per cent (in the digital platform).

Zee has been late, compared to the industry, in putting an OTT strategy in place. How do you look at it?

I agree with that view and there is no debate at all, but it is still far from over. While we are definitely a late entrant, we are catching up fast, and being late also gave us an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes. I think currently our numbers are relatively small given that we are just four months into OTT, but we are growing rapidly month on month and I am very happy with the number of viewers ZEE5 is attracting besides the time spent by users on the platform. We will share details post October.

Indian consumers typically don’t want to pay for content. How will you make adequate returns on your investment?

I don’t believe that the Indian consumer doesn’t want to pay for content. Once we start creating quality content and a critical mass of it, consumers will definitely pay. It may not be that everyone in the country is willing to pay, but there is a large audience base out there which will pay at the price points we are talking about. Someone has to just invest in it.

How will you differentiate yourself in a market crowded with regional, national and international players?

Our content strategy will be the differentiation. There is enough and more content available on ZEE5, which will not be available on other platforms, whether it be originals or other shows. Our movie strategy, where we are premiering movies on ZEE 5 before TV, will stand out. And our language spread will also differentiate us.

Any plan to push more regional content?

We are covering six major Indian languages and creating content in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, and Bengali. Our movie library has nine languages including Bhojpuri and Oriya. And the list is expanding. We are sure that with our vast content portfolio and regional focus, we will be able to make a mark.

How do tie-ups with telecom operators help you?

We are open to tying up with all telecom companies. It benefits us as we can ramp up our subscription on the OTT side much faster than we can do on our own. And, the operators get access to our content, which can be customised for their subscribers. The revenue arrangement benefits both the sides.

Published on August 20, 2018

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