Anirban Roy Choudhury

Times' Zoom Studios to produce shows for rival platforms

The arm of Times Network's youth and music channel Zoom wants to secure a 200 per cent increase in its digital subscriber base.

While there's Times Internet's MX Player, commanding a monthly active user base of 175 million and competing with YouTube for a slice of the digital advertising pie, sister company Zoom fuels Google's video on demand (VOD) platform by producing original content. If that's unusual, then the original content creation arm of Times Network's youth and music channel Zoom's new initiative is even more surprising. 'The Zoom Studios' now intends to create shows for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, ZEE5 etc.

Times' Zoom Studios to produce shows for rival platforms

Launched a year back on YouTube and Facebook, The Zoom Studios, so far, as per Times Network, has managed to fetch one million subscribers (YouTube - 457K + Facebook - 552k followers) on the back of four original shows targeting youth. Nikhil Gandhi, president - revenue, Times Network calls it the brand's B2C venture on the internet and is currently in the process of greenlighting a few more. While MX Player is a part of the same group, Gandhi says they work at arm's length. This is his explanation behind the rationale of being on YouTube despite having an AVOD platform of its own.

Times' Zoom Studios to produce shows for rival platforms

Nikhil Gandhi

"We have had a phenomenal legacy as far as YouTube is concerned. Before the launch of The Zoom Studios, we would dish out close to 50 Bollywood news videos for our channel Zoom TV," he adds.

Gandhi recognises the first year of The Zoom Studios as a successful one. The content, according to Gandhi, has caught the attention of not only consumers but also attracted many other VOD platforms. This is also why he decided to start a B2B journey with the brand. Along with creating original content for its YouTube channel, The Zoom Studios will now use its creative expertise to create shows for rival VOD platforms as any other studio, despite being a part of the broadcast network.

Sony Pictures Networks India also took a similar approach by launching StudioNXT that intends to create content for rival OTT platforms and TV channels. As per EY estimates, around 1,200 hours of content was created for OTT platforms in 2018 and analyses Netflix and Amazon to spend around Rs 1000 crore on India originals, going forward.

The country is currently witnessing an influx in demand for premium content resulting in the rise of studios like 'Applause' (Aditya Birla Group) and 'Banijay India' from French group Banijay among others.

"We are not like any other production company. We want to be a content studio which is a brand in itself. We want our content to have an identity of its own, something like an Anurag Kashyap or a Dharma Film. When you see a show, it should be called a Zoom Studio show," states Gandhi.

Gandhi believes that there are certain limitations to creating content for The Zoom Studios' channel on YouTube. And these inhibit the creators from experimenting with different genres and scale, despite having the capability to execute them. It is a limitation that he wants to overcome by creating shows for other platforms.

"For example, I won't be able to do a crime thriller for Zoom because the brand is for youth, which talks about Bollywood, relationships and other things related to youth. I can do that while making a show for other platforms" adds Gandhi.

While Gandhi is excited about the new B2B beginning, he has his eyes set on Zoom's B2C target too. He wants Zoom Studios to secure a 200 per cent increase in its digital subscriber base. To achieve that feat The Zoom Studios will release six new originals in FY 19-20 which will stream on YouTube and Facebook a day before airing on the Zoom TV channel. He intends to monetise the shows through advertising in the form of brand integration. Gandhi believes syndication too can be a good source of monetisation once the studio has a bouquet of content.

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