Benita Chacko

50% subscribers on Zee5 come from language markets: Punit Misra

Zee5 expands its South Indian-language offering with foray into Telugu content.

Streaming platform ZEE5 has unveiled its Telugu content slate for 2022 with 11 titles. The slate encompasses a gamut of genres ranging from thrillers, comedy, drama to romance. In addition, viewers can watch Telugu dubbed movies and original content from ZEE5’s library.

This is a part of the platform’s increased focus on the southern market. In April, it had announced its Tamil content lineup for 2022 with 20 films and series.

Manish Kalra
Manish Kalra

Manish Kalra, chief business officer, ZEE5 India, said, “South is an important market for us at ZEE5 and we have been consistent in expanding our presence in this market across languages from the very outset. We have significantly boosted our investments in this market and stand open to collaborate with the creators in delivering extraordinary entertainment to ZEE5 audiences.”

The platform has been ramping up its regional library, both acquired as well as original content to further consolidate their foothold in regional markets. It recently premiered Tamil film Valimai on the platform, fetching the fastest 500-million streaming minutes on ZEE5 worldwide. It also released the magnum opus ‘RRR’ for their multilingual audiences which received 1000 million streaming minutes within 10 days and has been trending at #1 in all 4 languages, including Telugu on ZEE5.

“RRR’s launch almost doubled our Telugu language subscription base in less than a month. The pull of great movies is a fairly national phenomenon. But the kind of narratives, storytelling and execution that some Telugu movies have seen, has really cut across boundaries. It plays an important part of our regional strategy,” says Punit Misra, president – content and international markets, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises.

Punit Misra
Punit Misra

An increasing number of subscribers are coming in from the south Indian market. 18 months back, 70% subscribers came from the Hindi markets. But now, 50% come from the language markets.

“This is when we haven't yet come out with the full force of our original series. Ideally, what we are doing today we would have done a year ago. But with COVID and some of those challenges of creation it got delayed. In the next 12 to 18 months there will be more content from language markets,” he says.

While the Telugu film industry, also known as Tollywood, has emerged as the largest film industry in India in terms of box-office revenues, its presence on OTT platforms is rising only now. In a bid to increase its South Indian offering, many streaming platforms are building its Telugu content slate. However, before these mainstream platforms entered the Andhra Pradesh-Telangana market, there was aha. Launched in 2020, it is an exclusive-platform for Telugu content. It recently expanded into Tamil as well. “Our ambition is to be the number one player,” says Misra.

For any player entering into a new language market, it needs to understand the consumer preferences. Towards this end, Zee has adopted a #SoulToScreen approach.

“It is essentially a point of view that we’re not just entering a language market, but being a part of a culture. And for each market we need to understand its culture, people, their hopes and aspirations. Only then will our characters and stories resonate with them. Soul to Screen is to know enough about the culture and the people as if you can read their soul,” says Misra.

Speaking about the increasing interest in the South Indian languages by streaming platforms, Misra says in this category increasing supply leads to more demand. “That leads to a larger market for us to play in and get more market share.”

The titles lined up for the year are Recce, Maa Neella Tank, ATM, Aha Nee Pellanta, Hello World!, Mission Tashaffi, Paruvu, Bahishkarana, The Black Coat, Prema Vimanam and Hunting of the Stars. This follows the release of ZEE5's first Telugu original series BBC Studios thriller 'Gaalivaana'.

Anuradha Gudur
Anuradha Gudur

Anuradha Gudur, chief content officer – Telugu says their research on the Telugu market showed a taste for family content and comedy.

“Currently we are launching 11 originals, but by the end of the year it will be 16. It's an interesting mix of slice of life stories and stories based on the pressure points of the youngsters, who are our core TG,” she says.

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