Anirban Roy Choudhury

"English Movies - one of the only available avenues to target premium audience": ZEE's Shaurya Mehta

ZEE's premium offering &flix completes a year and the network's head - premium channels is buoyed by the growth.

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji and the likes are spending plenty to create 'premium' offering for Indian consumers. Those consumers are the ones who pay and subscribe to the streaming services to access the content. While the consumers of such content and subscribers of such streaming services fit perfectly into the segment of 'affluents', those are not open for advertisers. So the brands that want to target affluent Indians, where should they go? "The English Movies genre on television" can be an option, believes Shaurya Mehta, head, premium channels, Zee Entertainment Enterprises.

"English Movies - one of the only available avenues to target premium audience": ZEE's Shaurya Mehta

Shaurya Mehta

"The fact that I cannot advertise on Amazon Prime and Netflix would basically mean that if I am seeking out the same premium consumers, then I automatically go to platforms that allow advertising, such as TV. As long as we can keep those premium consumers on our platform, it is an advantage for us. English Movies genre is one of the only available avenues for advertisers targeting premium audience and that is why a lot of advertisers do come to us," Mehta asserts.

Shaurya Mehta was given the mandate to look after the premium offering of ZEE in August 2018 and since then he has been taking care of brands like Zee Cafe, &PrivéHD, &flix among others. June last year, ZEE rebranded its English movie channel Zee Studio and brought it under the '&' umbrella. The new avatar '&flix' turns one. "A year back, we had set certain targets for us to achieve. When I look back and evaluate, I feel we have had a great year. The look and feel of the new channel established itself as a premium offering. The content lineup with 40 premieres in last one year, sort of made &flix the Hollywood destination on TV. In terms of numbers, in the last one year, the genre grew by over 3 per cent but &flix has grown by 50 per cent. &flix HD has grown by 248 per cent in the same time," says Mehta.

"English Movies - one of the only available avenues to target premium audience": ZEE's Shaurya Mehta

Top 5 English Movies Channels. Source: BARC India

The English movies genre has players like Star Movies, Times Network's MNX and Movies Now, HBO, &flix, Sony PIX among others. "About Rs 550 crore of advertising money is spent on the genre. Star India is the market leader with close to 40 per cent share, followed by Times and others," estimates a media planner.

"The genre has attracted newer and more brands, who are looking for a more focussed audience," informs Mehta. He believes that the audience that English movie channels cater to is the genre's unique selling point as according to him most of them are from the urban part of the country. "Since the language of consumption is English, they are the 'affluent' ones," says Mehta. "One of the advertisers we had last year was Mercedes. Now that is a brand which is trying to reach out to the premium segment. English movies tend to be amongst the ones catering to premium consumers," he adds.

If the affluent base is the strength of the genre then it has to be its biggest challenge too. That urban base is exposed to Hollywood releases in multiplexes, streaming powered by high-speed internet and many other avenues to consume entertainment. Why would they tune in to television or &flix to watch an English movie? "There is no denying that OTT has grown leaps and bounds in India but at the same time, the research work that we have done indicates that the role of TV is very much important in the scheme of things. In fact, TV has become the new dining table in a lot of houses where people sit together and watch, while the OTT consumption is still restricted to private viewing," responds Mehta. Adding, "TV allows for more effortless viewing of seamless curated content. In the case of OTT, for example, you always have to search for the content you want to watch. So, it demands the user to make a decision."

Going forward, the channel wants to premiere 25-30 movies in the next 12 months. Zee as a network has a first output deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment which gives it the right to broadcast SPE movies before any other channels. It also has a second output deal with Paramount and third output deal with Disney Studios. Each time there is a television premiere, the viewership sees a spike. And Mehta believes, despite the OTT growth and box office collection of Hollywood movies in India going up, television premieres will continue to get viewers to watch English movie channels.