Anirban Roy Choudhury

Team Zee5 foresees its second-biggest market in the US on the back of content from South Asia

Her assessment is that in a year from now, the US would be the second-largest market for ZEE5, after India, in terms of revenue.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE) will now spend aggressively on content, especially to fuel the growth of its video on demand (VOD) streaming platform ZEE5. Punit Goenka, MD and CEO of the media conglomerate, mentioned this recently while addressing the investors .

On Wednesday (June 23), the group announced ZEE5's foray into the United States, the biggest VOD streaming market in the world. Archana Anand, chief business officer, ZEE5 Global, and actress, producer and author Priyanka Jonas Chopra announced ZEE5's launch in the US.

"Much like the story of Priyanka Chopra, who started her career in India and moved on to be a part of Hollywood, is the journey of ZEE5," says Anand. ZEE was one of the first companies to enter the VOD business in India. It first launched Ditto TV, which offered live TV at a monthly/annual cost. It then experimented by launching OZEE, which provided free content.

ZEE5 was launched in February 2018. It became one of the last entrants in the cluttering VOD market in India. Today, it claims to have around seven crore monthly active users (MAUs).

"We have been planning for the US launch for a year," mentions Anand. "We are the top player among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. We reached that feat within three weeks of our launch. I think this has very little to do with marketing, and more to do with the sheer love for the content in these countries."

Team Zee5 foresees its second-biggest market in the US on the back of content from South Asia

"From SAARC, we moved to Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC) and then Middle East and North Africa (MENA), followed by our launch in Europe. And now, we are launching in the US and Canada."

According to a recent survey, Asian Americans are on track to be the largest immigrant population in the US. It (the growth) is driven largely by the South Asian population, which grew by a staggering 40 per cent in seven years — from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

"When we go in first, we are definitely going after the diaspora audience because that is my lowest hanging fruit. Though most of our content has English subtitles, which would make it equally appealing to the mainstream Americans, we will target the diaspora with our language content," says Anand.

ZEE5 has launched a slate of 80-90 Originals (including movies) every year since its launch. The delay in ZEE5's US entry, Anand believes, will be compensated by the "huge bouquet" of content it is launching there. And also by the consumer insights it acquired in other western countries it is already present in.

"We are not entering the US just as an Indian platform. We have strongly positioned ourselves as a South Asian platform, with 1.3 lakh hours of Indian content. We have more than 1,000 hours of Pakistani content, and continue to create new ones. We went into Bangladesh and created Originals. Then, within each Indian language, we have serious depth," says Anand.

The viewers from South Asian countries, who "long for their home", will subscribe to the platform in the US, she opines. ZEE5 will be available at monthly and annual price of $6.99 and $49.99 (down from $84 earlier), respectively. The platform has also announced a special introductory discount for the student community, with the monthly pack priced at $4.99, instead of $6.99.

Apart from the Originals, ZEE5 subscribers in the US will also be able to access live television, including Indian and international news channels available on the platform.

"I'm not saying that we are a platform for the South Asians. We are the foremost platform for South Asian content. As a brand, when people think of South Asian content in the US, ZEE5 should be the first name that comes to their mind," Anand says, adding that if it happens in a year, it will be a successful launch.

ZEE will roll out a marketing plan, which it has been forced to rethink, considering the second COVID wave and the restrictions thereafter. To let the South Asians know about the launch, there will be activations in all those stores in the US that are popular among the community.

For the Indian students who are in the US for higher education, the streaming platform has locked in a strategic partnership with North American Association of Indian Students (NAAIS). "ZEE5 will be a part of the welcome kit handed over to the students," informs Anand.

Her assessment is that in a year from now, the US would be the second-largest market for ZEE5, after India, in terms of revenue.

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