Anirban Roy Choudhury

Zee announces 'World Television Premiere’ to bring back subs to &flix

In February 2019, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) laid a new framework for the television industry. New Tariff Order now mandates customers to subscribe to the channels he/she wants to access where earlier the local cable operated served the curated pack to each and every household of that locality.

English movies on television, like many other genres took a hit due to this and as per experts, the reach declined. In a bid to get back its lost subscribers, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited's English movie channel, &flix has announced World Television Premiere. “In the past, a Hollywood movie would take about 9 to 12 months or even more to premiere on Indian television. All that is about to change with World Television Premiere. MIB International is a movie that was released mid-June this year and we are airing it on October 20," says Kartik Mahadev, business head, English Cluster, ZEEL.

The line-up for World Television Premiere on &flix includes Hollywood movies, such as MIB: International, Brightburn, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Angry Birds 2, Zombieland 2, Charlie’s Angels (2019) and Jumanji: The Next Level. Indian television audience will be able to watch these movies before the rest of the world. It starts with MIB: International, which will be aired on Sunday, October 20, 2019, at 12 PM, 6 PM and 9 PM, (The two prime time slots for English movies).

Amit Shah, cluster head, West, North and Premium Channels, ZEEL, believes such initiatives help promote stickiness. “While we are expecting new viewers to land on the channel, whenever we do premieres, the average time spent per viewer goes up. So the existing viewers spend more time while just as new subscribers get on board,” he shares.

Shah believes &flix's existing advertisers are excited about the 'World Television Premiere' initiative. “Sometimes you get newer companies or brands adding on as it matches with their calendar. But in most cases what we see is that the existing advertisers are willing to place a bigger bet,” he says.

Growing multiplexes and the advent of OTT has made movies more accessible to the Indian audience. &flix which targets the 25-35 years age group in metros and top cities, a TG that is exposed to multiple avenues to meet their entertainment needs. Why would they watch TV? Well, both Shah and Mahadev believe that OTT is not a competition for the English movies genre on television.

“Not all theatres screen Hollywood movies and even if they do the window is shorter compared to Bollywood movies. So, fans wait for those movies to air on TV,” says Shah. Furthermore he says, “I don't think the growth in time spent on OTT is coming at the cost of TV. Earlier people were sitting idle during transit, now they watch shows on their handheld devices.”

Mahadev asserts, even if the movies are available on streaming platforms they don't necessarily serve a purpose for the advertisers. “If we look at it in detail, you will find that most of the new movies streaming on digital platforms are put behind a paywall. This means the advertisers are not able to reach them,” says Mahadev.

The biggest challenge for the broadcasters at this stage is to get its lost subscribers back. “We had a high reach but post the NTO the reach has been impacted," says Shah. "The endeavor at our end would be to get back to the reach we were,” he hopes.

Zee has rolled out a ‘360 degree’ campaign titled #FlixFirstBeforeAmerica to promote the World Television Premiere.