Zee5 Captures the Heartbeat of India!
Stay in the Zee5 Zone and experience the "Localization Hero"
Welcome to the 8th edition of “Streaming in India”, your weekly news digest about streaming players, OTT trends and more in one of the fastest growing video markets. If you are not already a subscriber, please sign up and receive it directly in your inbox every Wednesday!
The week that went by saw the largest congregation of startups, investors and technology companies in the world at Expand Northstar, the startup focused event which was showcased at the stunning Dubai Harbour! 300+ Indian startups participated and it was heartening to hear even the local VCs in Saudi and UAE mention that India is producing more unicorns than the United States and is the place to invest.
The Zee5 OTT Platform
Zee5 Original Series’ Analysis - Localization Wins
User Experience Highlights
The Zee5 OTT Platform
^ As you would have probably guessed, this is a screen shot from our exclusive Streaming in India OTT report which deep dives into the Top 30 OTT platforms in India - it’s available for download here! Also, this report will be continuously updated with newer versions as new players come in, market evolves and so on.
Zee5 is one of India’s largest & faster growing OTT platforms and comes in at the number 5 position in terms of viewership / monthly visit data as per Similar Web (16.9 million monthly visits for September 2023).
Available in a staggering 190 countries globally and owned by Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Zee5 offers live channels (Zee Bangla HD, Zee Cinema ME, Zee TV APAC, & Zee TV ME), catch up tv, original shows, movies, e-sports section, & music videos (via it’s “Zee Music Co). There are many entertainment options available on Zee5 and the viewer is spoilt for choice! For the purpose of this newsletter however, we will focus on web series OR original content that is available on the platform as that bouquet really sets Zee5 apart from competition.
The one factor to keep in mind when you look at Zee5 and it’s potential is the fact that Sony Corp’s Indian entity Culver Max Entertainment, doing business as Sony Pictures Networks India (Indian media conglomerate owned by Sony Pictures) has an ongoing merger with Zee Entertainment Enterprises which is anticipated to close by November 2023. This deal when completed will bring together over 70 TV channels, two video streaming services (Zee5 and SonyLiv) and two film studios (Zee Studios and Sony Pictures Films India).
The Zee5 Original Series’ Analysis
Zee5 has created content primarily in Hindi, however intelligently dubbed a majority of the Hindi web series in other popular Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam, thereby significantly saving content creation costs and showing a significantly larger library. It’s a strategy to consider for other streamers in India as they expand to newer territories within India but also cater to the diaspora globally.
Gujarati which represents 4.5% of India’s total population and also a significant part of the diaspora, does not show up on the international version of the app, which is a miss and an area that needs to be plugged for further subscriber expansion.
Zee has also dubbed several Indian web series in English on the platform and this is surfaced on the app as a separate row on the UI, with the relevant language in focus on the thumbnail.
EXPAND YOUR REACH & REVENUES WITH LOCALIZATION
Localization by offering extensive regional language support is a clear differentiator and potential game changer on Zee5. The user can change the User Interface (UI) language of the application from a choice of 16 popular languages, including international ones such as Malay, Russian, German, Bahasa and Thai. App Language UI of choice along with the ability for the user to search content by Indian and international languages, makes the app “accessible” to an extended audience across the globe. The “localization” initiatives on their app are now the cornerstone of their distribution, dubbing and monetization strategies!
As you can see from the chart above, Comedy, Thriller & Drama make up 67% of the web show genres currently available on Zee5.
I am sure Zee5 is looking to expand popular genres such as Comedy, Thriller and Drama for lesser represented regional languages such as Kannada (10%), Malayalam (9%), & Bengali (10%) so as to create a compelling story for audiences from these regions of India as well as the diaspora. Bengali for example is the second most spoken language in the country with 8% of India’s population conversing in it after Hindi (43%) - clear upside for Zee5 to double down on Bengali web originals!
User Experience Highlights
Most of the web series starring bigger Movie or TV stars are available in 4K resolution, which makes the viewing experience top notch especially on connected televisions.
Content Sampling, Content Protection & The Video Player
^ As part of Zee5’s strategy to let users sample their content before subscribing, they offer the first episode free for most of their web series content. Pretty impressive that strong content protection controls (Digital Right Management OR DRM) are ON even for free content - on taking a screen shot from the Zee5 video player, the content is blacked out as you can see from the above image!
The video playback experience has improved significantly since the last time I experienced the Zee5 app and video start times and the overall video experience is smooth with no buffering.
From an India point of view, offering a “Data Saver” option at 240p video resolution offers a view into the wide variety of subscribers on Zee5 - a vast population in India is conscious of their bandwidth data utilization and are usually on a prepaid 1 GB / Day bandwidth plan with their preferred telco. Therefore saving data becomes important to them while they watch their favorite show on Zee5.
Zee5’s biggest strength is the fact it is the OG when it comes to understanding and producing relevant content and stories for every type of Indian viewer across all Indian states (they recently branded their streaming business as the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian stories). Dubbing, localizing content creation in Indian regional languages, and producing content genres keeping local sensibilities and stories in mind is a massive advantage that Zee holds up it’s sleeve.
The platform is well positioned to take advantage of localization dynamics to win varied audiences in India and overseas, however, the proposed merger with Sony has Zee hold 49%, therefore the risk is that Sony might dictate the content production choices and potentially dilute the effectiveness of Zee’s content prowess. A fascinating time period awaits the Indian OTT ecosystem as the power dynamics across these giants plays out and decides the challenger to Reliance Jio / DisneyIndia.
The overall user experience on the Zee5 OTT platform has significantly improved as also illustrated by the publicly available app store ratings and my own tests on the app over the past several weeks.
Zee5 ratings are 4.7/5 on the App Store and 4/5 on the Google Play Store.
The areas of expansion for Zee5 can potentially be FAST aggregation (building a FAST channel front porch with EPG) for enhanced ad revenues, especially on CTV, a “Kids” focused original shows strategy in regional languages (Several young Indian parents like myself are seeking a quality Indian kids content platform outside of YouTube that is brand safe for example) and continuous expansion into other Indian regional languages both originally produced content as well as dubbed.
Zee5’s strategies for localization of content are a blueprint for streaming success for many other platforms.
That’s all for today folks. If you enjoyed this breakdown, please share it with your friends and colleagues!
Go ahead and check out Pitchers Season 2 exclusively on Zee5 - it came up on my radar while researching for this newsletter and brought back amazing memories from Season 1! Our favourite startup is in action again and if the first episode is anything to go by, it’s going to be a BLAST.
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