TV, OTTs and theatres will co-exist, not a threat to each other, says ZEE5's top exec Manish Kalra – Business Today

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Although the TV and OTT content libraries are increasingly coinciding with one another, a voracious audience available for different types of content on different mediums means that satellite channels, streaming players, and theatres will co-exist, according to ZEE5’s Chief Business Officer Manish Kalra. 
With OTTs also offering movies after their theatrical release, sports streaming, and catch-up television content along with the introduction of advertisements, the line between streaming players, especially broadcaster-backed players such as ZEE5, and satellite television is increasingly blurring. The only USP for OTTs now is on-demand viewing compared to TV appointment viewing, apart from some original content.    
For instance, Amazon Prime Video has forayed into sports with the streaming of New Zealand cricket matches, Netflix is planning to roll out ads on its platform in India to boost its revenue, and all major Indian OTT players have been splurging money on buying digital rights of theatrical releases. The rationale is that sports and movie releases usually bring new audiences to the platforms who may then explore other content and continue their subscriptions.  
“The content consumption and creation landscape are wider than we would have anticipated a decade ago. OTT and TV might have a content library that coincides in some places, the target audiences are varied for both. Besides that, the audiences have a large appetite and intent to consume different types of content on different mediums. We have reached a point where all can coexist and TV, OTT or even theatres are not a threat to each other,” Kalra told Business Today on the sidelines of the player’s launch of a Bengali SVOD content slate of 10 originals and exclusive movies for 2023. 
The platform plans to release a web series every month across genres such as whodunit murder mysteries, crime dramas, psychological thrillers, sleuth adventures, comedy, and romance.  The original web series are Raktokarabi, Shikarpur, Kantaye Kantaye, Shabash Feluda, Chhotolok, Abar Proloy, Swetkali, Seven, Teni Madhab Shil er Full Panjika, Matsyanyay, while exclusive movies include Bhoy and Uttaran, Ananta, Joy Kali Kolkatawali, Mini, Boudi Canteen, Abar Kanchanjangha, Jotugriha, and Mahananda
“Our focus will be to keep expanding our offerings in the regional languages. For original content, we focus on Tamil, Telugu, Bangla and Hindi. Marathi and Punjabi are more from movies slate. The strategy is to keep a good calendar of content which is then evaluated basis the cost of production of content, demand in the market etc.,” he said.   
The platform’s parent Zee Entertainment Limited is in the midst of a merger with Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) in what is one of the largest in the media and entertainment space. This will also see their respective OTT players ZEE5 and SonyLIV combining forces.
Consultancy firm Ormax Media pegs that the OTT penetration in India is at 30 per cent with 423.8 million users. But active paid OTT subscriptions in India are 119 million across 49 million paying (SVOD) audiences. That is, an average of 2.4 subscriptions per paying audience member. So, OTT players are growing by investing heavily into original content, sports streaming and licensed films to grab eyeballs even as monetisation is a challenge. The platforms have also been experimenting increasingly with ad-supported versions to boost revenues. 
“Even though the OTT industry has seen exponential growth in the last few years, it is still at a nascent stage when it comes to the larger evolutionary journey of a sector. Players like us and others within the ecosystem are in the investment phase right now because we’re building for the future. We have the AVOD side of the business wherein we have introduced new projects and campaigns to sample and identify consumer demands. We have launched exclusive movies for our AVOD audiences beyond catch-up TV,” said Kalra. 
Besides, OTT players are now also sub-licensing films as the same movies are available across multiple platforms. The Kamal Hassan-starrer Vikram premiered on Disney+ Hotstar in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.  ZEE5 also has the film in Tamil. “Content travels across platforms and it is convenient for both consumers and the players. It enables a wider reach for the creators and the synergetic relationship between the multiple players drives more visibility for the project.  
A recent note from brokerage firm Nuvama Wealth Management highlighted that ZEE5’s high losses have been a key concern, which is expected to continue into Q3 and Q4. “However, losses could start tapering FY24 onwards. ZEE5 has leveraged the video consumption opportunity and made significant investments in high-quality content, partnerships with prominent makers and has a language market understanding. Put together, it has the potential to harness the power of digital and transform into a formidable OTT offering,” it said. 
Also read: What is the ‘freemium’ model? Why OTT players are swaying towards it?
Also read: ‘Freddy’, ‘Love Today’, ‘Qala’: Top OTT picks for movie buffs this weekend
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today
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