Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer of Indian streaming service Zee5 Global talks about the company’s plans for Bangladesh
Belonging to the media empire of the Indian mass media conglomerate Essel Group, or better known widely as the Zee Group, the video on demand service Zee5 has focused heavily on the Bangladesh market recently.
Earlier this year, Zee5 made multiple announcements for new involvement in the Bangladeshi market, among which was the announcement of launching original Bangladeshi content.
These, a web series and a movie, are being produced in partnership with local production house Asiatic’s Good Company. The production will feature an all-local star cast, suggesting Zee5’s interest in engaging the local market more intimately.
Bangladesh also happens to be the first country outside of India where the streaming service is rolling out its local content production. Catering to over 56 million monthly active users worldwide, Zee5’s focus on Bangladesh will likely have a growing impact on the local market.
Dhaka Tribune in an email interview talked to Archana Anand, the Chief Business Officer of Zee5 Global to know more.
Tell us a little bit about your involvement in the company, about the main areas of your work as the CBO.
I head the Global Zee5 Business across functions, be it content or product and technology, business development or ad sales and brand and performance marketing. As the CBO, I craft the strategy and thought process and drive the P&L.
It’s an extremely exciting and challenging role involving a deep understanding of individual markets, especially the social and cultural nuances and market dynamics, and thereby building out unique strategies for different geographies.
Do bigger global companies like Netflix occupy/overlap in the same space? Or do you cater to different types of audiences?
No - we don’t see ourselves overlapping with other global players purely because we cater to a very clearly defined audience segment and that’s the South Asian diaspora.
We have a very strong value proposition in both the width and depth of Indian content we offer across languages that appeals to not only Indians and South Asians across the globe but also many local audiences across countries. While our primary audience is aged 18-35 years, we cater to audiences across multiple age and other cohorts primarily because we offer such a wide catalogue across content categories and genres.
Could you place Zee5 Global in the context of your relevant market. Who are your competitors and what is your market share?
As a global platform, Zee5 is present across 190 odd countries. However, we have some clearly defined priority markets within these which we are focusing on for localization and driving deeper engagement initiatives, like the Middle East, Canada and of course Bangladesh among others.
As far as competition goes, Zee5 is the largest fully integrated content platform globally for Indian content, with not only the largest catalogue of TV shows and movies but also an extensive live TV offering- all in one single destination. As a holistic entertainment platform, the width and depth of content we offer across languages is quite unparalleled.
Earlier this year you said Bangladesh is poised for "massive growth." But smartphone penetration has been very slow in the country. Is that a concern for you?
Bangladesh is a key mobile-first market, and we see a lot of initiatives being driven to leverage and drive business growth through investments in technology. We see it as a tremendously exciting market to partner with and are committed to deep collaboration for joint opportunities and growth.
Where do you see the local content market going in Bangladesh? What are your projections for future growth?
The local content market has tremendous room to expand and grow and has huge potential. Bangladesh’s rich culture and literature lends itself to stories that have a global appeal. Again, the local talent deserves global recognition and visibility to audiences in other countries. This visibility and recognition in turn has the potential to drive economic growth, job creation and bring in best practices from across countries.
Why did you choose Bangladesh to be the first market for rolling out local content production?
Bangladesh is poised for massive growth, and the possibilities are tremendous. In the first phase of our global expansion plan, we made our content available in 190 countries at one go for the global South Asian audiences. Now, Localization is a very key part of plans this year as we look to establish deeper relationships with specific markets.
Bangladesh has always been a high priority market, and we look to strengthen our ties further through strong local collaborations. Bangladesh will be the very first market in which we will be rolling out local language productions. We will also be launching a nationwide talent hunt to give the talent here a chance to star in our originals and get global visibility and exposure.
You saw a spike in views during the pandemic. Do you think you can retain that after the situation goes back to normal?
We’ve had a strong growth in new users over the period of lockdown with a spike of over 60% in new subscriptions. We’ve also had a lot of content discovery that’s taking place with people exploring our huge content catalogue, and this has also driven a huge viewership spike.
With markets now slowly moving out of lockdown, we are working on multiple plans to continue engaging people on our platform through a constant flow of new show launches and a line-up of Direct to Digital movie premieres. Our TV Shows across languages are also back on air and that’s something that our viewers both old and new have been looking forward to.
Going forward, we’ve also got some key product-led initiatives in the pipeline to offer much more in terms of personalization and user experience and all these will be key in helping us deliver not only great content but also a superb viewing experience for our audiences.
Talk a little bit about your strategy during/for the global pandemic. How have you been adapting?
As many of our key markets announced lockdowns in February and March, we had to push out all the on-ground events and plans including the shoot of the two originals we had announced for Bangladesh and also the ‘Bangladesh’s Global Superstar’ talent hunt right before the event was to roll out.
With people increasingly turning to online entertainment while staying home, we had to adapt our strategies very quickly to the new situation.
We launched the “Stay Home, Stay Entertained” campaign across multiple owned digital channels, and leveraged social ads to scale up our subscription program, highlighting the various offerings provided including movies, kids content, originals along with an attractive subscription offer.
We also brought together the top local artistes in Bangladesh to recreate a Song of Hope during the pandemic as a sign of solidarity. ‘Abar Jombe Mela’ drives a strong message of positivity and hope. We recreated this song for today’s times with the help of top composer and singer Raef Al Hasan Rafa.
‘Biswa Obak Cheye Robe’: Towards Hope was launched on May 13 through a massive campaign across social and digital media and the response to this was completely overwhelming, garnering a reach of over 20 million people within 2 weeks and getting a huge amount of love and appreciation. Both of these activities helped us not only connect with our viewers but also deepen our relationship with them. In fact we recently collaborated with Facebook for a case study on this which has just been rolled out.
Once the situation normalizes, we look forward to rolling out many of the localization and on ground initiatives that we had planned, including the nationwide talent hunt in Bangladesh, the shoot of our Bangladeshi originals and various other marketing initiatives.