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Zee’s Punit Goenka on strategic investments into Zee5, avoiding film acquisitions

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited’s Punit Goenka said that Zee5 would avoid acquiring big ticket films like Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video have done. “I do not think we thought that as a strategy that would have been a rewarding one, and therefore we did not enter the bidding war. We will remain committed to our original content strategy going forward, including our original film strategy, which is to produce solely for the Zee5 platform, or acquire for the network as a whole.”

“We have seen the numbers go up by almost 60 to 70%” on subscriptions to Zee5, Goenka said, “as a combination of B2B and B2C, and it gives me the confidence that they are heading towards the plan that we had envisaged.” The company did not elaborate on subscription numbers for Zee5, or what the basis period for that 60 to 70% growth is.

  • 136 minutes monthly watch time: Zee5 viewers on average saw 136 minutes of content per month as of March 2020, the company said in its earnings presentation. This is slightly lower than the previous quarter, which saw an average of 140 minutes of viewing per month. It said that globally it has 63.1 million monthly active users and 6 million daily active users. The company said that its overall subscription growth, including its TV channels, was partly driven by “ramp-up” in Zee5 subscriptions.
  • Getting catch-up viewers on Zee5: While Zee Entertainment’s revenue mainly comes from its TV channels, it hasn’t had a cheaper subscription for audiences that want to catch up on its TV shows. On Monday, it announced a ₹365 yearly subscription plan, which costs around one third of its full Zee5 subscription. This plan is equivalent to Hotstar’s ₹399 VIP plan, which also used to cost ₹365. The plan, which includes access to live TV channels, advance access to some Zee shows, and access to some original content, may attract some more price-sensitive consumers — until now, Zee5 plans cost ₹99/month or ₹999/year.
  • Zee5 vs SugarBox: In a question that pitted Zee’s ₹522 crore investment in the networking company SugarBox against its modest investments in Zee5, Goenka defended the company’s commitment to the streaming platform. “In the last two and a half years, we have invested more than 7% of our EBITDA into Zee5. That math itself will tell you that the investments in SugarBox versus Zee5– one is a Goliath and the other is [a David]. Our commitment to Zee5 and SugarBox cannot be compared. Tomorrow if I had a hundred dollars and a choice to invest between SugarBox and Zee5, I’d pick Zee5,” Goenka said. He added that Zee5 profit-and-loss statements would start being available in “the next three to four weeks”. The company does not currently make Zee5’s financials available separately.
  • Impossible to accelerate content production further in Zee5: On accelerating investments into Zee5, Goenka said that “We do not see the opportunity to physically implement more than what we are already trying to do for content on Zee5. We did 80 shows and movies for Zee5 last year, and can we double that number? No, not possible. It’s physically not possible to get that much content made and delivered at the quality we want. WeR work on an optimal investment structure, and that is something we will continue to do.”
  • Strategic investors for Zee5: On getting outside strategic investors for Zee5, Goenka said, “Apart from bringing cash to the table, what else [a strategic investor] would bring is a question that I keep grappling with all the time. From a cash point of view, the company is generating enough cash flow to fund the growth of Zee5. Therefore I don’t see the need for it to happen today. Six months, one year down the road, I’m always open to re-evaluate my options.”

ZEEL finances for FY20 and Q4FY20

  • Net profit in FY20: ₹524.6 crore (down 66.5% YoY)
  • Net loss in Q4FY20: ₹7,658 crore (down 362.7% YoY)
  • Operating revenue in FY20: ₹8,129.9 crore (up 2.5% YoY)
  • Operating revenue in Q4FY20: ₹1,951 crore (down 3.4% YoY)

Earnings Call (Video) | Results | Presentation

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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