ZEE5 may launch Hotstar VIP-like plan soon

Zee5 offers content in most of the bigger languages in India

ZEE5, the video app from Zee Entertainment Enterprises, will introduce cheaper plans soon to take on rivals in the market, company CEO Punit Goenka said.

“We are working on lighter packs which we will roll-out in the next couple of months,” the CEO said. ZEE5’s annual pack is currently priced at Rs 999.

Goenka was responding to questions about whether ZEE plans to respond to cheaper offerings from the likes of Hotstar and Netflix, who have introduced cheaper, more segmented products in recent weeks.

Netflix, for example, introduced a mobile only plan that is 60% cheaper than its standard, Rs 500-per-month plan. That plan is aimed at those who consume their content only on their mobile devices and have no intention of watching it on their TVs.

Similarly, Hotstar has launched a VIP plan for Rs 365, targeting users who are not interested in international content, but would like access to premium content in Indian languages.

Like Zee5, the premium, all-access plan from Hotstar continues to be priced at Rs 999.

Zee5 existing plans

However, there is a key difference between Hotstar and Zee5. While Hotstar has arguably the most extensive collection of international content in the Indian market — supplemented by a rich collection of Indian content — Zee5 is primarily a vendor of Indian-language content.

As such, the price difference between the two platforms had become noticeable once Hotstar introduced the VIP pack, offering its premium Indian and sports content at Rs 1 per day.

Star, which owns Hotstar, and Zee are the oldest broadcasting houses in India and have a rich library of content thanks their nearly three-decade long operations.

STAR, originally started by Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing in 1991, has changed hands twice — first to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and later to US-based Disney.

Zee, which originally started out as an associate of Star TV in 1992, split from Star in the late 90s over disagreements on how to tap the business opportunities opening up in the Indian market. Star sold its nearly 50% stake in Zee to partner Subhash Chandra in the late 90s.

Today, both groups have roughly equal sized presence in the Indian market, with a slight edge to Star because of its wider portfolio of channels that also include sports.

Zee5 was a latecomer to the mobile app market, and was launched only last year — five years after Hotstar was launched by Star India.

Other players in the market include Voot, from Viacom18 — a joint venture between US-based Viacom and India-based TV18, and Sony LIV from Japan-based Sony Corporation.

Amazon Prime Video too has been investing in the Indian market, but does not have an extensive library of legacy TV content to monetize. Sun NXT, from Chennai-based Sun Network, is also a prominent player in South Indian languages.