How Zee is leveraging tech to improve its digital content offerings

The rise of on-demand content consumption digital platforms, the availability of affordable internet, and an array of media-streaming devices have opened up many opportunities for entertainment providers.

The shift from traditional to new media witnessed a massive jump during the pandemic when most production houses paused their content development activities. Most traditional media channels had to re-run old shows, noticed a considerable drop in revenues, and started focusing on alternative digital platforms to meet new-age consumers’ on-demand content and binge-watching appetite.

Facing a similar challenge, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (Zee), a media and entertainment firm, identified over-the-top (OTT) and on-demand content as a massive opportunity to grow and started investing in a plethora of technologies to improve its digital streaming capabilities. Zee has recently established the center, focusing on expanding its digital footprint.

Key challenges

In the OTT space, there are different challenges that Zee had encountered and needed deep technological interventions to strengthen the experience. “It’s a different space altogether and has other challenges. There are aspects of the technologies that are needed to build this space. The kind of scale the OTT ecosystem requires is enormous. It requires full ownership, agile capabilities, talent to support, and deep domain knowledge,” says Kishore AK, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Zee Technology and Innovation Center.

Besides providing a more extraordinary viewer experience, the challenge in digital content delivery also revolves around providing relevant ads to the customers. Kishore informs that Zee is extensively focusing on getting these fundamental practices right by harnessing data science so that the broadcasting major can further grow in video-on-demand and over-the-top streaming space.

There is also a challenge to reduce latency to provide high-definition video streaming, live sports, and event coverage. “When things go on-demand, the challenge is to align with what happens in the real world. So, the question is: how do we use all data algorithms and bring in new age kinds of features to unlock the new-age discovery experience and provide an exceptional omnichannel broadcasting experience? You need deeper and actionable insights around what content a subscriber likes, how frequently he consumes, what kind of devices he uses for streaming, and so on, ” Kishore remarks.

The approach

Zee is leveraging emerging technologies to transform its processes into a digitally adept, data-driven broadcaster and deliver all formats of content consumption across geographies, both linear and digital. In collaboration with its technology partners, it is developing strong data-analysis capabilities to understand its different subscribers and predict their future content consumption patterns. The company says it has been building extensive technical competencies and leveraging technologies such as AI and ML to unlock value for the longer term.

According to Kishore, the challenge has not been the availability of data but to analyze it more effectively. A couple of years back, the company implemented intuitive Tableau-based dashboards that the entertainment major says have helped democratize data usage.

“We are building extensive technical competencies. So, the capability will have a roadmap. My roadmap is not limited to what I can unlock in the next six months or one year. The capability roadmap is for a longer-term. We are investing in emerging technologies such as AI and ML, which will unlock value for longer,” says Kishore.

Impact and future

Over the last two years, data-driven platforms that Zee has adopted has helped it understand what kind of content a consumer watch during different hours of the day on its Zee5 platform, for instance, when snacking, during the weekends, morning, so that they offer relevant subscription packages to the viewers and monetize its content more effectively. “We are improving video streaming capabilities, partnering developing multi-content delivery network (CDN) strategy to distribute the content across geographies strategically and for real-time streaming performance,” adds Kishore.

The broadcasting major has also developed a homegrown broadcast management system for media traffic and scheduling across the globe and leveraging algorithms which can help it provide ratings for the movies and different content available on its digital platform. These initiatives have helped it grow its monthly active users across its digital platforms from 75 million in 2019 to over 300 million in 2021.

The digital content distribution enables broadcasters to deliver personalized content and increases governance and data-security challenges around managing consumers’ data. So how is Zee managing that aspect?

“We are bringing complete visibility to the ecosystem. So, now we are looking at basically every aspect of data ? when the data is in motion, at rest, what kind of encryption will we follow for that, what kind of governance tools will be there?” says Kishore.

“There are insider threats, as well as external threats. We are holistically looking at security with all the latest solutions and capabilities. We are rearchitecting our systems with security and privacy as fundamental aspects. You’ll hear more on that front soon

Zee is also looking at AR/VR and Metaverse capabilities in the year ahead to gamify the overall broadcasting experience for its users.

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