Zee Entertainment, the Indian broadcaster targeting a billion viewers worldwide by 2020, has initiated a major push to open up revenue opportunities in Africa, while also launching its SVOD service, Zeefamily, in Asia-Pacific.

Zee’s first bespoke channel for the sub-Saharan marketplace, an English GE offering called Zee World, officially went on air in about 6.6 million homes, carried on DTH and DTT networks from DSTV, a service run by South Africa-based pay-TV group, MultiChoice.

DSTV’s reach lands Zee World in about 3.7 million homes in South Africa, and a further 2.9 million homes in the rest of Africa, including a sizable footprint in Nigeria.

Zee executives, seeking additional distribution deals for Zee World, want to see the channel in about 10 million sub-Saharan homes by the end of year.“This is our first offering [in Africa] targeting a mainstream audience,” Zee’s Africa’s CEO, Harish Goyal, told Media Business Asia. “We have more to come for South Africa, West Africa, East Africa and Francophone Africa,” Goyal added.

Next up will be a custom-made general entertainment channel for French-speaking Africa, also slated to make its debut this year, as well as local content produced for Zee World.

Moves into the mainstream

These channels, continuing Zee’s drive to extend its reach to non-Indian audiences, are being programmed on the back of market research into local tastes, airing selected content from Zee’s library, dubbed in-market using local talent.

Having reached near-saturation with channels catering to the Indian diaspora, Zee has started building out its presence with an international portfolio of localised offerings that already covers the Middle East, Russia and Southeast Asia (Zee Bioskop in Indonesia; Zee Variasi in Malaysia; and Zee Nung in Thailand).

International subscriptions contribute a sizable 11% of Zee’s line, about Rs40 billion (US$657 million), but growth has largely plateaued, prompting the media major to prospect local ad markets for additional momentum.

While Africa offers Zee some affiliate revenue for example, the pay-TV marketplace there is trending towards increased dependence on advertising, heightening Zee’s localisation drive.