ZEE5 – a product critique

This might sound like work, but I assure you it is not. One of the product managers I have been working with started a Product Critique Club at our office. And, of course, I would not miss out on the chance to find a new group of people to nerd out about products with!

The rules are simple at this fight club: We pick a new product to tear apart and discuss our findings every month. We are following Julie Zhuo’s product critique framework, but we are always welcome to tweak our approach.

Loyal to our daily bread and butter, we tackle ZEE5 for our first product critique. May I stay unbiased?

ZEE5’s logo. Vibrant, eh?

First impressions

How did this app come to my attention?

I remember hearing about dittoTV and OZEE years ago. I never got around to using them as I was not really concerned about watching my regular TV programs online. But I was intrigued by the fact that they were possibly an Indian broadcaster’s first attempt at an online streaming service instead of just uploading to YouTube.

I heard about ZEE5 a lot more recently, but I still wasn’t interested in their content. Their social media ads for ZEE5 Originals were always funny and shareable. Still, again, they were just not my cup of tea to watch.

Finally, after I joined Zee, I downloaded the app and watched one of my favourite movies, The Adventures of Tintin. Of course, it was great!

I also thought I heard the name ZEE4 at some point. I assumed it was because they were available on four continents, and ZEE5 would stand for five continents. But apparently, that is not where the names come from.

What is my one-line summary of what this app does at this stage?

Before using the app – Just another OTT app for Indian movies, TV shows, and web series.

After using the app – A lot more movies, TV shows, web series, live TV, and songs in English and 11 Indian languages.

What’s the buzz so far?

Before I joined Zee, I didn’t really hear from people using ZEE5 around me. But now that I’m here, it seems like everyone has an account! Frequency bias, much?

My friends use ZEE5 for the latest web series, while their parents watch more TV shows and movies.

First few minutes

What’s the experience of getting started or signing up?

Nothing got me started in the ZEE5 app, as there is no onboarding experience.

There’s no clear invitation to sign up. When I finally found the “Sign up” button under the “TV Shows” tab after clicking around, I was already over it and looking to explore the app without doing so. A button in the side menu labeled “Login / Register” also does the same thing but is not easy to find! Inconsistent copy, eh?

The different sizes of thumbnails and ads make the app feel cluttered.

I see many Buy Plan buttons, but that’s not useful to me when I’ve not experienced the app or even created an account.

How does this app explain itself in the first minute?

I see a bunch of thumbnails for movies and TV shows, which is all well and good, but I still have no idea what the “Premium” tab is for. It offers the same content as the other tabs, so what’s the point? And why do all the thumbnails have so much text on them? I can barely point out the headings for the different rails too. It’s hard to focus on the title when so much other stuff is going on.

How easy to use was the app?

The app definitely needs some tap-around to figure out what to find where. There are tabs at the top, bottom, and side menu. They all do different things, including accessing a completely separate app, Hipi, within ZEE5. There are too many options to move out of the home page, but not enough direction to go where.

There are also a lot of random annoying notifications that keep popping up every few minutes after downloading the app.

How did you feel while exploring the app?

Apart from the games rail, I noticed no illustration in the app. Probably don’t need it much? Also, the games aren’t related to any shows or movies. This makes me question why they are there on an OTT platform in the first place. But of course, ZEE5 is trying to do more than just OTT with songs, too. A random mix of low-quality games shouldn’t be the way to go.

As with most OTT platforms, I felt dumbfounded by the lack of content I’m interested in. The thumbnails are all over the place, which adds to the frustration of finding anything that catches my eye.

Did the app deliver on your expectations?

ZEE5 has an impressive multilingual content library, with movies, TV shows, web series, live TV, songs, and music videos in 12 languages. The streaming video and audio quality are good, too.

However, the content discovery is a bit dodgy. I live in Bangalore but don’t speak the local language. The app defaults to loading up local language content, which is not what I’m looking for. I prefer to watch Punjabi content, but the app never asked me for that.

How long did you spend using the app?

Personally, I didn’t find anything to keep me hooked on the app. The ads, as ads do, can be annoying, and the notifications are a nuisance.

Stickiness and growth

How often have you used the app?

Once in a blue moon, I scroll through the ZEE5 app looking for new content. But that’s only after I’ve failed to find anything on Netflix or Prime Video. And I always fail to find anything on Netflix and Prime Video too.

When do you tend to use it?

I usually watch content in the evening after work. If there are no plans to go out, as with watching cable TV, streaming movies is definitely the best form of entertainment.

What compels you to open it?

Definitely not the notifications.

How does this app compare to other similar apps?

ZEE5 has more Indian language content than Netflix and Prime Video, but the content discovery is way worse.

Netflix and Prime Video have an interface with much more breathing space. The elements are spaced out, so focusing on what you’re looking for is easier.

What do other people think of this app?

When I first saw the app a few months ago on the Play Store, it had 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 2 million reviews. But the rating has dropped to 4.1 now. ZEE5 is definitely well-rated on the App Store, with 4.7 out of 5 stars from over 153,000 people.

Based on all that you know, how successful do you think the app will be a year from now?

The content on the platform is deemed to keep ZEE5 relevant for years to come. Their strong Indian focus will always keep them ahead of their competitors if they can keep releasing good shows frequently. They’ll be unstoppable!

Most other platforms have all their content paywalled, but ZEE5 doesn’t. This gives them a great advantage with advertisers. They should improve the ad-filled experience for free users. Even though variable in revenue, a good ad-filled experience can do wonders over making people subscribe.

The merger with Sony will bring a lot of sports and international content to ZEE5. This will definitely increase their offerings. Sports content improves revenue with more advertising and fewer subscriptions, which could be a good move for ZEE5.

Were you right in your prediction of how this app was going to do?

To be updated on 31 March 2024.

Somehow remind me if I forget to do so.

This is my first time writing a product critique, and it’s definitely harder than I thought. I’m used to just chatting with my friends about stuff, but putting my thoughts out there for everyone to see is a different ballgame. It’s like switching from a long casual drive to the Le Mans race. But I’m hoping that being part of the Product Critique Club will help me get better at this.

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