As far as corporate announcements go, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s flew under the radar, coming as it did in the middle of a lockdown.  

A month ago, Zee, one of India’s biggest media houses, said it would invest Rs 522 crore ($69 million) in Margo Networks. That’s a pretty penny, considering Zee bought an 80% stake in the startup in April 2017 for about Rs 70 crore ($9.2 million). Margo offers streaming connectivity under the brand name SugarBox. 

SugarBox’s technology lets users stream content on their mobile phones  on the go without eating up their cellular data. Think in-flight entertainment systems. 

The company had a three-year incubation period, during which it focussed on research and development, and ran pilot projects. It also exclusively streamed content from Zee5, Zee’s over-the-top (OTT) entertainment platform launched in 2018. 

Origin Story

Zee5 was formed by the merger of two failed attempts in the digital space—Ditto Tv, a video-on-demand platform similar to Netflix that started in 2012, and Ozee, a YouTube-like advertising driven video platform launched in 2016.

Zee5 has had an uphill battle, trying to muscle its way into India’s 30-strong OTT market. Its rivals are formidable. There’s Star India Pvt Ltd’s Hotstar, Amazon’s Prime Video, and US streaming giant Netflix. It also has local rivals such as the Times Group’s MX Player. All of these platforms have carved a niche with exclusive and original content. 

Zee5, on the other hand, mostly streams shows that had already aired on Zee’s general entertainment channel Zee TV, in addition to original content. Or movies from its production company Zee Studio. Zee claims it has the largest bouquet of originals and has plans to launch over 80 this fiscal year. 

Moreover, Zee5 claims that it had 76.4 million monthly active users (MAUs) in June 2019. The Ken was unable to independently verify this number. Compare this to the 300 million viewers 300 million viewers Livemint IPL 2019: Hotstar garners 18.6 million concurrent viewers for finale Read more Hotstar had during the seven-week 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) season. Zee5 did not reveal how many paid subscribers it has.

SugarBox could offer Zee5 a leg up in the subscriptions game. It has installed nearly 250 systems in metro stations in Chennai and Hyderabad, bus stops in Chennai, and a few densely populated areas in Mumbai. Each of these modems, connected to a server, can support close to 100 people surfing SugarBox’s content. Users will need a Zee5 subscription but not one for SugarBox itself.

In addition, SugarBox won a RailTel RailTel RailTel RailTel Corporation of India Ltd.

AUTHOR

Prasannata Patwa

Based in Mumbai, Prasannata writes about content start-ups, consumer products, and OTT platforms. When not chasing trends she likes to travel, and binge on documentaries. She previously worked at Mint and is an ACJ Bloomberg Business Journalism graduate.

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