Livestreams created a level playing field in the experiential industry: Swaroop Banerjee, ZEE LIVE

Swaroop Banerjee ZEE Live

In conversation with Media Samosa, Swaroop Banerjee from ZEE Live sheds light on the state of the experiential industry amidst the second COVID-19 wave, its future, and the trends that are here to stay.

As the definition of normal changed, the experiential industry was one of the most impacted, nudging the sector towards digital. Live Streaming has been a major tactic used by the experiential marketing and events industry in the last year. We speak with Swaroop Banerjee, COO & Business Head from ZEE LIVE to understand how this change impacts the core fabric of the industry.

Edited Excerpts

How did the experiential industry pick up the momentum during the pandemic phase? How has it been for ZEE Live in 2020-21?

One cannot deny the adverse effects and impact of the pandemic on the experiential industry. The year 2020 changed everything. 

What was normal was disrupted, transformed, and reimagined. But there was a brighter side to it – the organized live events segment, (as per the EY Report of Live Events 2020) saw a significant increase in digital events, 67% which is more than double the 27% from 2019. 

Livestreaming has come up in a big way which has brought young fans a bit closer to their favorite artists and it is only a matter of time before we see them jump into the Live concerts.

At Zee Live, we aimed to showcase agility by taking cognizance of the situation and getting our act together. Being focused on creating original content, ZEE Live engaged with 200+ artists under our flagship IPs of Supermoon and Arth intended at transforming the on-ground shows to online which enabled us to widen our horizons, keeping us connected to the audience, transcend geographical borders, and increase viewership.

What also helped us was the network strength enabling us to keep things going. ZEE5 proved to be a viable platform that allowed us to stream our content. Adding to that, the network channels came together to give the additional mileage and visibility. 

With the second wave, how does ZEE Live intend to help people? What are some of the major challenges faced by the platform during this time?

With the country braving the second wave, we are doing our best to ensure that people don’t feel disconnected from the world. In our endeavor to keep their spirits high, we are trying to engage and entertain them through our IPs, Supermoon, Arth- A Culture Fest and It’s a Girl Thing India with a focus on live stream in the days to come.

In terms of challenges, I think the last year taught us well and now we all are more prepared to break new ground in our respective spaces. 

Which are the platforms and tools being leveraged to reach out to the large-scale audience at this time, for a seamless experience? What would be the role of digital in this period?

As we adjust and adapt to the new normal, in addition to the sessions and events being hosted on ZOOM, platforms like ARHT Media Inc., Glisser, Platoo, Floor, ViewStub, etc. are enhancing ways of connecting with the audience.

They aid in bridging the gap by strategically combining the benefits of the physical and virtual world through real-time, live, and on-demand video streaming, interactive network and chat functionality, audience segmentation, in-depth data, and analytics. 

When it comes to digital, I have always emphasized the importance of being ‘Digitally-Abled’ and it is no longer an option. It is a case of sink or swim with the tide. 

That said, Livestream has created a level playing field. Content, from across the world, was never so easily accessible to a global audience as it has been now. 

Also read: Interview: Through brand Mirchi we will be hyperlocal generalists focussed on…

What is the role of social media for the platform? Which social media channel works the best for ZEE Live? Any digital events in the pipeline? 

In such times it is the need of the hour for platforms to reach out to our audiences across the globe. Social media allows us to interact with netizens over a host of engaging touchpoints. So, we have been creating and promoting our content on popular social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram as well as Triller. Our recent event, Arth- A Culture Fest streamed on Facebook as well as on the YouTube pages of ZEE News and Arth. It’s a Girl Thing (IAGT) was a 3-day event on Facebook amongst others. We intend to make our presence felt across all social channels.

Which are the top trends witnessed in the experiential industry in the past few months? What can we expect in the future?

Some of the trends that have accelerated owing to the pandemic are as below:

  • The large-scale adoption of live streaming technology to interact with the audience. On a global level, we are witnessing pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and more bring events in real-time. 
  • SOUND will be the next game-changer – Belgian techno music festival TOMORROWLAND proved it, with its in-house team of 200 people, VR specialists-stYpe and created a modern-technological marvel. 
  • As far as the future of the experiential industry goes, we believe that it would be heavily dependent on technology and see the use and importance of AI, ML & VR to create and enhance audience engagement. We can also expect hybrid models and pay-per-view platforms to become increasingly popular.

Sports is one of the major segments of the live events industry. What would be the future of large-scale sports events and where would the industry pivot, to present a seamless experience to the audience?

Engagement is the key to any live event. Studies from various research platforms say that 83% of the viewers believe that experiences are core to one’s lifestyle and they prefer to engage with brands that can offer such personalized experiences. The same applies to any sporting event. By using big-tech, life-like experiences can be created for the audiences. For example, NBA in 2020. They live-streamed entire games via a video call setup, where one felt they were sitting inside the court for select fans through webcam feeds and played the ambient sounds of the game making it an all-around immersive experience for the audience. 

Hence, the Hybrid model is here to stay for some time now. Sound is playing a great role in creating a stadium-like experience for the audience where crowd cheers can be added too.

Please shed light on sponsorships and collaborations for the experiential events industry in the times to come. How would it be significant to ZEE LIVE in the coming months?

At the beginning of the lockdown, we hosted several virtual shows with artists and creators’ sans any brand partners, because the market was not ready to invest in online shows. 

However, with time, advertisers understood that virtual events are the new future and started collaborating with the industry. From our end, we aim to provide deeper, meaningful, and seamless integrations that enable them to connect with their target audience. This in turn has helped in a conducive working ecosystem for both, ourselves and our brand partners. 

What will be the impact on spends with the advent of the COVID-19 second wave? Which are the other techniques that the industry might adapt to sustain during volatile times?

The pandemic has affected and changed the behavior in India – both for brands and consumers. Every penny is being spent very judiciously and this has impacted the live entertainment industry. The events industry is at a stage that thrives on being ‘intimate and focused’. But slowly, the landscape is changing as the brands are willing to experiment. 

Add to that, the Hybrid model has offered us a chance to mitigate any unforeseen contingencies, explore interesting formats via the latest tech, and build equitable and sustainable opportunities for all. 

  • Pay per view is also something that will continue to grow and add a considerable share in the revenue pie. The need of the hour is to re-invent the wheel and adapt to the changing dynamics as fast as we can. 
  • With the help of augmented technology, the idea is to give the fans a life-like experience, to witness shows like they would have if they had attended the concert live.
  • It is also important to build a strong fan community, constantly engage with them, and understand what content they want to consume in a user-friendly manner.

How would the industry shape in the future? Any top 3 tips for the marketers to stay relevant in the business, especially during these times?

The future is digital live entertainment. To maintain a sustainable business, firstly one must invest in technology and build a robust digital model. Soon, we will witness a sizeable percentage of the audience consuming content from digital platforms. The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have already thrown this trend in gear and moving forward, this proliferation of watching live events on the digital realm would very much become the new normal. 

Collaboration will be the next most important thing. Collaboration to co-exist will be the key to thrive and grow – right from government bodies, tourism boards, artists, creators, venue owners, etc.

Last but not the least, understand what is trending just not in India but globally, keep a watch on the best practices in your business model to get the best results.

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Aishwarrya Chakraverty
A storyteller and a narrator by heart, vocalist by genes and a thesaurus-bee. Also, an explorer, traveler, and trekker, Aishwarrya has myriads of interests with love for music and movies. Writing is not just a hobby but her first love with a Facebook page on perspectives, channelizing the passion. Got her research paper published with IGI Global US on music. A maverick by nature and a feminist by choice, to challenge stereotypes.

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