In an interview with Nextv News Latin America, Gustavo Morande, CEO at Zapping TV, expressed himself on the main challenges that the platform had to face due to the pandemic period; the new features available on the platform’s app; the new content available on its catalog and the intentions to expand Zapping TV’s offer in Chile and internationally, and other related issues.
What challenges has Zapping TV had to face as a result of the increase in TV consumption during the pandemic period?
Our main challenge is focused on the user experience. We knew that during the pandemic we would have a greater demand for content and many people watching TV at the same time, and we wonder what actions to take for the user experience to be the better one. During this last year we have made a series of updates to the platform’s UX, as well as on our CDN and content delivery, in such a way as to ensure that the channels that are part of the Zapping TV offer are loaded quickly and correctly. Our aim was to keep that differentiation that we know we have compared to other platforms, which means a challenge in the face of the increased consumer demand that we are witnessing. During these last 12 months the strategy has worked well for us. Users notice this, and that has allowed us to maintain our growth.
Days ago, a series of new features were announced on the Zapping TV app. What are they and for which users are they available?
As part of this logic of improving the user experience, we spent a lot of time developing our transition to VOD content, because we did not want to do it in the same way that other apps do. Zapping TV will never have a large content catalog like Netflix or other players have, because I think it would be confusing for the type of consumer that we have, which is a traditional TV consumer. We are always looking for ways to improve the UX to face issues related to VOD, catch-up and other related features. We have finally launched a very well developed solution, where all the content is already recorded in the cloud. We have 120 channels in which it is possible to catch-up up to 24 hours; go back contents; re-watch programs from the beginning; among others. We use our own CDN, which allows us to have a very high feedback and a very intuitive and simple UX. We have been working on all this, also hand in hand with codex changes, which allow us to offer content in HD or 4K without consuming more internet. All these updates were released about 10 days ago, initially for LG smart TVs and Android TV; then for Samsung (2016 and 2017 models, and will be released in newer models this week); and next week they will be available on Roku and Apple TV.
According to the latest figures reported by Subtel, the pay TV market ended Q3 2020 in Chile with almost 3.24 million subscribers, and it was the first quarter with a positive balance after eight consecutive periods. In addition, Zapping TV has been strengthening its channel’s catalog. This way, what are the coming news for the platform at the content level?
We are, essentially, a linear TV platform, and all the VOD updates that we have made come to complement this consumption. But linear TV is always the basis of our service. We believe that there is a space for linear TV consumption, which is demonstrated with Subtel’s figures. There are those who believe that with Netflix, Amazon (Prime Video), Disney+ and other platforms, linear TV is going to die. But that is the same thing that has been said with all industries: it has happened with cinema, with the radio and others. We all consume digital platforms, but there are times when we want to watch a certain content, to which we must spend time to look for it, choose it, and watch it on TV. This way, I believe that consumers have been adapting themselves and have understood that having Zapping TV and other platforms such as Netflix, works very well for different consumer spaces. For this reason, our bet is on linear TV content. We are launching our own channels. Big TV operators have not innovated so much in terms of content, and they are leaving space for alternative content and new channels. There is a large space. We are creating our own channels and we are going to continue promoting this action, as well as creating live content for those channels and, this way, differentiating ourselves, always taking as a basis that we are creating curated linear channels, with timelines, advertising batches and quite a well thought out format for a traditional linear channel. At the end of the day, the content is handpicked, curated, and scheduled.
How many Zapping TV’s own channels are now available on its catalog, and how many are planned to be launched this year?
We currently have nine own-channels: eight music channels, and a children’s channel. We will soon launch new channels focused on music, cooking, workouts (training), and other topics. I think we will be launching three to four channels this year. There are still niches that are not covered, where a lot of content can be created.
On what KPIs is Zapping TV based to choose the topics for each new channel?
We are based on the consumption of the digital field: what is watched today on YouTube and other platforms, as well as on Zapping TV; what content works well and at what times and, based on that, we make the decision. Among our music channels, the most watched is ‘Retro Zapping TV’. Our music channel ‘Lofi’ also caught our attention, with music to study and stay focused, and it has had incredible results. We are discovering different niches and noticing these phenomena, and we have the ability to react quickly to them and quickly create a channel or content. Days ago, we did the live release of a band’s album, and we took the final of an exclusive reality show for YouTube and broadcast it live. We are discovering niches in the digital field, and we take them to linear TV.
Have Zapping TV thought about the idea of integrating itself as part of pay TV operators grids in Chile, or as an app in an operator’s STB?
As a channel in a pay TV operator, no. We do think about joining as part of the offer of an internet provider (ISP). We have held advanced conversations with a major ISP in Chile, where we are going to be launching very soon. Our logic is to partner with ISPs.
How is the Zapping TV offer currently composed?
Our content offer includes more than 110 channels, among which are all Chilean pay TV and FTA TV channels, together with sports channels, news channels, children’s channels, series channels, movies, international channels and our own channels offer. The offer is very wide and covers many niches. There is content for all audiences. In Zapping we offer the most traditional of TV.
In 2020, Zapping TV announced it was looking for strategic partners to expand itself to other Latin American countries. What phase is that plan currently in?
The pandemic has made changes on our plans, because it demanded us many technical challenges and, at the same time, we had significant growth. We will focus more on Chile before an international expansion, although the only element that is modified is the deadlines. We will implement our international expansion in the future anyway. We are currently experiencing strong growth in Chile, which is continuing, and that brings us many technical challenges in which we are working on, such as updating our application and improving the user experience. Today, it makes more sense for us to focus on Chile, and then plan our international expansion with a much more robust product. Among the countries we are evaluating are Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador, and analyzing what the next steps will be, but it will not be in the short term.
What are the next challenges for Zapping TV in the short term?
We have been experiencing a strong growth rate. In 2020 we tripled our subscriber base, and this year we aim to triple it again. The great challenge of the industry is on the technical part. Our first priority is that, in an daily use app like ours, the technological experience is optimal. Our main challenge is to be able to meet the technological standard that the user expects from a content platform, and we must live up to it. The challenge goes hand in hand with technology.