Mumbai based ZEE Entertainment Enterprises has grown into a broadcast, digital, movies, and music giant offering its 620 million weekly viewers 48 channels in 11 native languages. George Jarrett spoke to ZEE’s President of Technology Nitin Mittal.

Mittal is driving the key shifts in automation, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with the goal of becoming data-first operationally. He has previously worked in retail, finance, E-commerce, FMCG, healthcare and insurance.

Nitin Mittal, President - Technology & Data_ZEEL

Nitin Mittal, President of Technology, ZEE

“My job at ZEE is to worry about future technology,” he explained.

What then were his thoughts on the issues and experiences that he wanted to put across to his IBC audience? His subject area is exploiting future trends.

“My primary ambition is to create and tell stories embedded in Indian culture for millions of years and take it all to five billion viewers on this planet through the future of media technology,” he said.

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“The platform is built by fostering collaboration with millions of content creators who want to tell stories deep rooted across the culture of India, leveraging open-source technology, partnering with global OEMs, and exploiting generative AI,” he added. “The platform will also promote inclusivity by making content accessible to all. The ethical use of AI and an environmentally sustainable architecture are also very important.”

Content aggregator platform

As a visitor to the IBC2023 show, what does he hope to find in and around the exhibits? AI applications using open-source algorithms, or perhaps other visitors?

“I will be looking for like-minded platforms who want to collaborate with my vision, plus starting-up in the content creation space using generative AI. I want to see companies who can build the media foundation model, and Telcos or other companies who want to join our content aggregator platform,” said Mittal.

With AI, ML and automation being spread across the ZEE infrastructure, how far has the company reached in terms of fulfilling current ambitions, Jarrett asked, and secondly, what eye-opening applications does Mittal intend to perfect with AI specifically?

“ZEE’s ambitions involve integrating these technologies to enhance content delivery, audience engagement, and operational efficiency,” he said.

“To fulfil these intentions, we have already made significant strides in automating content recommendations, optimising streaming quality, and personalising user experiences,” he added. “We are piloting AI in content creation, writing scripts for our shows, the predictive analytics for content acquisition success, and AI-enhanced audience insights for targeted advertising.”

Low-latency connectivity

No head of engineering has just one fascination in mind, so what interest does Mittal have in 5G Broadcast, streaming efficiencies, cloud services, and FAST channels?

“In the context of 5G and the other areas mentioned, they all represent significant opportunities for the media entertainment industry. The exploitation of 5G promises ultra-fast and low-latency connectivity, enabling seamless streaming experiences, and innovative content delivery,” said Mittal.

“Streaming services continue to dominate the digital entertainment landscape. Offering the subscription-based and ad-supported models, they provide a valuable avenue for content distribution,” he added. “Cloud services offer scalability and cost efficiency for content storage and processing and facilitating global accessibility.”

Is Mittal amongst the fans of the FAST lane? He said: “The ad-supported approach, allows for broader audience reach, and monetisation potential.

“In terms of value, all these areas enable media companies to reach wider audiences, enhance user experiences, and leverage data-driven insights for both content personalisation and targeted commercials,” he added. “ZEE has no existing FAST channels, but the Indian market has enthusiastically adopted FAST.”

An audience of five billion

ZEE is all about leveraging content in the areas of TV, OTT, film, and music, and building advanced technology-led entertainment platforms. Where does Mittal want to be by 2030?

“We currently make 250,000 hours of content per year. In five years, ZEE likely aims to be a global leader in the convergence of Indian and South Asian content creation and distribution – to reach a five billion planet-wide audience by leveraging our inhouse technical stack and our own foundational model, and LLM,” he said.

“We are actively expanding our international presence by forging strategic partnerships with Telcos, retailers, device OEMs, and Big Tech. We intend to stay ahead of the game in tech and data led innovation,” he added.

All those hours of content suggest that ZEE, like all talent thirsty media giants, has developed precise recruitment and re-training policies.

“We train our engineers for working with all the new cutting-edge and relevant technologies in the media domain,” said Mittal. “We also hire engineering talent from reputed universities and colleges like IIT and REC.”

ZEE wants to work with other media players to create an AI consensus. It has been attracted to the work of the AIDA (AI and Data) initiative run under the auspices of the EBU. This involves 100+ companies from over two dozen nations and works as an umbrella transversally across topics like ethics and journalism.

Nitin Mittal is a speaker in the IBC2023 Session Building the Future of Technology in the afternoon (14:30 - 15:15) of September 15.