Home >Companies >News >Airtel- ZEE5 extend partnership as telcos inch towards bundled app ecosystem

MUMBAI: Customers of Airtel Thanks will now get free, unlimited access to ZEE5’s premium content library as part of their exclusive benefits, the companies announced.

Airtel, like rival Reliance Jio, has been inching towards a bundled app ecosystem powered by content.

Airtel Thanks covers postpaid, prepaid customers above recharge packs of 119, and broadband customers but leaves out users on corporate plans. The benefits can be claimed via the Airtel Thanks app which is Airtel’s initiative at creating a content app ecosystem. Currently, subscribers of Airtel Thanks have access to content across Amazon Prime, Zee5, HOOQ, Eros Now and Wynk Music, among others, depending on their spend for telecom services.

ZEE5 is, meanwhile, looking to strengthen its relationships with Airtel’s higher spending subscriber base. While ZEE5 continues to partner with brands, the core focus of all alliances is to enable a seamless content viewing experience for consumers, said the content provider.

The two companies had initially partnered in 2018 to provide ZEE5 content bundled with Airtel TV, in addition to ZEE5 platform, while the two jointly create, market and distribute content, with specific focus on ZEE’s regional language-centric strategy.

Airtel Thanks customers will be able to access the entire catalogue of ZEE5 premium content without having to pay any subscription charges.

Manpreet Bumrah, business development & commercial head, ZEE5 India, said, "We are looking to expand our reach through this partnership with Airtel as we will leverage synergies between the brands and further bolster our presence across the country."

Since the announcement of the Jio-Facebook deal last month, there has been greater scrutiny on telecom-technology partnerships because of how Jio has managed to push Reliance Industries' tech valuation higher.

Even when Jio entered the market with free and cheap data services and an app ecosystem, rival telecom operators were initially slow to catch up and when they did, they looked at external tie-ups instead of capacity building as a part of telecom offerings. But the lack of vision from rival telcos in monetising user data may have some positive outcome as well.

"Each of the telecom operators caters to a largely specific price conscious bracket. While there will be a dent to Jio’s ecosystem, these are customers who will continue to be vary about data privacy before signing up with services that will monetise their data even if it may be anonymized. This will now turn into a customer experience war between the telcos," said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief executive and chief analyst, Greyhound Research.

Telcos have already invested in content, TV, music ecosystem and the Jio deal will add to the pressure on forging new partnerships. Gogia added that Singtel, which holds 35% stake in Bharti Airtel, still has scope for more foreign direct investment infusion to fight the battle with Jio.

Last week, telecom operator Vodafone Idea announced the launch of VIC – an artificial intelligence powered digital customer service and support virtual assistant for its customers on the company website, My Vodafone and My Idea Apps, and on one of the most popular messaging app - WhatsApp.

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