Every player, big or small, is focussing on original content since that’s where the differentiation and future lies. Netflix has already scored big with its Netflix Originals which has transcended borders. Even before its launch Amazon has allotted $300m on local digital content as it rolls out its Amazon Prime Video service in India later this year according to media reports. There also have been reports of the Seattle-headquartered streaming service signing up Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani's production house Excel Entertainment for its first show ‘Power Play,’ cricket-and-showbiz-themed show. Earlier it had roped in acclaimed directors Vishal Bhardwaj and Vidhu Vinod Chopra for an original series, according to reports.
Same goes for the US-based Viuclip’s Viu whose show ‘What the Duck’ featuring cricket icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag has been “instrumental in Viu amassing over 1 million downloads on the Google Play store since its India launch.” “What has really worked for the show was that viewers got to see a different side of their favourite Indian cricketers and know funny on-and-off field stories that they would otherwise not have heard of,” says Nickhil Jakatdar, Founder and CEO, Vuclip. After ‘What the Duck’ Viu is assessing options with similar original series. “We have tied up with over 270 of the world's best production houses through content partnerships. The opportunities to co-create original series with them are plenty,” he offers.
Hotstar will do the second season of its comedy-news bulletin show, ‘On Air with AIB.’ Voot which has five original shows in its kitty, is creating a new series every month. “We are the largest creator of original content in the OTT video space,” claims Gaurav Gandhi, Chief Operating Officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures.
Win-win for consumer and advertisers
Original content works both for the consumers and advertisers. For instance, SonyLiv which entered into original content last September with ‘LoveBytes,’ had earlier roped in four sponsors like Fogg Deos and Maruti Suzuki – Swift for its third original series ‘Tanlines.’ It’s also strengthening on this segment which brings in added viewership when launched. Last week it released ‘Lost & Found.’ Uday Sodhi, Executive Vice President & Head-Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India explains, “Brands get good visibility and sponsorship from these tie ups. For the latest series Skybag is part of the content. Content is far more specific and targeted at a certain category of users. It becomes extremely viable for brands to associate with such shows as it is sharply targeted and they get better ROI. As a result advertisers prefer to focus a lot of his digital spends on content where their brands are clearly showcased. There, we are seeing a significant traction.”
Jakatdar agrees “The scope for creative storytelling is big for brands to leverage OTT platforms for content. We have always said that VOD platforms such as Viu are end-to-end marketing solutions for brands. Right from being able to target prospects better to effecting a sale, it is something whose potential is yet to be realised.”
He adds, “Current trend is that lot of these advertisers are repeat advertisers who have moved on from using the traditional practices such as pre roll or banner advertisements and are mainly looking at marrying their offering with the content which is available on our platform. A case in point is that of Pepsico's 7 UP which sponsored Viu Originals' ‘What the Duck’ as there was a lot in common between 7 UP's 'Hum Toh Hain Like This' positioning and the show's USP. The show which struck a chord with the youth was the target segment that was in line with 7UP's marketing goals.”
Voot already has over 25 advertisers on board and the number is growing. “There are also a lot of brands integrations in our originals,” offers Gandhi. The platform is also looking at producing branded content. Monika Shergill, Head - Content at Viacom18 Digital Ventures elucidates more on that, “With brands we are looking to create short format content like short films. Brands across FMCG, beverage, automobile and telecom brands are keen to create lot of cutting-edge stuff on digital. They understand the strength of digital and know 30% of their marketing budgets have to be spent on digital.”
Here one needs to note that according to KPMG FICCI Report 2016 increasing second screen consumption, growing mobile internet and device penetration and technology innovations will drive digital advertising growth at a CAGR of 33.5 percent over the next five years.
According to Zulfiqar Khan, Business head - ErosNow & CRO - Eros Group, the biggest differentiator in this space is content. It has to be noted that the news of Eros Now (known for its movie content), the digital OTT distribution service of Eros International bringing in original content, has been doing the rounds since last year. This platform which has 44 million registered users across WAP, APP and web, expects to touch one million paid subscribers by the end of FY 2017, according to reports. “In a couple of months, the original content will be released. We will spend a huge chunk of our budget on curating content and partner with brands in future,” assures Khan.
Not to lose out on the opportunity even big production houses are leveraging OTT platforms to market their films. Case in point last year ‘Bombay Velvet’ had rolled out a mobile-first movie preview on Hotstar. More recently the trailer of ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ was released in ErosNow. Ultimately the winner is undoubtedly the digital audience who are getting their content right at their fingertips and convenient time.