'Regional content has the capacity to travel across languages'
At the e4m Play Streaming Media Conference, experts from the OTT space discussed ways to leverage the lockdown and planning the content pipeline for the next few months
e4m hosted the second edition of e4m Play Streaming Media Conference on Wednesday to honour excellence in the on-demand video and audio content. The virtual conference saw top industry leaders sharing their thoughts on the trends and challenges that are impacting the video & audio streaming space. One of the sessions saw an esteemed panel discuss the dynamics & diversity of OTT content.
Chaired by Gourav Rakshit, Chief Operating Officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, on the panel were Vijay Subramaniam, Director & Head Content, Amazon Prime Video India; Nikhil Madhok, EVP & Head of Hotstar Specials, Disney+ Hotstar; Vijay Koshy, President, TVF and B Srinivasan, Managing Director, Vikatan Group of Publications.
Starting off the session, Madhok spoke about the width of the content streams on Disney+Hotstar. He said, “Fortunately because of the width of the content streams on the platform, even over the last one month and even now, we managed to offer a fair amount of variety of content to our viewers. If you look at the original content, what we call ‘Hotstar Specials’ there is some advantage to the fact that some of our productions have already taken place and we're now in the post-production phase. So I see for the next couple of months for us to be sorted, at least from a content delivery point of view. And you'll have something to offer.”
He further stated that if the lockdowns continue for more than three to six months then the platform has to find out different ways to tackle the issue. “The first and most important point is: 'Do we have the ability to actually produce content?' If lockdowns continue, we need to manage with the rules of the government if it doesn't allow us to shoot. But if those permissions start coming in, the first attempt really will be to make sure that under production is completed and get back onto our pipeline in a more organized fashion. It is enough to offer but going forward if this continues for more than three to six months, then we'll have to figure out different ways of attacking the problem.”
Koshy believes this is the best time to get a breather and the best opportunity to practice and plan. He shared: “We were faced with a similar situation last year. And we just got into a large hardcore planning mode and preparation for our existing pipeline. We have almost 10 to 15 shows ready in various stages of production. So we managed to put out four shows in the first few months of this year. And we have some more planned in the next couple of months on various other platforms and the standard crib that most of our creative team used to have is that they're not getting enough time for preparation and they're always rushing into projects and are under pressure from other clients and all of that, we need some breathing time.
"So, we think this is the best opportunity you're getting. Just keep going to the next; keep practising and keep planning properly. And that's all that we can do at this point in time. Otherwise, there is no major change in terms of the content choices that are making it. We're using this time to prepare better.”
Explaining how planning quarters years ahead helps mitigate, Subramaniam shared: “We plan quarters years ahead. I think we've been very fortunate that we've stuck to netting, even as we stayed, our businesses went from a show in a year to 12 shows in the next year, or a couple of big movies in a year or two, almost 105 movies a year. The key for us has been the multiple and diverse pipelines that we have. I think that's held us in good stead and continues to.”
Speaking about the upcoming content on Amazon Prime Video, Subramanium further stated that it all depends on rigorous planning. “There's a whole raft of films that we brought on to the service starting the year with Drishyam 2 in Malayalam and Master coming within two weeks of its theatrical release and followed by Yuvarathnaa, Mumbai saga and so on.
"I can safely say that the years of planning has actually kept us more than head and shoulders above the situation so far. So, We are banking on the fact that our pipelines will continue to remain interesting. TVF is one search partner and they have a show that's to be launched pretty soon. So, it’s just rigorous planning.”
Elaborating on how local content is faring on OTT platforms, Srinivasan highlighted: “Many platforms are actually reaching out to regional audiences. They have created local teams, which are trying to ensure that the local language flavour is imbibed."
"That being said, I would say that in television our Pavitra Rishta was able to travel as a local product in five different languages and ended up as superhit in all five languages. So there is so much capacity for a local language product to travel across. There are both ways - Hindi could go to Tamil and Tamil could go to Hindi. So, both are possible, and we are right in the middle of that.”
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