e4m PLAY Media Conference 2020: 'There is an appetite for all types of OTT content now'
OTT industry experts shared insights on what type of content Indian audience is viewing, trends on OTT and strategies to appeal to consumers
The first e4m Play Streaming Media Conference Co-Powered by ZEE5 & In Association with Myelin Foundry took place on Thursday virtually. There were a plethora of intriguing conversations, with OTT experts holding in-depth discussions on opportunities, industry challenges, possible solutions, and more.
One such intriguing panel discussion was on 'Connecting with India’s Billions: What are they Watching and Why are they Coming Back ?'. The speakers on the panel were Saugata Mukherjee, Head of Original Content, SonyLIV; Gautam Talwar, Chief Content Officer, MX Player; Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5 India; and Aditi Shrivastava, Co-Founder, Pocket Aces. The session chair was Aditi Olemann, Co-Founder & Head of Marketing, Myelin Foundry.
Starting the conversation talking about what the Indian audience is watching and trends in the content space, Mukherjee shared, “Our digital world is a little complex. There are different models. Unlike anywhere else, you have the freemium model, AVOD, and SVOD. All models are different from each other; propositions are different, strategies are different, audience sets are different and the programming is different. I am looking at the SVOD content for SonyLIV and we have reworked with SonyLIV 2.0. It has been just about a month and we have launched four-five shows."
"From my level of understanding, people are ready to give you a chance, people are experimenting with genres and very happy to look at different kinds of content, be it thriller, drama, or sitcoms. In the last few years, the digital content programming has become much more democratic. One genre no longer rules. There is not one particular producer who is taking charge of programming for everybody. There are new kinds of storytellers coming into the fore. Never before has it happened that so many platforms are experimenting with so many genres; from fantasy to horror to snacky content; all of it is finding its audience. The good part of it is that all of these shows have their own audience.”
Moving on to Pocket Aces, which very recently launched content specifically for Instagram, Shrivastava spoke about how formats have changed. “The one thing that we know about the audience right now is that they are super bored. Earlier there used to be pockets of consumption throughout their day. Right now, everybody is in the same place for the entire duration. The consumption trends have become very interesting, and as a creator, our job is to capture as many attention minutes as possible of all of that time they are spending on any platform. Right from social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook to the OTT platforms and premium platforms, you want to be in their lives throughout their journey. Another trend is that in COVID, whenever we released content, the one thing we saw was that the audience was thankful to see something new. The audience is not bothered about the production value but thankful for releasing new content and let us know through comments. The third big trend is UGC; people are becoming content creators. This has been happening for the last two-three years, but even more so now. E-sports streaming, and even when people have to sing or dance, there is a lot of possibilities for content platforms to try and capture all types of attention minutes of people."
Sharing her viewpoints and strategies, Acharekar said, “There is an appetite for all types of content now. In ZEE5, we have realized that we need to be able to cater to all types of audiences. Our new launch will cater to short-format content. The content that works is different for different audiences. For two years now, we are working on a data model that tells us how many consumer clusters and how many content clusters we have. We are trying to programme more for the consumer clusters that are prominent on our platform or those that we want to attract with our services. These consumer clusters are looked at from the view of their time spent, their average watch days, and many other parameters that tell us that this is the type of audience that is primarily attracted to our platform and consume our content. It is not always data but a lot of art that goes along with that.”
Speaking about the data insights he has, Talwar shared, “We are an A-ward player and therefore the depth of the distribution is very large. At 75 million daily active users, the challenge is that there is a very broad spectrum of consumers already. The challenge is to figure out what they are watching. We look at cohorts and genre specification data and multiple variables to analyze what piece of content is watched. Unfortunately, in a data-driven world where technology can change very fast, market is very critical. Content business unfortunately is the exact reverse. It still takes us more than a year to put something out. The consumer is not that fickle. They are pretty open to giving you a chance but their attention span is very low. If you are not making sense to them in 3-5 minutes, it is annoying to many people.”
Advising on how one can navigate the user’s consumer journey, Shrivastava shared, “The key is to: one, test out themes, contests, and actors. Second is to reduce risk into larger investments. It is still a very long journey to create a show. So if your investing that time and money, you better get it right. Before investing in content, we will test out by putting out memes, posts, etc to experiment with reactions and whether or not the content will be acceptable. You want to ensure it'll be palatable to them. Now people are open to having broader conversations. We've found pairings through short formats and mixed them into making one show. People love them together and you invest more in them. Data can just provide you numbers. You have to draw the insights and crack them.”
Speaking about what has changed during COVID and what are the opportunities for content platforms, Mukherjee commented, “You are riding the beast and beast needs to be fed. Your production stops but business doesn't. We had planned for the year and now we have changed our strategies due to the pandemic.”
Acharekar remarked, “Zee5 has seen consistent viewership for library content. Sushant Singh Rajput's demise led to a sudden viewership for Pavitra Rishta. There weren't new episodes coming but people looked for nostalgia content. Many of us are very apprehensive to come back on sets. Things have taken a drastic change now. We're looking at stories that have happiness and positivity. No one wants to watch tragedy and dark content.”
Talwar says, “The beauty of OTT is that one can play with content in whatever way they want. There is a need for differentiated content. We're experimenting with ways to build newer stories. There is a difference between lean forward and lean back medium. Hence the narrative structure is very different in OTT platforms.”
Shrivastava remarked that we all have to think on our feet and have various revenue models. She commented, “People who have been smart in the fundamentals of business and are willing to take some risk can get past the situation.”
Lastly, talking about the technological trends that will be a key factor in the future of content, Acharekar says, “As content creators, two-way communication has always fascinated us. As makers, we want to push interactive content and consumers to determine how they want their stories to progress. AI and AR should help us do this."
Talwar remarked, “We've got the best tech people in the country along with creative minds. Both need to come together and an inter-activity is something which will create great new content.”
Mukherjee says we should create content that can travel globally. Giving examples of Money Heist of Indian Origin, he said technology is the big enabler to reach that level.
On a parting note, Shrivastava concluded saying, “There is the socialization of content as well and we should be thinking about that. Few things have been tried till now, for example Watch Party. It is a very interesting tech solution to a social need. Merge premium content with pop culture and socialization, the buzz created around that will be magnified.”
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