OTT content marketplace has not matured at all: R Balki

Filmmaker & screenwriter Balki, who was the Jury Chair for e4m Play 2021 Metal Announcements, had a conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, e4m & BW Businessworld

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 13, 2021 8:37 AM  | 6 min read
r balki

Over the top (OTT) platforms have been spending truckloads of money on creating original digital content that appeals to new-age audiences. While the volume of original OTT content is increasing, the OTT content marketplace is yet to mature, R Balki, the leading filmmaker, screenwriter, and former group chairman of Lowe Lintas, said at the e4m Play Streaming Media Conference 2021 held on Wednesday.

Balki, who was the Jury Chair for e4m Play 2021 Metal Announcements, had a free and frank conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor in Chief, exchange4media Group & BW Businessworld.

The conversation started with Dr. Batra asking Balki if the OTT content marketplace has matured and is there a formula for creating successful content for the digital medium. "The OTT content marketplace has not matured at all. It's a long way as they have just begun and there have just been few wonderful shows which exhibit fantastic writing, some great originality which is sometimes missing from films," Balki responded.

He noted that the kind of content that works on OTT is very different from the kind of content that works for films. Elaborating further, he said that a person is able to absorb a message in a 30-second ad however the same message will not be effective enough when it is part of a film.

Speaking about the audience behaviour for different kinds of content, Balki said that the consumer attention span on digital might be short but at the same time people are watching a lot of long-form content. "In an era when we say attention span is short, we are watching longer and longer formats. Sometimes we binge for eight to nine hours and we never get tired because we are in love with certain characters."

Balki, who is best known for directing films like Cheeni Kum, Paa, and Pad Man, believes there is no specific formula for creating a successful piece of content. "It just needs to be engaging....there is no peculiar formula and I don't think we should have a formula about what kind of stuff works because everybody tends to follow the same formula. If one gangster kind of thing works or one rural underworld kind of thing works everyone starts following the same. Similarly, if one kind of progressive expression of relationship works everybody starts following that," he added.

According to him, OTT as a platform is hungry for a lot of originality. The platform, he said, is conducive for great writing. "This is a platform waiting for originality to happen, waiting for great writing to happen, and if you look across the world, some of the best writing is on the platform. Some of the greatest writers who have done a lot of work are on the platform. I feel this is the time of writers," he averred.

Queried if he has a preference for a particular screen, Balki said that the creators and writers should be comfortable with all kinds of screens as the story is at the heart of the creative business and not the screen.

"Today we are comfortable creating content for any screen. It's not the screen but the kind of story that you want to tell. So it's not as if the scale is reserved for the big screen. I don't believe in that myth because the biggest scale 'Game of Thrones' was done for OTT and not for the big screen. I don't think that is a kind of a barrier. I also don't believe that a smaller, intimate story is great for OTT and not on the screen and I also don't believe that the screen will be for event films and things like that," he explained.

Taking the argument further, Balki feels that multiple screens and content genres will have a healthy co-existence. "I think there is going to be a lot of co-existence that is going to happen. We have one more screen to create for and we are happy with that. I don't have any romantic notions about this and I am here to write the script and I don't care about which screen it's coming on," he noted.

With the second Covid-19 wave heaping untold misery across the country, Balki said that this is the time to take a pause and reflect on the larger purpose of life and human existence. "This is the time to pause, take a break, look at a larger issue of life... I think we will be able to shoot soon if we are a little patient and don't get desperate about it," Balki said candidly.

Despite shoots not happening and fresh content supply getting hit, Balki feels that there is so much to watch on OTT that if an average user starts watching all the content it will not be possible to cover all the great shows of the world in one's lifetime. "We should wait for a month or so and not rush through this," Balki said.

Towards the end of the conversation Dr. Batra asked Balki about his content preferences, he responded by saying that Netflix India's anthology film 'Ajeeb Daastaans' and American crime drama series The Sopranos are some of the shows that he liked.

"From India, I watched anthology Ajeeb Daastaans'. I particularly liked the third one with Konkona and it was done by Neeraj Ghaywan. It is one of the most beautifully done stories and one of the greatest performances I have seen. I wish it was a full film and I could watch it for two hours. Otherwise, I am on the Sopranos binge. It's a fantastic show and it's one of the greatest shows that have been made," he stated.

Queried about the work that he is currently engaged in, Balki informed that he is not working on anything right now. "I had worked on a new script. It's a thriller that I am doing which hopefully whenever it opens we will be able to shoot," he stated.

In his closing remarks, Balki said that the OTT platforms have played a key role in keeping people indoors during the pandemic. "Content is helping people to stay at home. You do have something to watch for you to stay at home. No amount of preaching by any politician or ads will do what the OTT platforms have done in keeping people indoors. That is the biggest service that OTT has done," he said.

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Integral Ad Science launches verification programme for Netflix

This will ensure that ad campaigns on Netflix are free of fraud, and are seen by actual viewers

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 22, 2023 8:37 AM   |   1 min read

Netflix

Integral Ad Science has launched Viewability and Invalid Traffic verification for Netflix. It will benefit those who have subscribed to the streaming platform's ad-supported plan.

The tool will ensure that ad campaigns on Netflix will be free of fraud, and are seen by actual viewers.  

The verification programme has gone live in 12 countries and across connected TV, computer and mobile platforms. 

This is part of Netflix’s agreement with IAS, which was announced in 2022.

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Amazon Prime Video & Jio front runners in race to host HBO content?

The agreement between Warner Bros Discovery and Disney+ Hotstar is believed to have come to an end as the former asked for an exorbitant fee of Rs 80 crore per year for HBO shows, say sources

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 22, 2023 8:27 AM   |   2 min read

HBO

Ever since Disney+ Hotstar decided not to renew its licencing agreement with Warner Bros Discovery, the latter has been looking for a home for HBO content. According to sources in the industry, HBO has been in talks with several OTT platforms in India. However, Jio Cinema and Amazon Prime Video are believed to be the front runners in the race.

"Initially, the content team of HBO was in talks with several OTT platforms, including Netflix, SonyLiv, Amazon Prime Video and Jio Cinema. But it is believed that Jio Cinema and Amazon Prime Video are ahead in the race. Whoever offers the best price, will seal the deal,” said a source close to the development. 

exchange4media reached out to HBO, Amazon Prime Video and Jio Cinema for an official comment, but is yet to receive a response.

It's important to note that Warner Bros. Discovery collaborated with Amazon Prime Video last year to offer a slate of 11 popular HBO Max Original series and 10 HBO Max original features exclusively for Prime members in India.

Disney+ Hotstar announced the end of its association with HBO through a tweet last week. “Starting 31st March, HBO content will be unavailable on Disney+Hotstar. You can continue enjoying Disney+ Hotstar’s vast library of content spanning over 100,000 hours of TV shows and movies in 10 languages and coverage of major global sporting events,” it stated.

As previously reported by exchange4media, the agreement between Disney+ Hotstar and Warner Bros Discovery got over after HBO demanded a fee of Rs 80 crore per year for its shows, say sources.

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India would be a great place for an offline experience: Ryan Latham, Nothing

The Global Director - Brand and Creative of consumer tech company Nothing spoke to e4m on the brand’s design and marketing philosophy, its brick-and-mortar plans in a digital future, and more

By Shantanu David | Mar 22, 2023 8:45 AM   |   5 min read

Ryan

In a market and media-sphere where so many people so often talk about nothing, Nothing aims to start a whole new conversation. The London-based consumer technology company, backed by heavy hitters like GV (Google Ventures) and EQT Ventures, has created a tremendous amount of buzz in the industry, despite being barely two years old and having launched a soupcon of products.

With its striking minimalist visuals, unique imagery featuring exquisitely shot insects interacting with its devices, and reportedly superior performance and ergonomic capabilities, Nothing has become a focus brand for tech nerds and aesthetes alike.

With its Ear (2) set to be launched today (March 22), e4m spoke to Ryan Latham, Global Director, Brand and Creative, Nothing, during his India visit, about the brand’s design and marketing philosophy, the importance of the Indian market, and its brick-and-mortar plans in a digital future.

“It's great to be in the market to come and visit. We have this set-up where the teams from India travel to London, and we come here as well because you have to be in the market to experience it and to make sure you're tailoring your products to that consumer base,” says Latham, about his maiden India tour with Nothing.

“Besides expanding the market in Saudi Arabia, we are focusing on the Indian market. Also, we're European headquartered, so we've got key partnerships with the network operators and retailers across the UK, Germany, Spain and some of the core European markets. And we've also opened our very first store right in the heart of London's cultural scene,” he says.

Speaking about the Soho store, the company’s first brick-and-mortar store, Latham says that, somewhat paradoxically, the minimalist tech company has always wanted a physical storefront. “We also thought, as a new brand, with a technology product and a design-led product, opting for the more personalized experience helped us in standing out in the clutter of the tech market. We really believe in the community around ‘Nothing’.  Unlike other brands, we chose a small format store instead of investing on to the big Oxford Street.”

This has led the company to assume a design which is quite compact, where it can experiment and learn about how to interact with its customer base and figure out the permutations of creating a fun retail experience. It plans to open more stores in key markets. Is India one of them?

“Nothing is confirmed, nothing is fixed right now in the calendar. But in terms of our thought process, we believe that India would be a great place for an offline experience,” answers Latham, perhaps inadvertently confirming Nothing is fixed in the calendar.

Puns aside, Latham asserts that Nothing is really well positioned because it has that design aesthetic, but it's also a really excellent kind of value product as well. “You're getting a lot for your needs and for your money, from a design point of view. Also, we have a high investment in our OS. We've just launched our Android 13 and we continue to update the product on a really regular basis, having done eight updates since launch. Also, we’ve had feedback from the market and from our customers in India that they've actually found that the phone one is getting better the more they use it.”

Speaking about figuring out the bugs of the system, this conversation would mean nothing (yes, the puns write themselves) without going into the idea of using animal imagery, especially the insect kind, in its visual advertising.

Latham says, “What we're trying is to bring the product to life with some warmth and some personality. Our design ethos is about joyful interactions and designing with our instincts, not just following kind of rulebooks and lots of data. We want to design products that make us feel something. The founding idea of the insects and the animals was bringing technical warmth to the products, bringing them alive. And these insects use instincts to explore. So when you see a beetle interacting with our Ear (2) products, you see it exploring it and trying to find out what it is using its very basic instinct.”

“And we use different characters for different products because they have different, maybe different meanings. With the current product that we're launching, the animal in the creative is an ox beetle. And this ox beetle is a very small, very powerful, and very technical creature; if you look at it, it looks very engineered, very purposeful,” he says.

“And with the Ear (2), the engineering teams have spent a lot of time making the product more compact, but also increasing the performance massively. So, we've got this very small, very strong, very powerful product. And the animal that's interacting with it in some ways mirrors it,” he adds, concluding, “Also, let's not be too pretentious about it, it's also just super fun: a very fun way to demonstrate, to show off the product.”

It’s nothing, really.

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Surinder Films acquires Bengali OTT platform Addatimes

The first web series after acquisition to be streamed on Addatimes will be Amriter Sandhane - The Banaras Chapter

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 3:45 PM   |   2 min read

ott

Kolkata headquartered film production company, Surinder Films, has acquired Addatimes, the first Bengali on-demand OTT Platform of the country

“We have been in the business of Bengali film production, distribution and content creation for both regional & national channels. In today’s context we found that the OTT Platforms have immense growth potential and it is the right time to invest on it. Thus, we decided to acquire Addatimes, the first Bengali and one of the well-known OTT platforms. Here, we would be creating, as well as acquiring content of varied genres keeping in mind the audience interest. We already have an interesting line up of big-ticket Bengali Movies & a host of Web Series’ which we would start streaming soon. We look forward to a creatively exciting journey ahead”, said Nispal Singh, Director, Surinder Films Pvt Ltd.

The first web series after acquisition to be streamed on Addatimes will be Amriter Sandhane - The Banaras Chapter, from14th April, 2023, celebrating the occasion of Poila Boishak (Bengali New Year). This 8-episode series is a mythological thriller set in the holy city of Varanasi. The star cast of Amriter Sandhane - The Banaras Chapter includes Chandan Roy Sanyal, Sauraseni Maitra & Debasish Mondal amongst others and it is directed by Abhinandan Dutta. Following this there will be a rib-tickling series, Gentlemen, starring Joy Sengupta, Mir Afsar Ali, Rudranil Ghosh & Madhurima Basak in the lead, which is directed by Korak Murmu. Gentlemen will be steaming from May, 2023.

 

This apart, Addatimes would also digitally premiere some mega feature films like Kaberi Antardhan (on 26th March, 2023) followed by Mitin Mashi, SagardwipeyJawker Dhan & Magic and many more in the coming months. New films like Love Marriage, Bhootpori, Ardhangini, Paakhi, Tarakar Mrityu & Tenida will be digitally premiered in Addatimes post their theatrical releases.

 

“We plan to release between 15 -18 original contents a year, to begin with. As far as the films are concerned, there will be more than one release per month," added Singh.

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Class has no ‘class’

Guest Column: Markand Adhikari, Chairman & MD of SABGROUP, writes that the new trend of nudity and obscenity in OTT is harming society and putting freedom of expression in danger

By Markand Adhikari | Mar 21, 2023 2:30 PM   |   4 min read

Markand Adhikari

Today, I wished to share something with the readers about a new trend in the media/entertainment sector, but let me first confess I feel ashamed and embarrassed to write this as I also come from this fraternity. The trend I am referring to is the kind of content that has excessive vulgarity, nudity and obscenity.

When some of my friends told me about this, I was not ready to believe that the content dished out on a platform, for public consumption, could have fallen to this level. But they insisted and urged me to raise my voice against it. So, I decided to check it out myself. I came across a web series titled ‘Class’ and another called ‘Rana Naidu’, both on a premium OTT platform. I mustered enough willpower but I am sorry to report that I could not watch more than two episodes of each of them.

On TV and the big screen, the content is meant for entertainment. This content did not entertain me; it shocked me, it disturbed me.

When people complain of such excesses, some makers argue that they are merely showing a mirror to society. I beg to differ. What is shown in ‘Class’ and ‘Rana Naidu’ is not the true picture of our culture and society. Is each and every student of an elite school in big cities a drug addict? Is every boy or girl in such high-profile schools indulging in pervert sexual acts? If that were the case, I am sure at least some of the parents would have raised their voices and stopped sending their children to such schools. But that is not the case.

What such content does is not reflect social reality but actually the opposite – instigate our youth and society to go down this path by giving them ideas. Do we want today’s youth to take that path and create a generation of drug peddlers, sex maniacs and criminals? Or do we want to see them as doctors, administrators, scientists, thinkers and leaders of the future?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating strict censorship. I believe I am very liberal-minded and have been a strong advocate of the freedom of expression. But crossing the limits of what can be said and what can be shown on the screen is a shameless and blatant violation of the Freedom of Expression. The premium platform where ‘Class’ and ‘Rana Naidu’ is streaming is abusing the right to free expression.

Let us agree that nudity, vulgarity and obscenity cannot be sold in the name of fundamental rights. If you think so, then why stop at ‘Class’ and ban outright pornography? That too should be ok. If so, is it the case that some porn producers and peddlers have been prosecuted because their platform is not as big?

Let me reiterate that the issue here is nudity and not fundamental rights. Those who defend this vulgarity in the name of rights are actually destroying our social fabric and harming our culture. Selling obscene content in the name of freedom of expression is actually putting this freedom and this right in danger. They are forcing the authorities to consider censorship of OTT content. Then, we as an industry will have no argument against the government. In other words, these “advocates” of freedom of expression will be responsible for the censorship of OTT content, and we will be responsible for digging our own graves.

Alarm bells are ringing. I strongly believe we should wake up and put a stop to this trend. Enough is indeed enough.

Markand Adhikari is Chairman and Managing Director of SAB Network.

(The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com)

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NCLAT reserves judgment in Google case

The tribunal has been hearing this case since February 15

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 11:43 AM   |   1 min read

google

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has reserved its judgment in the Google versus CCI case, say media reports.

The appellate body has been hearing this case since February 15.

Last week, the CCI informed NCLAT that the tech major was not a 'dominant' but 'super dominant' undertaking.

 

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Hoop Entertainment signs multi-show deal with Audible

Hoop Entertainment will produce 70 hours of original, multi-character, audio series content that will be exclusively distributed on Audible

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 21, 2023 11:32 AM   |   1 min read

Hoop

Audible, a creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, has signed an exclusive deal for 10-audio dramas with Nikhil Mirchandani’s Hoop Entertainment.

Hoop Entertainment will produce 70 hours of original, multi-character, audio series content, across mythology, drama, history, true crime and horror genres, creating a “theatre of the mind” experience that will be exclusively distributed on Audible.

The 10 new shows produced by Hoop will be available free for all listeners, exclusively on Audible.

Shailesh Sawlani, VP and Country Manager for India at Audible, said, "We are incredibly excited to collaborate with Hoop Entertainment to bring captivating content to all listeners for free on Audible. We are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to provide our listeners with best-in-class content, and Hoop Entertainment's expertise in producing audio dramas across a variety of genres perfectly aligns with our vision. We are confident our shared passion for storytelling will help us to continue to deliver an immersive experience for our listeners."

Nikhil Mirchandani, Founder, Hoop Entertainment, said, “We're thrilled at the opportunity to produce a multitude of audio series across genres for Audible. The stories, narrative, performances, and sound design will create a ‘theatre-of-the-mind’ experience. Audio is the next entertainment frontier, and our audiences are ready for complex storytelling and personalized audio experiences. We thank Audible for trusting & enabling us to explore this medium to the fullest.”

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