‘Regional content in OTT space has been lacking’

Nirvana Digital CEO Pinakin Thakkar and Co-founder Manu Kaushish talk about their plans to launch Original productions and an OTT app

Nirvana

In the last few years, India has witnessed a decent growth of OTT platforms and most of them have been launched by large media networks. Viewers are now spending more time on streaming media than on TV. However, the availability of regional content has been lacking.

As per industry data, most of the regional content is confined to TV audience, usually from the older age group. A recent PwC report has pegged India’s OTT video space to grow at 23 per cent compound annual growth rate, and revenue from these services to touch Rs 5,595 crore by 2022. It was Rs 2,019 crore in 2017.

With focus on regional content, digital video company Nirvana Digital has come up with plans to launch Original productions and an OTT app this year. The firm aims to leverage its network of YouTubers to develop regional content for the young, internet-savvy audiences. Nirvana Digital currently runs a YouTube network that serves over 7 billion minutes of video per month.

Nirvana Digital has worked with leading publishers like Apple iTUNES, Spotify and Netflix. 

In a chat with exchange4media, Pinakin Thakkar, CEO of Nirvana Digital, and Manu Kaushish, Co-founder of Nirvana Digital, spoke about creating a space for itself, the competition in the OTT space, the revenue model and more. 

On the company’s plans to expand regional content reach and the markets it is aiming for, Kaushish said: “In January 2018, we were serving about 1 billion minutes of video on YouTube. In January 2019, we served 7 billion minutes. This 600 per cent growth in 12 months came from traffic and viewers from India - and a major chunk of that was from views on regional content. We have signed deals with regional content players in regional languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Punjabi to boost our content base since we know that our viewers are thirsty for this content. We are being constantly approached by new content owners who want us to build their presence and eventually include their content into our OTT verticals.

Nirvana aims to carve its place in the highly competitive market, said Kaushish. “We own and operate some very strong properties on YouTube in different genres, including Spiritual, Kids, Bollywood News, Films and Music, that we have developed over the years. We have already amassed over 50 million subscribers on these YouTube properties and we feel we can serve our global audiences better by offering dedicated, focused and curate OTT apps for each property or vertical.”

On creating a user base, Kaushish said, “One of the major cost centres in an OTT app is marketing to establish a brand and creating a user base. We believe that by leveraging our existing subscriber base, we have a major advantage above other players and this can help accelerate our user base quicker than most other platforms. Also, profitability is easier to achieve by greatly subsidising marketing costs.”

Sharing the revenue model plan, Thakkar said, “We will offer a freemium model where the base service will be monetised through advertising and sponsorships. The user will have the ability to choose to pay for access to an-ad free version that will offer more premium content. For verticals like Spiritual, we are speaking with service providers for offering bundles to their user base - as it is a win-win for the user, service provider and us.”

“The initial focus will be content from India as we believe that with more and more consumers getting access to data, consumption of our content will skyrocket, and we aim to make our brands leaders in each vertical that we launch. However, we are looking at taking some higher performing international content and dubbing it into regional languages for consumption in India,” Thakkar added.

The OTT platform will be tentatively launched in the third quarter of this financial year with spiritual content. 
Regarding the controversy over online censorship and if it impacts the quality of content, Thakkar said, “Self-regulation, in my opinion, is a great idea and a sign of the industry coming together and being responsible. If the story is strong enough, the content will work with our without the controversial parts - and I believe that the platforms and content creators will use their best judgement to determine if the controversial part is integral to the screenplay or if the essence of the story can be narrated without it. I don't feel that the quality of content will be affected by this.”

When asked about consolidation happening in the OTT space in the next few years and if they were open to such a situation if the need arises, Kaushish said: “New industries start out fragmented and they consolidate as they mature. I believe that there will be a lot of consolidation over the next few years in the media space as that is the only way to create a greater market share from a fragmented market. Since we are one of the dominant companies in the YouTube space and larger media companies see the value of our existing subscribers, reach and owned & operated properties. We are already being approached for consolidation. If the right structure presents itself to enable us to lead in the OTT space with a strong partner, we are open to such situations.”

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