Content JAM: The production of originals doesn't come cheap: Sunil Lulla, Balaji Telefilms
Group CEO, Balaji Telefilms Ltd in a fireside chat about everything OTT, content-marketing, ALT Balaji’s master-marketing and what branded content means to him
For a long time now, content creators have been preparing for content-on-the-go and for an audience that wants it now. How have newer forms of technology changed this conversation? At exchange4media's annual content-marketing conference - Content JAM, Sunil Lulla, Group CEO, Balaji Telefilms Ltd. spoke candidly to exchange4media’s Associate Editor, Naziya Alvi Rahman, about everything OTT and content-marketing, right from spilling the beans on ALTBalaji’s master-marketing to what branded content means to him.
At the heart of ALTBalaji’s content-marketing strategy, decoded Lulla is, “entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.”
“You create something which is acceptable to the audience. If you put profit as an objective, you’ll never make it. Entertainment is at the heart of it all and profit is just a by-product of it. I believe that the purpose of content and creating it is audiences," opined Lulla.
Lulla said he sees TV content reaching a level of maturity. “So is cinema. The OTT space is a reflection of how you create content for individual consumption. And there the focus is on a huge amount of subscription money.” He spoke about how Indians are not in a habit of paying for their content. “For 30 years, we have been watching cable at a very, very cheap price. It is now that people are learning that there is content that I can get only if I pay. The market number which would be within 2 billion needs to go to triple digit,” said the CEO.
He explained that for him content is very personal. “Content viewing at home is very ambient. You may be watching it with a friend or by yourself, you may download it and watch it. A movie you may watch on an OTT platform but it is a catch-up. For OTT content, my focus is on what is original created for the OTT space.”
Speaking about the OTT originals, he exclaimed, “Content has always been original. So the buzz has been as continuous as the content created. We have created the most original content in the past one year. And it doesn’t come cheap. This is not about money. It is about engagement, entertainment and empowerment. It takes passion and it takes cash. If you spend good cash behind a good plot and good story, the same cash comes back to you.”
Lulla shared that to the brand while the larger reminder medium is print and outdoor is good to try and convert people, digital targeting remains an imperative part of the brand’s strategy. “How do consumers get to know about us? It is because we targeted them in the right fashion. By putting a hoarding out there, I’m not necessarily going to attract their attention. You start by catching these people in social and digital environments. Then you use the audio-visual content. And then it goes on to the reminder medium. While television is good to convert people through the habit who have not seen the content, the digital space allows you to look for people who are looking for that very content and target them,” he said.
When commenting on branded content and ads, he said, “I prefer not to do branding on the content. On occasions, when we have done ads, it’s not about money but about what the marketer can drive to the marketing objective. A content creator is there to sell the idea and not the product,” contended Lulla.
Sharing a content-marketing case-study of another brand that he likes he said, "I like James Bond the best because I think it started with two brands actually and now has a portfolio of nine brands and you still don’t believe that it’s overwhelming.”
“We don’t see content-marketing as something merely to get a return out of. We see it as serving a larger objective which is to get people engaged, entertained and empowered," he continued.
Asserting on whether the term ‘content marketing’ need to be streamlined or redefined, Lulla said, “When content is created and if it’s created for the right kind of audience, you will market the content to the right kind of audience. The definition of it should be on the way you want to market it."
Advising on content for the OTT space, Lulla said that industry players are all evolving and learning about what people would actually like to see. "If you’re a responsible player, you won’t stretch the limit of people’s fantasies and will still play within the context of the usually acceptable. Let’s not get excited by a kiss or show of skin, it’s not really relevant. In television, you kind of neuter the stories. For the OTT space you can stretch it beyond as it is an evolving market but know the differences."
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