content head, Viacom18 Digital Ventures (Voot)
On the challenges
Finding good scriptwriters is one the biggest challenges for anyone making content in the OTT space. So far, it has been a very TV-style of writing. In cinema, though, we are more experimental.
Television broadcasters are gunning for the same bunch of writers who have delivered successful shows. The pool is much larger in TV, but on OTT it is still early days. The kind of writers we are looking at are a mix of film writers and those doing a very different kind of writing.
On finding the right writer
There is no blanket rule that TV scriptwriters cannot write for OTT or that only a particular kind of person can write for OTT. It is actually about people who want to tell different stories differently. OTT allows you to take ideas which can go into multi-season format. A film doesn’t allow you that. The dynamics of TV is different. In OTT, every episode in an 8-10-part series has to be a standalone part and yet keep you rolling from one episode to other for binge watching and then - from season to season - you have to surprise people. So, every subject finds its own writers.
On attracting viewers
Hooking viewers has been critical from the beginning. But we are already seeing a huge glut because, as Indians, we follow international content also. In other countries, international content is second priority. Indians like to catch up with TV content on our platforms, but when it comes to streaming originals, everyone wants to consume international content, though there is a desire to watch quality originals. There is a huge market as, with deeper penetration, more and more people are converting to digital.
Content comes in many forms. It could be cinema, TV, streaming, ads, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or YouTube. Every medium has a short- or long-form content. Therefore, the fight for eyeballs is that much greater.
According to a study by Netflix (a year-and-ahalf ago), it takes consumers (globally) between three and five episodes to get hooked. However, getting consumers hooked on to Indian originals is far lesser. The real challenge for us comes from the fact that they patiently spend more time on platforms like Netflix - even watching boring episodes - thinking something good will come.
On generating engaging content
In the Indian context, at Voot, we are mindful of everything that we create. It is important to give consumers value as soon as possible - in the form of storytelling.
You have to make sure that the consumer gets value in your first episode itself rather than waiting for the third or fourth episode to get hooked on to a series. Television is not at all faster than OTT when it comes to hooking the audience. There are many TV shows that flop for three months, six months, but then see a turnaround. But that’s because, in TV, there is an opportunity to iterate. You see the ratings week on week and are able to iterate and change the nature of the show by making, for instance, a generation leap when the story isn’t working.
In streaming you can’t do that because you are scripting and believing in whatever you are doing and making it for a binge watch. And because of that, you have a lot of skin in the game upfront. There is no option to iterate, even in subsequent seasons.