Monika Shergill,

The Brand Reporter - - COVERSTORY -

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.

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