Content creators should aim to super-serve passionate communities: Karan Bajaj

While AVOD remains the primary source of monetisation for the OTT players in the country, the SVOD and Freemium models are seeing traction, largely on the back of compelling original content. Other traditional media player have been close to successful in creating viable business models for themselves, digital hasn’t welcomed it yet. 

Consumers, today, see no significant divide between digital and traditional media: what they want is more flexibility, freedom and convenience in when and how they consume their preferred content. The new digital offerings have created a bigger, more diverse content universe, where digital has accelerated delivery across platforms. But are content producers and distributors equipped with the right tools to navigate these changing times? 

Super-serving a passionate community: Karan Bajaj 

According to Karan Bajaj, Senior VP and General Manager, Discovery Communications, the currency that we are using on digital today is mostly from subscribers and downloads. However, we aren’t talking about revenues that much. He added, “Apple just committed a billion dollar investment in content in 2018 – this is the trend we have right now in content creation.” 

Comparing India and the US, Bajaj said that while almost every digital publisher in the US gets 59 per cent of the population to pay for the content, in India, that number would be around 3 per cent. “Every content publisher that has published their result this year has missed the target by a couple of million dollars. Thus, while there is a lot of investment on the cost side, the numbers are very rare. Where do you even out then? That’s the question we asked at Discovery when we came into India, where there was a lot of pressure to launch an OTT platform and so on,” he added. 

He further mentioned that there are already two models existing, where there are aggregators and where there is a lot of media attention. As a result of being aggregators, they have to do the most expensive television content and that’s the kind of noise happening in the market out there. The other model which is very interesting is ‘a niche passionate community’. Bajaj elaborated on this by citing an example. He said, “One digital brand that has been making money in the US is an American college wrestling programme. It aggregates all the content of college wrestling. So, if you are passionate about that, you know that that’s the destination to get all the things. They have a million subscribers and they made it a very profitable model by charging $200 a month because it super-serves a very passionate niche community who loves that content so much that they are ready to invest their pay for it. In India, the fastest growing channel on YouTube is a Gujarati comedy channel. So, if you like Gujarati comedy, that’s the only destination where you get that kind of content. This in the long term may give the aggregator certain amount of scale, but cannot create a very financially viable model.” 

Continuing further, he said, “When I look at Discovery in the last year, the bet that we took was not going the aggregator way but adopting a passionate consumer model, and with this insight we launched Veer last month. I would be happy even if only a few consumers know about Veer, but they would be the ones who are passionate about all things military. That’s where I get the less cost optimum model in order to create viability. Super-serving a passionate community and not making large scale as your goal, but instead aiming for an optimum level of scale, helps create a viable model and that’s where the focus should be.” 

Bajaj noted that the niche communities are still filling the white space out there with food, fashion, technology, military, etc. “But the question that I would ask is – are there any passionate communities that you are in a position to super serve?” he asked. 

Propagating Vice in the long term: Hosi Simon 

Hosi Simon, CEO - APAC, Vice Media, is someone who has been stressing on digital media and storytelling for a long time. He has full faith on the younger generation, who are ready to take India forward, ready to take risks and change the country’s dynamics. 

Exuding confidence in India, Simon affirmed, “We think of India as a huge audience and a very important commercial and cultural opportunity.” So much so that Vice Media is all geared to launch a full service agency – Vice India – in the first week of April this year. 

Simon terms the soon-to-be-launched agency as a youth media company that will fulfil the multicultural demands of India by imbibing a digital studio to a creative set up. “Vice is here for the long term,” he affirmed, adding, “We are not here to rebuild ourselves, but to do something different and break the barriers to change opinions. I want my teammates to be challenged, we are a company based on efforts. We became the voice for the Gen Z population and that’s how we became successful in the rest of the world. The goal is to replicate the same in India, but with twists and changes.” 

Speaking about Vice Media’s performance across the world, he said that the agency has been producing 50 per cent of local content in 28 languages. 

Simon further said, “We had a paid partnership with HBO to get into TV. We look at television is as a medium to create great IPs and content which we can take to different countries and monetise globally. All we care about is the story and it belongs to only who finds it.” 

Karan Bajaj and Hosi Simon were keynote speakers at the FICCI Frames 2018.


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