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Reality shows, tapping K-Pop, OTT content - How Banijay Asia is upping the game

Myntra has adopted a video content-led approach to customer engagement with the launch of Myntra Fashion Superstar. The online fashion portal has tied up with leader in the content space Banijay Asia and GroupM’s Wavemaker for the 8-part digital reality series. Fashion Superstar will see Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha and celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani don the role of judges. 

The show is going live on the Myntra app today (September 17, 2019). Zoom Studios has come on board as their media partner and will telecast the 8 episodes on television. The format of the show has been developed by Monia S Pinto, Banijay Asia team and Wavemaker team.

For Banijay Asia, which has produced the Fashion Superstar, this is its first venture into the reality series space. The production house has notched up an impressive performance since its inception around one and a half years ago. 

In conversation with Adgully, Deepak Dhar, Founder and CEO, Banijay Asia, speaks at length on the collaboration with Myntra and Wavemaker, creating content for OTT platforms and broadcasters, and much more.

How did the association with Myntra Fashion Superstar materialise?
This association is in keeping with the evolving times. We have been creating content for broadcasters and OTT platforms, but somewhere in our overall strategy – and this is something that I have wanted to do too – was the desire to create IP solutions for brands. This is how the idea germinated and we started talks with Myntra when they wanted to enter the content space. As you know, recently Myntra and Flipkart have forayed into the streaming ecosystem. This is a very organic place, where brands and entertainment have blurred lines on IP solutions. Brands want their own IP solutions and that is also an evolution; generally this is seen as branded content, but it isn’t branded content, it is IP created for brand solutions. Usually branded content is about the visibility of the product, which is completely created for the brand. 

Other than being telecast on Zoom TV, the series will be available on the Myntra App. When the user goes to pick up the next big thing from the fashion destination, they can also consume the content and buy from the platform. So, it is placed within the Myntra ecosystem and Myntra, Wavemaker and Banijay Asia have worked closely to create this content. 

What is Wavemaker’s role in the whole concept?
Myntra is a GroupM client, that’s where they come in to set the branding principles and governing philosophies, while we come in from the content side. 

Where did the idea for the series originate?
The idea came from Myntra and we collaborated together. It was something that was though their ecosystem that their fashion destination should also become a content destination. 

How did you zero in on Sonakshi Sinha as the judge?
We wanted to make this mass and not very niche lifestyle-ish. Sonakshi is a mass face, the ‘Dabangg’ face that really cuts across audiences. There are a lot of fashion icons or IPs that feature the classic models, divas, supermodels. Had we taken that route, then we would have been possibly playing in the same zone. Considering that this is for a mass fashion destination, we wanted a ‘mass superstar’. 

Who is the TG?
It is for my maasi in Nirad, this for my aunt in Jammu, for the girl next door, the kids in town who want to be fashionable – this show is really for them. Therefore, we really want this to go mass. We aren’t seeing this as one genre or a niche kind of a segment. 

How has Banijay Asia grown since it commenced its operations?
That’s a very emotional question. It was just 15-16 months ago that I stepped out on my entrepreneurial journey and it has been very exciting, to say the least, purely from the fact that all the broadcasters have embraced this little new studio. We have done shows for Hotstar, ZEE5, Netflix, Sony, Star and it’s been reassuring to say that people bet on the jockey rather than the horse. I’m saying it very humbly, that when we’re looking at the show, I need to connect to the man behind the show. It doesn’t matter if you’re making ‘Bigg Boss’ or ‘Fear Factor’ or ‘Masterchef’, I need to see what he brings to the table. People had trusted me when I was turning these little brands into monsters, so I have to trust them as well. You can have the best IP, format and franchise internationally, but if you don’t have the right guy working on it, then the joy is taken away and it starts reflecting on the show. 

What’s the way forward for Banijay Asia?
We have been very blessed by the fact that the content ecosystem has embraced us in the traditional broadcast space. We did a show called ‘Roar of the Lion’ with MS Dhoni, which was very different. I remember going to Mahi Bhai and he said why don’t we do this as a scripted show? We turned this upside down and said let’s do this as docu-drama, though we were not sure whether a docu-drama would work in the Indian ecosystem. But we had to try something different, because if we did this as a scripted show, it would seem as propaganda. The show did very well. 

We then did another show called ‘Hostages’. It was one of those shows that didn’t only do really well, but also went wide. OTT shows do really well, but something that gets seen by the wider audiences is the true test. The power of content is not only that it is converting the usual OTT audiences, that is, the youth, but also the new audiences. 

‘Hostages’ was adapted from an Israeli show. How did you adapt the show for the Indian audiences?
The complete credit goes to Sameer Nair at Applause and his team. It was his baby that I have been nursing on the ground. We just wanted to stick to the basics. We obviously adapted a few things, but have not really tampered around. So, from that perspective it has stuck to the principles of the format and we have just taken that forward. 

You have also tied up with Salman Khan Productions for ‘Nach Baliye’ and with Kapil Sharma for ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’. How did this happen?
I have known Salman Bhai for a very long time due to the fact that we had worked on ‘Bigg Boss’. So, when I stepped out on my own, he also wanted to step up his content studio in the TV and digital space. We got talking and put this entire blueprint and came together for this collaboration. ‘Nach Baliye’ has attained legacy status over the years, but needed a new avatar and we really wanted Salman Bhai to be the coach. We already have the captain and the players. He is really the master at getting people together. He came up with the idea of getting couples and ex-couples together on the dance floor and perform, keeping their personal differences aside. Both shows are doing very well. I constantly seek advice from Salman Bhai. It’s a very organic relationship. 

Of late, we are seeing a lot of Korean content in India. What will that impact content consumption space?
K-Pop is a big phenomenon. In fact, we are building a format along those lines as well. I think there is a huge onslaught of Korean, Israeli, and Turkish content, and these are the next hot pegs coming in. These markets also think like India – slightly dramatic, over the top, single TV household, most of the things are coming from that core DNA. Even Spanish content is very Bollywood-ish and so are Italian and South American content. 

Will you be collaborating with any of these shows going forward?
Yes, there are two Turkish shows that will get into pre-production very soon. We are getting into Korean drama as well.

As in a lot of sectors, are production houses also feeling the brunt of the economic slowdown?
I don’t think so. Earlier, there were 5 tabs for consuming content and now there 15. Broadcasters need to fill the slots; OTT platforms need to fill their slates, too, as they want one show per month. And 5-7 platforms are really the big ones and are consuming a lot of content. So, I’m not seeing a slowdown either currently or in the near future.

What does the future scenario for production houses look like? You had said that while the demand has increased, the supply has remained the same. How can the production houses meet this growing demand for content?
That is always going to be a challenge, given that there is so much demand. The only way to go about this scenario is to invest in the right talent and it is up to us as individual creators and content producers to invest in the new lot of talent. We have to build a new strength of the non-fiction army. And there are times when some bosses are reluctant to give a chance to absolutely raw talent. But we have to go to new people, guide them with our experience and give them a chance. It’s always a trial and error method. 

Are you saying that the buck stops now at production houses to evolve and get in more talent to meet the demand in the industry?
Absolutely! The onus lies at our end. We have to invest in talent. There is no other way out. We have to work with new people, give them a chance; we have to build a little runway for them to fly. Right now there are only around 20 great producers in the ecosystem, whereas there are over 30 OTT platforms.

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