We are converting Eros Now from a standalone service into a network: Ali Hussein
Eros Now recently entered into a strategic content partnership with NBCUniversal. Now, 2,000+ hours NBCUniversal content will be available on Eros Now via a separate subscription service called Eros Now Prime. Eros Now is NBCUniversal’s first and prominent partner in the South Asian market.
As of December 31, 2019, Eros Now has reported 26.2 billion base subscribers and 187 million registered users globally. A bulk of these users come from the Indian subcontinent and South Asia markets. Most of these audiences will access NBCUniversal’s content for the first time, making it a strong proposition for a SVOD play.
Last year, Eros Now brought Microsoft Azure as their Cloud Solutions Provider, inked a distribution deal with Samsung smartphones, and overhauled their entire payments interface that significantly improved their subscriber onboarding. More recently, the brand has refreshed their visual identity moving away from mnemonics and appeal to the consumer of the future as a clutter free brand.
After taking evolutionary steps on the technology and distribution front, the team at Eros Now has turned the focused towards their content play. Being the digital arm of Eros International, Eros Now has been blessed with a vast library of movie and original content. However, to succeed in the international SVOD market, the service is looking to expand its English offering to rope in the high value customers and boost ARPUs.
In an interaction with Adgully, Ali Hussein, CEO, Eros Now, speaks about the rationale behind launching Eros Now Prime, the developments that have happened at the company, and how they are tackling the COVID-19 impact.
What is the strategy behind launching another subscription service under the Eros Now brand?
When I was at Viacom18 back in 2008, the broadcast network had MTV channel catering to the youth and Colors catering to the GE audience. So, bringing those learnings to Eros Now, we plan to position ourselves as a mass entertainment service with many sub-brands catering to specific audiences. These sub-brands might be created from a language perspective.
Eros Now Prime will become our English language service and all our English language content from our strategic partners will be curated under one umbrella. We are converting brand Eros Now from a single standalone service to a network over a period of time. That’s the vision we have for the product.
For the first 6-9 months, we will make Eros Now Prime available at the price of Rs 49 per month to users, which is the same subscription price as our premium SVOD service. Over a period of time, by adding more content and as the service matures, we will leverage the marketing funnel to cultivate a separate audience for Eros Now Prime.
Right now, we’ve just announced the partnership and are gearing up for the launch in the coming months. For that, the backend and technology need to be ready to onboard the new titles. We will begin marketing the service in the second quarter of FY2021. We will be marketing Eros Now Prime as an al-a-carte offering under the Eros Now packaged service.
What is the demand for English content in the South Asian market?
Traditionally, because of limitations in distribution English language content has not enjoyed a mass reach in South Asia. In India, only 6-8 cities watch English language content, with South India leading consumption. Due to limitations in film distribution and satellite frequencies, English language content hasn’t got the length and breadth of coverage from a distribution perspective.
From an Eros Now perspective, being present in the top 6-8 cities is an advantageous position for us because consumers are there at the higher end of the disposable income and valuable in terms of ARPUs.
Going forward, we will look at dynamic subtitles and dubbing to make sure the content is available across languages spoken in the country. We want to grow the audience base for English language content in India over the long term and using technology to build that base has plenty of merit.
What has been the impact of COVID-19 on Eros Now?
On the consumer side, obviously the metrics have been very good. App Annie has shared an update on the surge in traffic for OTT players. While incumbents such as VOOT and ZEE5 have seen a growth of about 20 per cent, we’ve actually jumped about 70 per cent in daily users, according to App Annie. From our internal data, there has been an upsurge of 200 per cent in paid subscriptions in the last few weeks.
This surge in viewership can be attributed to our campaign ‘Stay Safe’, where Eros Now service was available for free for the first 2 months to subscribers who joined before March 31.
On the content side, we will have to become smart in the creation process. We are exploring an alternative for films, where we (Eros Now) will be the primary distribution channel (digital first screening).
In this new environment, people still need access to entertainment, so how do we gear up on the supply side to be able to deliver good quality, high budget theatrical films to the world? Digital first screening is an interesting trend that might pick up during this time.
New players are joining the SVOD category. Why make a subscription play when it is risky, investment intensive and hyper competitive?
Eros Now was one of the first players to enter the SVOD category. In the early days, a lot of players believed that Indian consumers will not pay for a VOD subscription product and that advertising was the only way to build revenue. It is interesting that these players have launched their own SVOD service since then. As the market has evolved that outlook has changed.
In my view, a paid subscription is the most direct way to understand the user’s affinity to a service since there’s a monthly price point attached to it. There are business models to understand net revenue generation and monetisation per consumer minute spent, but these metrics have been a lot more reliable in the SVOD business compared to AVOD. That’s why we believe that subscription is the core of any VOD business. However, advertising is important in maximising monetisation from the user.