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We must take India to the world: Sameer Nair

2020 has been the year of revolution for the entertainment industry. Be it from the huge transitions in the consumption trends or the direct to digital releases of various blockbusters, OTT has been the go-to entertainment option for audience worldwide. As the audience have acquired a fresh appetite for entertainment content, Indian streaming platforms have an opportunity to create more homegrown content and establish its relevance in the global grounds. 

Taking the idea forward, CII, the 125-year-old non-government, not-for-profit organization that engages with the top leaders of the industry to shape global, regional, and industry agendas, orchestrated a session with Mr Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause entertainment, on the topic, ‘Make in India, Show the World - Global appeal of Indian Content’. The session was a part of CII’s 9th Big Picture Summit which was hosted by Vanita Kohli Khandekar, veteran journalist and Author of 'The Indian Media Business & The Making of Star India'.

Sameer, at the session emphasized on the kind of content that resonates with the audience and how India, with its streaming platforms can find itself on the global map of the entertainment industry. Following are the excerpts from the session:

Content that Resonates with the Audience

It’s a huge market and it’s wrong to think that everything should be intellectual, disturbing or meaningful. You also want light-hearted stuff, sometimes you want to feel patriotic, and sometimes you want to feel goofy. Logically speaking, to use a television term, there is reach, so obviously a streaming platform will deliver reach, so if Netflix has got 197 million subscribers then technically and theoretically if you put something on Netflix, then 197 million homes can see it.

What comes up is discoverability as people still have got to find you, you have got to make content that genuinely resonates with different audiences, and then something that India still has some catching up to do is the discipline of making this. America has been doing this for 25 years, as the global age of television for them started with HBO. We have just come into the zone where we have just started making our Wire and House of Cards. I think what we have to do is to improve the quality of our production, writing, hardwork and discipline that goes into it, then we’ll do it. We are being exposed to this sort of content and Indians are known to be fast learners. For Indian content to be truly global, it will have to be more than just the reach as just because the content has reach doesn’t necessarily mean that the content has reach. 

Parameters of Success

The streaming platforms do not directly share the numbers but there are a few really interesting things that I have come across over the course of time. One is the number of existing subscribers who came on to see the show, the next is how many of them have finished watching the show and the last one would be the number of new audiences that have come on the platform specially to watch the show. You take these three parameters and compare them with the spends on the show and marketing is when you know how successful the show is. In the modern streaming world, much more than it was for television, the math is right there in front of you. 

Taking India to The World

We must take India to the world. There is never going to be as good of an opportunity as now. Bollywood has done a lot of it but they have taken a certain version of India to the world. They have taken parallel cinema to the newer India and the songs, festivals and dance to the rest of India. There is an opportunity now with the streamers to take the real India, the newer India to the world. 

The change in demographics, double income families and higher disposable incomes with an amalgamation with low-cost mobile data (@INR 18.5 per GB versus INR 600 globally) have led the Indian consumer from a ‘free-only’ to a ‘paid subscriber’.  This has further prodded the media giants from across the world to line up advertisement-free subscription services – whether it is in music, emails or newspapers. Throwing light on this imperative transition, CII, put together a session titled ‘The Indian Consumer in the Digital Subscription World’. The panellists on the session included Mr Yogesh Manwani, Marketing & Revenue Head, Applause Entertainment, Mr Akshat Harbola, Head – Market Strategy and Operations Spotify India, and Mr Issac John, APAC Digital head, Discovery India. 

Yogesh Manwani, Marketing & Revenue Head, Applause Entertainment, at the session highlighted the importance of investment in the premium content and the future of entertainment industry. Following are the excerpts from the session:

Growth in the Entertainment Appetite

The pandemic has accelerated the inevitable which is that a large community of consumers who were possibly sitting on the fence adopted the digital life and while they did that, we witnessed a colossal growth in the streaming universe. What helped at that time, is the wide depth of content available for the consumers, to keep them engaged. At Applause, we follow a 12-18-month development cycle, so we have launched about 9 shows across various platforms over a course of 9 months. The challenge for the streaming platforms is to engage these audiences and prevent churn. 

Change in Consumer Behavior

The consumers are here to stay but the demand has really accelerated. The question is to how to serve these consumers which is where investment in premium quality content and a wide variety of content comes in. Everyone is cognizant of the change is the streaming platforms are rising up to the challenge and a lot of premium content is already out there. A show that we recently released, Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, is a great example of something like this. It came at a point in time when the space was proliferated with crime thrillers and without a single bullet being fired in the entire show or without even showcasing a gruesome murder in the same, the show caught the fancy and the length and breadth of the entire country. All streaming services are realising the need and I think we have seen a definite change in the kind of content that is being served to people. This is a mass of niches and streaming platforms are catering to all kinds of taste clusters. We ourselves, at Applause are not only producing thrillers but also comedies, and dramadies, so whether it is a Criminal Justice, a Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, Call my Agent, Luther or Fauda, we are seeing all kinds of content and different kinds of tastes.

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