I never expected such a response- the dialogue about the various perspectives of the OTT platforms has hitherto received loads of loveable feedback. Overwhelmed by those comments am glad to pursue this second part of the discussion
Anup: No, if you have to say that my brand stands for the following, what are those brand traits that you would say are?
Manish: The heart of it is good story telling. I think that’s the fundamental where we start with, whether we license films, whether we create our own content, or we commission stories. But that’s where it really begins, the heart of it is a good story, and then we’ll find the right consumer for it.
Anup: And Monica, as far as Netflix is concerned, what comes to our mind are of course, as I mentioned in the beginning, those bold and liberal stories that you have pioneered. But somewhere down the line, is Netflix perceived to be a very urban, premium brand? Because, what comes to my mind, from the truly great content that you have, are those like Decoupled, Fame Game, Loop Lapeta, Chandigarh ki Aashiqui (which is about a transgender). So, are you consciously constructing an image that you are a premium, urban brand, though you have recently gone mass in terms of your pricing?
Monica: I want to add to what Manish said here, as streaming platform the entire focus, and at the core of everything is great story telling. And Netflix, world over is about best in class entertainment, and also best in class experience. So, I think for Netflix, it is great story telling with a great audience experience, and the way we deliver that. So, I think, we really value giving a good experience to the audience, that it is a very premium experience, but in terms of the offer that we give, we are broad. We are in the journey of expanding our slate.
We came into India as an international service. The only service with a wide global catalogue, stories from every part of the world, and best stories in all formats, in all languages that we came with- but I think in the last two years, we have been very consciously and consistently programming to become more and more local. I think from being more local in Hindi, now we are on this journey of being more local in all regional language content, especially to mapping more great stories from the south. We are on this journey. So, to put it short, we value giving a premium experience, but in terms of our offers, we really want to cater to every kind of audience out there. The audience have different tastes. Like Sameer said, it took television thirty years to reach this kind of a business, this scale of business.
I feel aside of the business, it took all formats, all mediums of entertainment a certain journey of slow growth in terms of audience taste and experimentations. What streaming has really done? Many of you might have watched something on Friday nights, Saturday nights, through the week, every piece of content or story that you have seen from any part of the country or globe is changing you every single day.. So, I think, that entertainment on streaming is really revolutionising our tastes. That’s the heart of all streaming platforms, I speak for all of us here. That is what we do, day in and day out to really come with the best stories, the most unique and differentiated stories and experiences, to really evolve the taste.
Anup: How rooted is your content strategy Monica?
Monica: I think its extremely rooted Anup, because if I talk about the recent months where we are expanding our slate, the kind of content that we are programming as originals, I mean if we can have a Suryavanshi, a Minnal Murali, a Jagame thanthiram, a Navarasa, and we can have a Kapil Sharma, a Shyam Singha Roy, all of these stories really speak to the diversities that we want to programme to, the different sets of audiences, the different tastes, and at the end of the day, the excitement is about finding great story, that can really entertain the larger set of audiences, and we will be rooted because we shoot across the country, stories are set in different parts of the country, and we are expanding in languages.
So, and of course, there is always scope to get more and more rooted. So, we are on that journey.
Anup: Ok, this is one question that I’ve always wanted to ask you. In Meenakshi Sundareshwar, the setting was in Tamilnadu, but you had Hindi actors. Any specific reason for that?
Monica: Great question again Anup, you have caught me on the wrong foot here. It was a wonderful story, it did extremely well for the audiences, but yes- it was cast with North Indian actors, probably it could have done better on authenticity and it was programmed so. We loved the story and meant for the Hindi audience. We wanted to show the south culture to the Hindi audience also. The beauty of that culture, the characters and we wanted to make it in Hindi language, and the creators were very keen to show the beauty of Tamil culture to the north Indian audience and that’s how the genesis of that story happened. But like I said, we are here in a very committed way to do very authentic stories from south India in all the languages. So, I think that’s where we are right now.
Anup: Gaurav, you have a large captive male audience. And if I look at your specials, like November Story, all of that have a certain kind of, a steer towards specific audience. Is it consciously done? Or, are you going to change your brand identity?
Gaurav: I would like to stress upon one thing that my fellow panellist has already said. I think we are at the start of a massive revolution. All of us are working together, and we really need to build more partnerships, particularly in the south, where we haven’t sort of got to the basic minimum threshold. But we are all deeply excited to do that. On your specific question, I don’t think any of us think of our audiences as captive. The audiences are really, really hard to please as they should be, and therefore deeply demanding of great stories, and wonderful moments that they can remember. So, I think we are all in a journey to please them, entertain them, tell them something that is surprising and new.
Having said that, I think you are also mentioning what you are saying because of the scale of Disney plus Hotstar. We are really proud of the scale we have. Yes, a lot of it are male audience- because a large part of the internet journey in India so far is empowered by the mobile phones ( used by men in majority). But there is a very very strong and very big female audience as well. I think all of us want to be creating content, and definitely us, for all across the spectrum. So, we want to be creating stories for men, women, and children. The specific shows that you are mentioning, I think we have seen this in all the hit shows that we’ve had so far, they tend to get watched a lot by men, and women. So, I don’t know if there is so much of data that tells us of skews on good stories. And if I could mention just one amazing story – it’s RRR. It’s just amazing on every audience.
So, I think all of us are trying to create stories like that. Of course, every once in a while, you find a great script which is, let’s say, incredibly amazing on action. That’s probably likely to have a male skew. And if the story telling is really exciting, yes, we would do that too. You mentioned some of our shows, but if I might, I wish to talk about another show on ours which has done really, really well, Arya. It received an Emmy nomination as well. And, it’s a female led show, which is about a woman doing all that she can, to save her family. That worked very well, got us a lot of critical acclaim, but was also watched immensely on our platform. So, whether it is Arya on one end, and Anupama on the other, or November story for that matter, there is a lot of story telling that we are doing which is gritty, has family drama elements which are incredibly strong, and romance as well. So, that’s the way we are thinking about our slate.
Anup: Actually, linear television caters largely to women, and for men there is actually no vehicle to meet their entertainment needs. So, ideally even in linear there is a space where content is curated and created only for men. If you remember in a meeting, Mr.Uday Shankar mentioned if there is a space that is untapped, it is largely for men. Anyway, I just wanted to ask a question, which even if I avoid asking you, somebody from the audience would ask. How dependent are you, in your current subscriber base, on IPL? And, will you be aggressive in the bidding?
Gaurav: I think we have a massive offering. We pertain to about 18000 hours of content on Disney plus Hotstar just from our linear tv network. We would have in the last twelve months had about eighty titles, which are movies and original shows we have made for Disney plus Hotstar. Of course, we have a lot of cricket, and I think all of that together is the strength of content platform that we have. The IPL is of course immensely successful, and I believe that Disney plus Hotstar and Star network have made it more so in the last five years. So, yes, that’s a great piece of content. But it’s a portfolio of amazing stories that we have and IPL is one of them. So, we are here building what we believe is an incredibly strong media business that has been a towering presence in India for the last 22 years. It starts with KBC, and Kyunki Saasb hi kabhi bahu thi, and continues till today, with Arya and Special Ops and Rudra. So, I think there is a lot here, that we believe are creating every day. Hotstar, as a streaming platform is an idea started in India and has been created and built every day, by engineers, by story tellers, by marketeers in India and has now gone global. In other markets, Disney has taken this up and that is something we are immensely proud of. That has been built brick by brick, so many magic bricks there, and yes IPL is one of them.
Anup: So, you’re saying you will be aggressive?
Gaurav: Yeah, we will play it well.
And this portion of branding their content and compartmentalising them with an identity tag attached is interesting and as well nails the choice of content every platform hits at.
There’s a lot more to discuss – What are they about?
Let’s wait for the third part of this article next week
Article is authored by Anup Chandrasekharan.