“If OTT players offer a unique proposition, all of them can co-exist:” Debashish Ghosh

ditto TV - India’s first OTT venture owned by media mogul Subhash Chandra - is all set to thrust forward in the space with a strong focus on innovation and fresh content. The OTT player has launched its international operations and will soon have content from across the globe. 


In conversation with Indiantelevision.com’s Anirban Roy Choudhury, ditto TV CEO Debashish Ghosh shares his vision and thoughts on the emerging OTT market in India. Prepared to take on international players entering the market, he says that Zee Entertainment Enterprises does not believe in loss making business propositions. Every business under the conglomerate is financially independent. The emerging market not only has the potential to grow rapidly but also offers ample scope for innovation.





Is India ready for OTT platforms? How is the market shaping up?


The Indian market is surely getting ready for OTT. The only challenge that Indian OTT players face is that of bandwidth. The cost of data be it mobile or cable is high. For an average Indian to shell out Rs 2000 individually to have internet on their mobile is still a challenge. Yes, things are improving and it’s but natural that penetration will increase. Statistically, we are going over the US when it comes to penetration of the Internet.


We at ditto TV are cognizant of the bandwidth condition in the country from the very beginning. Hence, we are not a platform that only works on 3G or Wi-Fi. ditto TV also works on 2G, WAP as well as on feature phones. The OTT market in India is growing and has great growth opportunity. The infrastructure will get better and data will become cheaper as we go along. The growth of OTT will also be interconnected with the new set of consumers that are coming in. Anybody born post 1990s and is above 25 years old doesn’t really watch TV today. They watch all their content on the digital platform.


Which revenue model will sustain in the long run for OTT players in India and which model will ditto TV follow?


I don’t believe any one model will work. It has to be a hybrid scenario. Advertising revenue for at least next three - five years is not the proposition that will be sufficient to offset the cost, so if the business strategy is to incur huge losses then going with the advertising platform is okay. We don’t believe in such loss making propositions. We believe in that whatever business we do, must pay for itself and that’s the reason why we follow the subscription model. I think we are one of the two players, who follow a subscription revenue model. World over the subscription based revenue model is something that’s proven to be sustainable and I don’t see that changing in India.


What kind of advertising can OTT platforms offer? What is the advertiser’s overview on the platform?


If today India is paying for TV that means they are paying for content. The way digital platforms have progressed in this country, creates a challenge. So far the advertising model was working but we all know that it’s stagnating now. Display advertising by its own nature isn’t attractive anymore on digital for brands. As digital is a measurable medium, people over the platform want to target a specific audience and hence the funda of mass roll-out does not work here. That’s why a proposition like native advertising is coming in and innovations like brand solutions, integrated marketing and most importantly proposition like highly targeted advertising will work. Now when a brand wants to advertise, they won’t say “I want ‘X’ GRP” or “‘X’ circulation of a medium,” but will instead say “I want to target 1 million Male, who are aged between 24-32 and are interested in sports.”


BARC is scheduled to release data for all screens which will also include screens that OTT caters to. Do you feel we have enough data to provide brands with a platform for targeted advertising?


Even if BARC provides data for all screens, it will still remain a sample based proposition.


On the other hand, publishers today have the capacity to roll out empirical data. We can give empirical data of the number of people watching our content, how they are watching it, how much time they are spending and how many of them are coming back. Based on this data, we can target specifically. That infrastructure is a function of technology and technology exists today. There are many data management companies like Lotame and Bluberry, which are in play today. So it is possible to fulfil advertisers’ demand and those who can fulfil this will remain in play or get premium CPM for their inventory. The growth will come from targeted advertising. But I believe that India is a market where if the content is original, attractive and effective, people will pay for it.


What’s your take on the current content on OTT platforms? What will be ditto TV’s content strategy and what kind of content is likely to work?


Largely, OTT players today are going for pre-produced TV content, which is easily available. At the same time, brands, freelancers and MCNs are also creating a lot of original content. ditto TV has also invested in creating original content. We launched a music show, which is exclusively for digital and then we are also moving towards producing a whole lot of original shows in different genres like humor, horror, short series and short movies etc. This is sharable content that resonates with consumers, which is not necessarily long. 


I believe that the debate between long and short show is a wrong one. Content is what is important. If the content has quality, short will also work. We can take example from Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya, which got more than two million views in three days. So if the content has quality, it will fly. We make so many long movies but how many do we actually remember at the end of the day?


Do you think an ‘only original’ content strategy is monetarily sustainable at this stage?


Creating content cannot be the only strategy. Producing content is also a strategy. One must have all sorts of content including original content. You cannot drive something only on the basis of original content. Let’s face the reality, TV content is still attractive and liked by the mass so there is no point in saying that we will only create original content and dump TV.


Also if you create content, you have to find different ways of monetizing it and that’s where syndication comes in. If you are stuck to a particular model, it’s highly unlikely that you will recover money. Also, the more the content is watched, the more relevant it becomes. House of Cards, Game of Thrones and Orange Is The New Black are examples that we already seen.


Do you feel post the 4G launch, there will be more mobile consumption?


I am keenly waiting for 4G to roll out. But I believe that content will be consumed on both mobile as well as broadband devices. Expecting someone to watch content full day standing on one leg is a little too much as entertainment is not only about content quality but also experience. So group viewing will continue but at the same time when someone is travelling, instead of missing the content because they are in transit, they will watch it on mobile devices, which they wouldn’t be able to do if OTT wasn’t present. In my opinionm consumption is never a ‘or’ but is always an ‘and’ proposition.


Do you feel that the launch of global OTT players Netflix and HOOQ can pose a threat to existing Indian OOT platforms?


India is a very big market and there is scope for everybody to play, provided you are unique. Whether you are ditto TV, HOOQ, Netflix or Hotstar, your USP should be clear to the consumers. The consumer is fickle, so if these players bring in a unique proposition in terms of content and entertainment, all of them will reside simultaneously.


However, in the long run, there will be players who will survive and those who will perish. The platform offering the best holistic experience will survive and hence OTT players will have to keep innovating and setting benchmarks.


Was ditto TV’s new TVC with the tagline ‘Who watches TV alone?’ launched with the aim of taking a dig at Hotstar’s ‘Go Solo’ campaign?


If you don’t go only by the last line, with this campaign what we are actually trying to convey is that television viewing is a collective experience. Initially when TV came to India, it used to be a community viewing. We all used to go to the neighbour’s place and watch Mahabharat. I believe that has not changed significantly because it’s entertainment at the end of the day.


Entertainment is consumed with people one cares for and that’s what we wanted to communicate. In today’s world, where cultures are shifting, people are moving out of their families, nuclear families are mushrooming but relationships do not change. So if people have separated due to circumstances, they don’t need to change their habit of watching TV together. That’s why we showcased mother - daughter, fiancé, brother and sister as well as friends in our campaign. This campaign was executed after research and has nothing to do with Hotstar or its campaign.


With the campaign, was the aim to reach a particular milestone in terms of downloads? What is ditto TV’s subscriber base at this stage?


Downloads mean nothing to us. Ideally, download should mean nothing to everybody. It is just an eyewash. Being a subscription based platform, we analyse ourselves on the basis of the number of active subscribers we have and our target is always to enhance the subscriber base, not the downloads.


We have 1.5 million monthly paid subscriber base out of which most of them are based in India. We have just launched our international operations and have around 20,000 international subscribers. We believe that international operations will play a big role in our growth in terms of monetisation. 


What is the roadmap ahead for ditto TV?


Our goal is to have a worldwide presence with a versatile range of content, which includes both regional as well as international content. We will keep innovating and offering people an exquisite experience. We will make subscription easy and have a wide range of packs, which will make people pay for what they want.


A Bengali has no necessity of a South Indian pack and vice versa, so we will make sure that channels are not forced on to consumers. We allow users to download shows and watch them at their leisure. So overall, we will keep innovating and I believe that’s something that the OTT sector also needs to do non–stop.


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