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Epic TV launches OTT, sets million subs target

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MUMBAI: Aditya Pitte modestly says he does not have much experience in mainstream television. But, the lead distributor of Patanjali’s products loves to listen and learn, and play catch-up quickly. Over the years, he has been doing a lot of listening. And, learning and doing well at the TV business.

So much so that he took over Sanskar TV, ran it for around five years, turned it around, before handing it over to Swami Ramdev in 2015. Encouraged, he launched another spiritual channel Shubh TV a couple of years ago. And then, the big plunge into the mainstream came in September 2016 when Anand Mahindra told him to head Epic Television, which he and Mukesh Ambani had floated with former Disney India CEO Mahesh Samat. Ambani was exiting, and Mahindra told him to take charge as managing director.

He hired fresh talent, rejigged the programming and relaunched Epic as an infotainment channel with newer edgier programming. The tactic seems to be working, as the new Epic Channel has been striking a chord with audiences, and has seen its share among its demographic rising. However, what’s keeping him occupied is the launch of the channel’s app on 14 August. Launched with both, iOS and Android versions, it is available on both the iTunes and Google Play stores and has been getting traction with more than 100,000 downloads till date.

Epic On is available as a free and paid version. In its free version, it offers selective shows, the first episode of all shows, and an exclusive seven day catch up window of series such as Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik, Raja Rasoi Aur Andaaz, Umeed India and Indipedia. Subscription fees have been pegged at Rs 60 for a month and Rs 500 for a year. The international sticker prices have been kept at $1.99 a month and $19.99 a year.

“We believe that consumers today value quality content and are willing to subscribe to platforms which consistently deliver premium original content that is different in its offerings from the normal fare being dished out en-masse,” says Epic Channel programming head Akul Tripathi. “This trend in consumer behaviour is only going to strengthen; creating a robust foundation for platforms committed towards consistent quality programming.”

Epic On has close to 500 hours of content on launch which is constantly being expanded daily. Tripathi says a lot of thought has gone into the user interface (UI) to allow for intuitive specific cross searches between genres and content types. Also, content has been bunched into addictive and suggestive groups to provide users with the kind of content they prefer to view. The app also has a download feature for fans who can download their favourite shows and watch these on the go.

The core of the Epic On OTT solution was created by Bangalore-based Saranyu Technologies while a digital team is being put together inhouse for updates.

Pittie is looking at a million-strong subscriber base in the next 12 months across the globe with a focus on India, Australia, Singapore, followed by Canada, the US and the UK.

The target audience: the new digital millennials. Explains Tripathi: “The early adopter for the app would be the Epic fans who have long appreciated our content and are eager to access it on demand for catching up on missed episodes and to earmark their favourite ones for repeated watching. Moving forward, we believe that anyone who wishes to know and experience India in an engrossing and interactive manner will definitely engage with the app.”

And, one of the routes the 30-something Pittie is taking to help get to that million-mark is signing up with telcos everywhere to make Epic On easily accessible to their subscribers. “We have some way to go,” he says. “But I am reasonably happy with the results which can only get better from here. Step by step.”

It’s this optimistic outlook which could well end up taking Epic On into the fast lane.

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