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Saregama Yoodlee Films’ Siddharth Anand Kumar on digital content strategy, theatrical releases & more

The company is also signing deals with other OTT platforms.

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MUMBAI: Saregama’s Yoodlee Films is betting big on content-driven films by collaborating with over-the-top (OTT) platforms. While the production house is streaming six of its films on Netflix, it has also struck a deal with another leading platform, Hotstar. Yoodlee Films VP films and television Siddharth Anand Kumar also hinted that deals with other OTT platforms are also being signed now. However, the content studio is firm on its policy to retain the IP of films to build a large catalogue.

Kumar also added that although Yoodlee Films releases theatrical films as well, half the films produced eventually make it to the digital platform. While in the last two and a half years Yoodlee has produced 15 films, this year it has released Hamid and Music Teacher as of now. Another 10 films are the pipeline for 2019.

“I think the emergence of OTT has really been a boon for small filmmakers like Yoodlee who are making non-star driven films and with time they have managed to make a successful audience for themselves,” he commented.

Back in 2017, music banner Saregama ventured into film production through Yoodlee Films. Targeting the 18-30 age group, the banner promised to cater to the inherent need of the audience to watch strong thematic content. Standing with biggest music IP in the country, it is looking at strengthening position in film industry taking the advantage of digital economy.

Kumar highlighted that India’s theatrical system is broken with a very low per capita penetration of theatres, which does not allow word-of-mouth publicity to ensure footfalls. A theatrical success depends on inorganic push including stars, scale and marketing, which smaller films can't afford.  He also added that getting correct theatre timings is another hurdle for the success of small content-driven films.

“Organic pull happens in the case of OTT. You watch a film, recommend it to someone from your peer group and they recommend it to someone else. The film isn't getting pulled off unlike in the theatres,” he added.

The other advantage OTT has is the ability to analyse viewer habits and improve strategy based on the data. Yoodlee has one film lined up for this year which revolves around how north-eastern people face racism even in their own country. Kumar contends that such a film will not get an audience at the theatre but can be targeted on OTT to those who watch films on racism, social problems, etc.

 “When we make a film, we show it to all our partners including distributors, theatre chains, OTT platforms and cable and satellite platforms. We speculate is the best way to put the film out, who the people are who will help us make good money out of it and how we can maximise the reach,” he said.

While dealing with other OTT platforms, the aim is to retain the IP. Instead, it involves a licensing agreement where the OTT platform agrees to license Yoodlee’s films. This ensures future monetisation capabilities through a large film bank.

“We put a lot of effort into determining what kind of film we should make and studying the kind of audiences that existing on each platform. We have our own methodology of determining who the consumers on platforms are. Netflix has slightly urban metropolitan city people while Hotstar has a wide audience. There are various platforms and they are all trying to catch a certain audience. So when a film comes to us, we try to determine who will be fit for that particular programming,” Kumar said.

Kumar optimistically emphasised that the future of original digital films is promising and inevitable because everyone is heading to the culture of convenience whether it is dating, shopping or entertainment. He signed off saying that the increasing uptake of smart TVs is also going to bring a big change in content consumption.

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