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OTT - The new El Dorado: Nailing the coffin on television?

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MUMBAI: With the industry buzz word for 2016 being ‘digital content,’ much has been spoken about the vista of prospects that the medium poses for content creators with figures and studies on rapidly growing digital adex often thrown around in the air. But how much of that talk is really translating into reality for those working in the ‘OTT’ or alternate video content business, was the question raised in the Indiantelevision.com organised Content Hub’s penultimate session ‘OTT: The New El Dorado.’

Panelists on board the discussion were Alt Digital CEO Nachiket Pantvaidya, Isobar India MD Shamsuddin Jasani, The Viral Fever founder and CEO Arunabh Kumar, Big Synergy director Anita Kaul Basu, and Arré CEO Ajay Chacko.

Just as the title reflects, while looking at the macro picture of digital media of the future, marketers and content creators often forget to ask the basic questions of budget, sustainable revenue models, relevance in future and of course the return on investments.

Throwing light on ground reality of the matter, each of the panelists shared their insights and experiences.

I Don’t Watch TV, the upcoming web series from Arré, and its equally disruptive trailer set the tone of the discussion, which was anchored by Indiantelevision.com founder, editor-in-chief and CEO Anil Wanvari.

Consciously steering away from being called an “OTT” platform, Chacko stated that their new venture was a content brand that believed in disruptive content. Elaborating on the reason, he said, “Digital, like every media transition we have seen in the past, gives you the opportunity to create different tone of content, be experimental and maybe give form to the next big cliché. The need of the hour is social relevance and we not only churn out radical content but also play around with it within the social context. While we crib or joke about the hackneyed television content and the people behind it, the truth is that it isn’t as much. It’s the hackneyed content revenue that compels them to act in a certain way and our effort is to break free from it,” Chacko shares.

Expanding on the business model of digital platforms, especially with respect to Arré’s on-demand content arm, Chacko confesses that he hails from a very traditional school of thought that Indian content market is ad-funded. “I don’t see an escape from dependency on advertisers even on digital. However, the nature in which a brand or advertisment interacts with content is changing. We are entering an era of the next level of branded content, which has been mastered by my fellow panelist Arunabh (of TVF fame),” Chacko adds.

Seconding the new form of branded content and possibilities that it brings for marketers, Jasani shares, “From what I have observed, Indian viewers are inherently inclined to not pay for content and that mindset is not changing in the near future. Therefore, ad-funded content is the way forward. The way people are going to consume video will primarily be on demand. It is an interesting crossroad for advertisers and marketers as well on how to use this new age content. Several brands are open to experimenting with branded content with content creators and even take ownership of the content marketing they do. Agencies, marketers and content creators are coming together to make branded content and share the IPs of it, as well as the revenue the property generates.”

Moving on from the tug of war between television and the second screen, Jasani projects a whole new dynamic in the near future when viewers will be screen agnostic. “A seamless flow of data and videos that is available on all my devices, be it television, laptop or mobile, is what people want in the near future. Therefore, the whole concept of creating for mobile or creating for television needs an overhaul and creators will need to think from a macro perspective.”

While Jasani paints an optimistic picture on the investment interest advertisers have in the digital content front, TVF’s Kumar begs to differ.

While taking a question raised in the post session Q&A round, Kumar comes clear on the ground reality of how an advertiser operating in the current landscape thinks of the digital medium as compared to the traditional medium platform for its advertising spends. “Let me be honest, people say digital spend is growing but that’s all lip-service. This is my observation over the last five years. The major advertisers end up striking a deal with a fancy agency and spend crores on TVCs, while their purses become tight when it comes to the digital video space. If brands were to spare even a single digital per cent of what they do on television, it will be a huge boost to the production budget and quality of what digital creators are making. But right now that is hardly happening.”

Continuing, Kumar further adds, “When we pitch a show to a brand, we have to make it clear that we are not going to make a TVC. We are not asking money for a 30 sec slot, the content for which you have created and paid for. We are actually going to make your brand an integral part of storytelling so that viewers become fans of the show as well as the brand. I believe that is cent per cent more than what a TVC can do for a brand.”

Jasani admits the challenge the digital believers have in hand is converting the old school thinkers to see the returns that digital content can give, but is equally confident that the change will follow, as the drastically changing content space will only compel the marketers to evolve or be left behind.

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