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“The line between social and digital video are blurring very fast”: Saket Saurabh

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MUMBAI: From the most imaginative chefs to awe-inspiring musicians, from comics who find humour in almost everything to discerning fashionistas who are on the top of trends, from celebrities to the kid next door, there is one talent based digital entertainment network which is home to everyone.

Here we are talking about #fame, a part of ‘TO THE NEW Ventures’, an end-to-end digital services network specialising in ‘SMACK’ services - social, mobile analytics, content and knowledge.

The essence of the business is to work with emerging and established talents and create digital content and communities with them. Creating exclusively digital content with emerging established talents, #fame focuses on a few strategic genres which include food, fashion, music and comedy.

As part of indiantelevision.com’s ‘Content Hub’ series, we will also feature content creators in the digital space.

According to #fame CEO Saket Saurabh, video is the new text and talent is the most powerful currency in the digital age. “We are in two businesses, one in the talent business and number two in the content business. With talent, our value addition is that we help the talent create, curate, promote, distribute and monetise content. We deliver audiences world class digital entertainment which is not available elsewhere in any other platform where they can engage.”

How does #fame pick up talent? From talent management programs to partnership and crowd-sourced platforms, #fame has done it all. The digital entertainment network has multiple strategies of picking up talent. It has its own talent management program and process through which it discovers across digital platforms with the help of its team and analytics to identify the talent which it believes has the potential to grow.

Secondly, it also works with a number of platforms. It works with one of the crowd sourcing platform called Blogmint, a blogger market place which has close to 4,000 bloggers registered on it across areas like food, fashion, technology space and etc.

In terms of the content creation process, the company is a mix of in-house and production houses network. “It is no different. It is very much like how a television network functions. We create some of the content in-house and rest we work with production houses. At the end it depends on the genre, format and category,” reasons Saurabh.

While today characters on television become famous and house-hold names, does digital have that power to create powerful characters? “Absolutely,” comes a quick reply from Saurabh. He believes that digital is a very intimate medium and the way audiences can connect and engage with talent on digital; it can never be matched by any other medium. Citing few examples, recently the network launched a new channel in the food space with Maria Goretti who is a well-established VJ and Comedy Kid of #fame with Saloni who won a comedy reality show - Chhote Miyan. “So these are already established people in their own space and they see great power in digital,” he says.

The company has worked with a number of emerging talents as well. There is a great comedian - Sikandar Sidhu who has a huge following already in a span of just two-three weeks. “People can now comment, like, dislike and that is what the talent wants: instant feedback and that kind of engagement.”

One of the visions that Saurabh had when he launched #fame was that he wanted to reach out to 50,000 content creators in the subsequent three years and have over 5,000 channels in six countries. “In digital, the medium allows content creators and networks like ours to reach out to important niches within alternatives and cater to specific interests. We want to be Asia’s premier talent led digital entertainment network. We are working towards achieving that,” he says.

Youth being a fickle audience and with a short attention span, what is #fame’s strategy to keep them engaged? Saurabh believes that the video durations have to be economical because digital consumption most of the times is happening on mobile and people are consuming content no matter where they are. “And in that kind of consumption context, it is important that you provide content to a consumer which is easy to sample and enjoy it. That is why duration cannot be long.”

On an average the duration of the video clip ranges from 3 - 5 minutes depending on what kind of content it delivers. He says that the beauty of digital is that it allows audiences to sample byte sized content.

However, Saurabh feels there are challenges in everything. But more than a challenge, he calls it a good problem. According to him the good problem is that digital video will be the biggest rival of digital in general going forward. “I often say that video is the new text. Any kind of digital content will increasingly use video as its language. The fact that digital video will be the driver and one of the fastest growing segments within digital it is fairly clear.”

He is confident that growth is definitely going to be there in terms of usage, brands realising the power of digital video, users and communities. “I think the good problem is that while there is complete consensus on the fact that this is the biggest growth opportunity media has seen in the last two years, not all partners or stakeholders agree to the speed of that growth. Sometimes, this makes things slower than it should because people have different views on how fast it will grow. However, no one doubts the fact that it is going to grow. I think that poses some challenge for us and for the entire industry.”

Today digital represents 10-12 per cent of advertising. The fact is that digital will be the driver medium. People are coming up with the digital first plan where digital meets the idea or brands vision and television or print ads surround it. “Those things have started to happen. There are brands, partners and talents who have understood that but obviously different people move at different speed.”

Today, digital is too large and diversified to talk about at one go. He feels that we need to talk about social and digital video differently. According to him, digital is not one medium anymore and one needs to talk about it in a focused and calm manner.

He feels that social is increasingly becoming the video leg and the lines between social and digital are blurring very fast and that’s where the biggest opportunity lies. As per statistics, digital video content has been the fastest growing segment in digital in the last four years. It grew at 56 per cent CAGR whereas social grew at 45 per cent.

How does #fame work with brands? The company works with them on what they call - Impact properties. Recently the company announced the property of School of Style with Karan Johar for fashion vertical. For its music vertical, the company partnered with Pritam for Web Singer. “Lot of Impact properties that we call as tent poles attract a lot of attention from brands.” The company is also involved in branded content where it helps to create digital video content. It also works with brands for channel management where #fame manages its digital video assets. According to a media analyst, the company’s substantial portion of revenue comes from brands.

Moreover, the digital entertainment network makes inventory revenues on digital video platforms and generates revenue through syndication partners who work with revenue shares with the company. “We also monetise content in terms of what we do with the talent. If there is a talent whom the brand wants to reach out to or an opportunity arises, we create monetisation through that,” concludes Saurabh.

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