Content creators discuss the challenge of acquiring and maintaining OTT audiences at Vidnet 2019

The creative community indulged into addressing all aspects of creating a compelling story.


MUMBAI: The fourth edition of the Indiantelevision.com’s Vidnet had a successful run of the marquee “Creators Track”, on the first day of the two-day-long video and content conclave that wrapped up on Thursday in Mumbai. The track had some of the finest creators, writers, and directors from the OTT world speaking on many important topics like how to write good stories and how to make them travel beyond national boundaries.

The day-long conference was opened by Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor Anil Wanvari and some of the speakers by an auspicious lamp lighting ceremony. 

Following which, Wanvari in his opening remarks said, “India’s video ecosystem had never been so exciting in the last two decades. Similar excitement was seen during the satellite boom period in the early 90s. With OTT today, a similar phenomenon is happening where lot of Bollywood professionals are making content for OTT just as how the industry created content for satellite channels . I believe that the content boom has still not hit India and we are at the beginning of content boom on OTT platforms. With OTT coming into the picture, there will be more opportunities for content creators in our country.”

The first panel discussion of the day was around “Unlocking a Story’s Potential” between Zee Studio Originals VP creative and head Ashima Avasthi, MX Player chief content officer Gautam Talwar, BBC Studios business head Sameer Gogate and Vista India CEO Rajiv Raghunathan. The session was moderated by Bodhitree Multimedia co-founder and director Mautik Tolia.

Discussing the importance of localisation, synopses, subtitling, dubbing, and visuals in helping subscribers discover and enjoy stories they love, the panel emphasised on ways to aggregate content on OTT.

Raghunathan said, “OTT is the most exciting thing that happened to us. The platforms are evolving every day. Some OTT players have identified certain niche segment which is working well for them while other players are still figuring out what will work for them.”

Avasthi noted that there can’t be a better time for content makers than today. Sharing her strategy for the OTT platform she said, “The mantra is to look into the stories and develop something which has strong character. The stories or content does well is only because of the character. Audiences tend to forget story or plot of the show but they remember the characters which they like. So, we focus on stories which are very character-centric. Even on OTT, the advantage is that we are able to bring our created characters to the larger audience.”

The panelists also spoke about the initiatives taken by them towards localised content. They discussed how, with OTT, catering to specific TG has become easy and focused. They also informed that acceptance of fiction format has also taken up in our country via OTT platforms.

Next panel discussion, “Empowering the Creative Vision” had Friday Filmworks head-digital content and IP Devendra Deshpande, Yoodlee Films producer and Saregama India VP films and TV Siddharth Anand Kumar, and Ellipses Entertainment managing partner Tanuj Garg, in discussion with moderator Film Companion’s Sucharita Tyagi, discussing how streaming platforms are backing storytellers in translating their vision on the screen. They elaborated on the key role the platforms play in identifying and promoting content that resonates with the audience.

Next up was another panel discussion on “The New Creators’ Breed” between TVF global head-business & content Rahul Sarangi, Swastik Productions and One Life Studios producer and managing director Rahul Kumar Tewary, BToS Productions partner and independent director Angshuman Ghosh, Monozygotic Solutions co-founder Rajiv Laxman, WPP national business head-motion content group India, and Rose Audio Visuals Pvt Ltd director Goldie Behl, moderated by WWM Content Studio VP Vidyut Patra. The panelists shared their thoughts on how the new-age creators are transforming the way Indian audiences consume content.

They elaborated that OTT platforms are chasing content creators for two reasons; one is to acquire and retain users on their platforms in the best way through content, and second there are no such parameters to measure success on the platform and that is the reason why they invest so much money. They also understood that due to the geographical and demographic masses of the country the platforms are willing to go to much length for finding the new creators.

The panelists agreed that this is the best time for the content creators, as now they can try whatever they want. Later it can be a bit difficult as very soon the platforms will figure out what’s working for them.

This session was followed by an insightful panel discussion on “Making Indian Stories Travel”, in which the speakers talked about the processes—both creative and technical—which can take Indian content to foreign screens. Sitting on the panel were MUBI India content advisor and producer Guneet Monga, creator, director, and writer Richie Mehta, and Red Chillies Entertainment producer and chief revenue officer Gaurav Verma. The discussion was moderated by BookMyShow VP content and strategy Monisha Singh Katial.

To make Indian content travel around the world, the panelists said that subtitles and dubbing of the content in different languages is important. Apart from this, they also noted that appealing stories and subjects play an important role in reaching to the wider audiences across the world. The panelists agreed that the only way to dazzle audiences on OTT platform is through content and script.

The proceedings of the day were taken ahead by a fascinating panel discussion on the topic of “Redefining Storytelling with Technology” between Endemol Shine India CEO Abhishek Rege, SonyLIV SVP and head-original content and partnerships Amogh Dusad, and Monozygotic Solutions co-founder Raghu Ram. Moderating the panel was TVFPlay head Vinay Pillai.

The moderator began the discussion by giving a background on how technologies are helping content to evolve. The panel gave an understanding that technology has helped in two ways, one is in the making of content and the other is in translating that content to the consumers. The panelists also informed that technology has not influenced the way of storytelling but it has definitely influenced the way content is consumed.

The discussion was followed by a “Deep Dive with Pocket Aces” on how to build and run a successful media tech company between Pocket Aces founders Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita, and moderator Hungama Digital Media Entertainment VP Soumini Sridhara Paul. The founders of the company threw light on the inception of the company in 2014 and its journey. They shared their experience of early days’ challenges faced by startups.

The day continued post-lunch with a panel discussion on the very interesting topic of “Creating Binge-worthy Content”. On the panel were MX Player CEO Karan Bedi, House of Cheer founder and CEO Raj Nayak, Vikatan Group managing director B Srinivasan, and Viniyard Films founder Ashvini Yardi. Moderating the panel was Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari.

The panelists shared their individual perspectives on what makes content binge-worthy. The panelists said that it is important to hook the audiences for the first five minutes, and last seven minutes. They also informed that efforts to hook the audience on AVoD are more than SVoD as the former has more migrating audiences.

Next item on the list was a panel discussion on “India’s New-age Writers” between writers Ameya Sarda, Suhani Kanwar, Sagar Haveli, and moderator Tulsea content & creatives Samabesh Das. The panelists being the first generation writers of this golden age of OTT platforms find themselves being bogged down by the huge responsibility that comes with being a content creator. The trio also believes that on OTT there is a challenge to create content in more interesting and better ways to hook the audience. Another challenge which they highlighted is to execute the demands coming every now and then.

The day was concluded by “Conversation with Creators” section, in which teams from ‘Afsos’ and ‘Bard Of Blood’ talked to the moderators about the whole creative and technical process of creating the series.

First in was Afsos co-creators Anirban Dasgupta and Dibya Chatterjee in conversation with OML managing partner Gunjan Arya, who shared their experience from being writers to show-runners.

The day was concluded by Bard Of Blood author & creator Bilal Siddiqi and director Ribhu Dasgupta talking about creating this exquisite thriller with The Story Ink founder and chief storyteller Sidharth Jain. The duo shared their experience on making of show for the first time on the OTT platform. Bard of Blood is Red Chillies’ first show for Netflix while Emran Hashmi and Dasgupta debut on OTT platform as an actor and director respectively. 

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