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How Eros Now plans to reach 50 mn subscribers by 2023

It intends to become a national and a regional brand at the same time.

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MUMBAI: OTT platform Eros Now caused a hubbub in the industry last week, when it unveiled its plan to roll out 46 new titles in 2021. The revamped content slate comprises 33 film premieres and 13 original series, produced by and starring some of the most talented individuals in the Indian film fraternity. Couple of these shows have already started launching on the platform.

In tune with the maxim 'go big or go home', Eros Now has set its sights on acquiring 50 million subscribers by 2023. The streaming service also has interesting "content and experiences" in store for its Indian audience in the upcoming year.

Original content slate

The original films part of the 2021 content slate are Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Roam Rome Main, The Last Rave, and Switch, among others. Original series include Pyaar, Salt City, Metro Park 2,754, The Swap, Flipkart and 7 Kadam among others. The titles will feature artists like Siddiqui, Vikrant Massey, Rajkummar Rao, Akshaye Khanna, Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sadh, Dulquer Salmaan, Mahesh Manjrekar, Rituparna Sengupta, Mammootty, Sonali Kulkarni, Rohini Hattangadi, and others.

Eros Now is targeting to become both a national and a regional brand at the same time. The company is planning to release minimum one and sometimes two originals per month over a 12 month term. With this move, Eros intends to drive higher impact and higher reach for its original and have deeper quality narrative and better performances from the talent. Eros Now chief executive officer Ali Hussein quipped that they believe in spending more time in the writer's room, script, post-production, casting and quality of content.

Marketing and promotions

Each film and original will have a unique promotional plan. Most of the shows will be available dubbed in different regional languages. Hussein disclosed that initially most of the dubbing was done manually but now the team is working on backend technology where he is piloting something with dynamic subtitle. The platform will debut this process by the end of the month, where technology will automatically pick up the script supposedly in Hindi and convert it into English and then convert it into local languages in subtitles. In 2021, the company is looking at a technology that will convert the subtitles to computer generated voice – an automated dubbing. Version one of this technology will be launched before the end of 2020. A partnership with NBC is also being worked out.

Focus on actors rather than A-listers

One of the things that Eros Now is enforcing as a culture is moving away from A-list celebrity driven content to more narrative or story driven content. There is a clear change seen in consumer preferences on OTT platforms with more regional content being sampled, said Hussein. “There will be a larger investment in terms of content and then we will build the business over a period, it is about a four-six quarters phenomenon.”

Key takeaways from Covid2019

The Covid2019-induced lockdown was the first major moment when the country saw an increase in video-on-demand content with home viewership increasing almost three times. Eros Now, too, witnessed 3X growth in large scale viewing. Hussein reveals that the company is more conducive to in-home viewing. He added, “One of the most encouraging factors was looking at in-home viewing because that kind of implies two real factors, first being less churn on m-o-m basis metric, and second is additional amount of time spent.” A large part of the new subscribers are coming from tier-3 and 4 cities in India and they’re interested in watching original content in their native tongue, which has led the platform to announce the addition of 46 new titles in eight languages for 2021.

Subscriber base and growth rate

In the half-year ended 30 September 2020, Eros Now increased its paid subscriber base by 6.9 million, to a total of 36.2 million. The company is banking on this new content slate to further deepen user engagement and reinforce the platform’s growth. The company targets to be at 50 million subscribers in the next 18-24 months or by March 2023.  “We are also looking not just at overall subscriber matrix looking at various slices and dices in avenues like what’s the growth coming from the devices side in tier 3 and tier 4, what is our growth in large screen viewership, we are high lightly focused on two major announcements coming on in the international market in upcoming weeks of what are we doing in developed markets like US and UK and developing markets like Africa and South East Asia,” detailed Hussein.

Pre-production and direct OTT release

The Eros Now CEO shared that his partnership with Epic revealed that a lot of production work including graphics is happening real time on a game engine. So, leveraging technology for post-production is Hussein’s key focus.

The OTT platform, along with its parent's theatrical arm, has invested $1 billion in content creation over the last five years and will continue investing, he asserted. Apart from digital expansion, from the studio perspective Eros will be aggressively looking at content slate in the first quarter. Comparing his shows with other streaming giants in the market, Hussein said that the company is not just looking at thriller dramas but also at romance comedy and regional content, where it sees a significant amount of growth coming from.

With the surge in Covid cases in the US and Europe, there is a lot of news in the international market as well about direct OTT release. In the meantime, he is trying to get a sense of how international movies like Tenet and Wonder Woman are performing and what is the overall consumer sentiment before releasing movies directly on the OTT platform.

Technological advancements and bundle deals

Hussein revealed that Eros is in talks with NBC regarding a partnership; it’s also working closely with Microsoft to launch new backend technology. “The platform has got delayed hence we pushed back the launch of the English language service, which will now happen in Q1 of 2021. So, once the service gets launched very similar to consumer psychographic, there will be different segments, you can either choose to watch a particular genre or you can opt for a bundle. Obviously, they all will be housed under larger Eros Now filters but larger vision is to have micro-bundles. It will be based on both language and genre.”

Changing regulatory landscape

When asked about online content being brought under the MIB’s ambit, Hussein said the OTT platforms were governed by the IT Act earlier as well and hoped for the effective implementation of the newly introduced changes in 2021. From a business side, Eros is not jumping into any assumption about what can happen and what will happen. When the IAMAI along with other digital organisations came up with a self-regulatory code last year, he considered it a progressive step to give responsibility back to the content creators and streaming platforms. He pointed out that the I&B ministry has a good understanding that their audience is not the same as on television.

Importance of partnership and collaboration

Eros Now has partnered with Apple+ and has scaled it to four markets including the US, the UK, Canada and India. The platform will soon be introduced on Apple+. It has also partnered with YouTube Music, for a special first-time user plan of Rs 99 for three months. This was a situation where two services were bundled together strategically. Hussein opined, “In the times to come, on the distribution side, whether it is two brands competing or collaborating to create a customer value proposition is one aspect; another aspect of partnership is going to work with mobile, telcos, distribution partners around the world, and how we scale the consumers.

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