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Ullu to continue making edgy content: Vibhu Agarwal

Agarwal addressed the VidNet 2022 Summit.

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Mumbai: OTT platform Ullu, launched in 2018, will not move away from creating edgy adult content, said founder Vibhu Agarwal at an event held recently. Instead, Agarwal has launched a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) ‘Atrangii’ accompanied by a catch-up OTT platform to cater to the family audience.

“When I entered the OTT space, I sought to create content that is fresh. All OTT platforms were creating the same kind of content, whether it is a suspense or a thriller. As a businessman, I wanted to enter a white space that no one has addressed before,” said Vibhu Agarwal.

The platform had found itself on the wrong side of public opinion after it was accused of featuring ‘edgy’ and ‘sleazy’ content to its audiences. It was reported that Agarwal was moving away from creating edgy adult content with a Ullu 2.0 strategy after the ministry of information and broadcasting introduced The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Agarwal said, “We have built a certain audience and subscription base, based on the kind of content that ULLU makes. The content is not wrong because there are people watching it. We’ve offered a buffet of shows including horror, suspense, thriller and brought many good actors into the ecosystem with shows like ‘Tandoor,’ ‘Peshawar,’ ‘Cyanide’ and others.”

“That’s why we are launching our second OTT platform and entering the GEC space that’s going to bring both live and catch-up content for audiences,” he added. “The content on this platform will be separate from ULLU and will be more in line with GEC content. This will not be a ‘saas-bahu’ style GEC because again we’re looking at an unaddressed white space. Instead, the channel will feature limited series that will focus on the quality of content.”

Agarwal said that the ministry of information and broadcasting has been open minded when it comes to the kind of content served by OTT players. “The IT Rules that came out on 24 February 2021 don’t bar OTTs from showcasing any kind of content. They have only asked for the classification of content where OTT platforms should showcase a disclaimer on the nature of content that they are showing. They have also mandated the creation of a self-regulatory body for addressing grievances when it comes to content on OTT platforms.”

The pandemic led to an increase in content consumption on OTT platforms. Agarwal observed that the three-month release slate of OTT platforms was condensed to 15-25 days to cater to the demand for content. ULLU platform itself ensured to release a new web original at least once or twice a week. Going forward, he stated that the platform has a plan to release up to three originals per week.

Agarwal predicts that, while regional OTT platforms are subscription-driven businesses right now, they will all switch to an advertising-led model due to the intense competition in the OTT space. “When you speak about investing in regional content, most national OTT platforms are only investing in South content because they are able to monetise it easily. I believe that regional OTT platforms that serve content in languages such as Gujarati, Punjabi, Haryanvi, Bhojpuri etc. will have to become advertising video-on-demand platforms. Only the global players with deep pockets will be able to remain subscription-driven. Most Indian owned platforms will have to shift to an AVOD model whether they cater to Hindi-speaking audiences or any other regional language.”

"Ullu content will be distributed in international markets as well but not via the app," stated Agarwal. “There is a large international Indian audience that would like to watch our content which is dubbed in English. The problem is to activate payment gateways in international markets. The viewership and subscription outside of India is limited because of few payment options. Also, most of our consumption occurs on mobile platforms, whereas in the US and UK mobile data is not as cheap. Audiences there watch content on devices such as Roku that are more popular. That’s why we are planning to distribute our content via local agencies.”

Agarwal noted that 80 per cent of OTT platforms don’t pay enough attention to technology which is the biggest enabler of OTT user experience. “The app should be user friendly and every feature should work," he said.

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