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What factors drive content commissioning decision of OTT platforms?

Consumers always stay at the centre of any decision

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MUMBAI: From the later part of 2017, streaming players have delivered many “blockbuster originals”. Social media chatters, peer groups, office rooms see numerous discussions on premium content available on ZEE5, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Voot , MX Player and so on. But what are the key factors that help OTT platforms to wisely craft their content library?

In the last two years, a plethora of content was churned out by over-the-top (OTT) players in the country. Despite high investment in production, and marketing, not every show could create a buzz like Sacred Games, Inside Edge, The Family Man, Mirzapur, Karenjit Kaur, Rangbaaz, Thinkistaan. With a curiosity to find the secret sauce of this success, Indiantelevision.com spoke to experts on what are the prime factors they focus on while content commissioning as well as licensing. However, it was evident from the discussions that one simple factor stays at the centre of it – user taste and preference.

ZEE5 India programming head Aparna Acharekar says data is the first benchmark and the decision starts with that, and ends with that. She reaffirms that data is the new oil that runs the entire industry. According to her, whether it is acquisition or buying, filters will have to be the same. The process has changed massively compared to one or two years back. A lot of their earlier commissioning was based on the overall knowledge of what consumers in OTT like.

“Depending upon who I have on the platform, who I want to be on my platform, which is that most valuable group that I want to cultivate, acquisition also happens, commissioning happens, green lighting of original projects happen. Everything is guided by that one. Finally who we do this for, the consumer, the demand that is fuelling the supply,” she adds.

Amazon Prime Video India content director and head Vijay Subramaniam says the decision of content commissioning starts with the customer, understanding her tastes and preferences, looking at how its evolving and what meaning the platform makes of it. Accord to him another input is diversity as India has multiple communities, several micro cultures. Hence, he adds it's important to recognise the nuanced changes between all of these communities and be able to tell stories that matter to all. He also says that it's important to respect diversity of individuals as well.

“What do Indians care about? We know they care about movies. And so then they care about the latest and the greatest movies. It's important to be able to provide that to our customers, you know, young adults care about comedies, making selection there. So I think all this comes from an innate understanding of customers preferences towards content, also looking at everything else that's available to them, and where are the open spaces where there is a need and that is unfulfilled,” he states.

“User is going to be at centre of this. Product, marketing, tech, content revolves around him. Either it can get me a lot of new users which are not there on my platform today or to my existing audiences it will drive higher views,” VOOT AVoD business head Akash Banerji comments.

After announcing Q3 result, ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka said that the network would continue to invest in original content for ZEE5 to create a rich content library that will make it a compelling offering for consumers. Recently, Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings said that the online video streaming company is investing Rs 3,000 crore in 2019 and 2020 to create more original content from India. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos also recently revealed his intention to double down the investment for the company's streaming service, Prime Video.  Moreover, Times Internet-owned OTT platform MX Player also announced recently a $110 million (INR 775 crore) funding round from Tencent and its parent entity. Hence, it is strongly clear that both homegrown and international players will be churning more premium quality content in the coming years.

“Content commissioning takes a lot of time but you have to really look at who the show is being made for. We are overall a very consumer and customer-centric company,” MX Player chief content officer Gautam Talwar says.

Talwar points out another important fact. “We also look at, are we overindexed or under for a certain genre? So we have to look at what is the balance required per genre,” he adds.

Acharekar notes another clichéd but important factor. Content strategy is derived from business strategy. So what is the business need, how will the platform get more subscriptions? It’s not about getting accolades for content. But it’s about what is that content able to get for the platform as a business.

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