Content Hub 2021: How OTTs met the burgeoning demand for content in 2020

The three-day mega event was organised virtually from 28 to 30 July.


Mumbai: Any talk of content in a post-pandemic world is incomplete without deliberating on the impact it has had on the OTT industry and vice versa.

The fifth edition of the ‘Content Hub 2021 - TV, Film, Digital Video, and Beyond’ organised by Indiantelevision.com brought together the heads of three of the country’s leading OTT platforms - Viacom 18 Digital Ventures, COO - Gourav Rakshit, ZEE5 India, chief business officer - Manish Kalra, and SonyLIV, head of originals - Saugata Mukherjee - and renowned content producers - BBC Studios India’s general manager (production), Sameer Gogate and Juggernaut Productions’ COO (OTT), Samar Khan, to throw light on the evolving phenomenon. Kurate Digital Consulting, founding partner, Uday Sodhi moderated the discussion.

The impact of the pandemic on the OTT industry is not lost on anyone. As the lockdown-induced demand for new content skyrocketed, people were motivated to sample OTT platforms. As a result, the evolution of consumers in terms of OTT adoption which would have otherwise taken at least a couple of years to happen, transpired within the course of a few months.

The more noteworthy aspect of it, however, was that people were now willing to pay for content. According to industry experts, this marked a huge milestone as far as consumer behaviour is concerned, more so in the Indian market which was hitherto believed to be largely AVOD-driven for OTT players.

Viacom’s Gourav Rakshit called it the second “tipping moment” for the industry, next only to cheap data. The development was extremely positive, but it came along with a big challenge of retaining consumers by providing them new, relevant and engaging content, which meant bringing quick and drastic changes in content strategies. The growth in consumer appetite for content was thus accompanied by a proportional rise in the risk-taking ability of OTT players.

“If we didn’t genuinely think that everyone is just a mouse-click away from joining OTT, we would have never put a property like Bigg Boss on digital alone,” asserted Rakshit.

“Despite the production troubles and scarcity of right content, the demand gave us the confidence to take big bets. For the first time we decided to bring a blockbuster like Radhe on TVOD. Although we were quite sceptical of TVOD as a model and about Indians paying for a one-time rental, the results were pleasantly surprising. 30 per cent of our Radhe consumption happened on TVOD. In the process, we kind of ‘forcefully’ moved our content strategy to movies and regional,” added Kalra.

SonyLIV’s Saugata Mukherjee agreed that the pandemic was a huge learning curve for the industry, and the changes (VOD consumption, consumer willingness to pay, OTT movies, and long-format shows) affected by it are here to stay. “Starting out with half-a-million subscribers on 18 June, today we have crossed six million. The pandemic has really expedited OTT adoption, and we have managed to keep pace with it by dropping new shows every month despite the difficult production scenario. There have been a few good shows like ‘Maharani’ and we also had ‘Scam’ walking away with all the glory. Both were well received across segments, signifying that the right kind of story will have takers everywhere.”

With the requirement of content growing every day, content producers found themselves in a tough position having to deal with the challenge of coming up with fresh story ideas at a mind boggling rate. “So many stories were being told that it became quite challenging for us to find the next big idea. Moreover, with every success the bar kept getting higher,” stated Juggernaut Productions’ Samar Khan.

Gogate of BBC Studios shared a slightly different perspective. “While I don’t think there is scarcity of ideas and talent, the way we tell stories needs constant reinventing. This effectively means that the ‘premiumness’ of content in terms of writing and making, not the cost, has to get better. The second big challenge is to keep resetting the mix in accordance with the predicted demand scenario for at least six months hence. The game has become far more dynamic than what it used to be,” added Gogate.

Talking about how the content mix on their respective platforms is changing, Kalra’s shares an interesting finding from ZEE5’s research which reveals that viewers look at OTT as a ‘buffet’. “What people watch at any given point of time is a function of their mood, and hence it is important for us to cater to all taste clusters,” he said.

As regards the ‘buffet menu’, the panelists agreed that there is currently an overdose of ‘high-concept’ and crime shows on OTT platforms making them slightly metro and male-skewed. There’s not enough content to service the staggering demand for tentpole premium dramas suited for family viewing. Both Gogate and Khan shared the opinion that comedy, being a difficult genre, is most underserviced at present.

Crystal gazing at the next 18 months, Kalra remarked that, “already 65 per cent of our consumption is happening on connected TV, so most of the demand is going to come from the family-viewing space. Big-screen viewing, tier two and three audiences, and regional content will be on the rise.” As believers in the potential of regional content, Rakshit and Mukherjee also agreed that the authentic and relevant stories and characters that they are looking for will come from the tier two and three, regional markets.

“Regional scripted as a genre hasn’t taken off yet, but there is a lot of work happening on it. It could well be the next frontier in the coming six to eight months. Regional markets have a lot of talent and stories, but they are essentially individual-driven. If we can get the discipline of the big companies to percolate into these markets through collaborations, things will change overnight,” said Gogate. 

Coming to the big question around the comparative demand for series and films and whether OTT theatricals can become a phenomenon, trends so far have shown that the demand for series is far higher. However, with an exception of Samar Khan who believes that the direct-to-digital release wave was a function of theatres remaining closed and a significant chunk of the audience will go back to them when the situation normalises, others on the panel were more hopeful about it.

Contending that “movie-making and film distribution will not be the same again”, SonyLIV’s Mukherjee noted, “While theatres will always be around, there’s going to be some demarcation as far as the medium is concerned. A lot of scripts which didn’t find a theatre or platform to showcase will possibly come to OTT. This, in itself, is a big market opening up. Theatrical experience will become somewhat limited to the slightly bigger spectacle movies, with the more midlist category films looking for a direct-to-digital release.”

Mukherjee and Gogate also held that being quite a young industry, the ‘OTT movie making’ grammar is still evolving, as is the grammar around making eight-hour long form series. The answers to these questions will emerge as and when more and more content starts getting made specifically and exclusively for the OTT platforms. 

Adding to the conversation, Kalra shared that Zee5 witnessed considerable demand for regional theatricals coming from the tier two and three markets. “Although theatres shutting down had the greatest impact, producers have surely developed an appetite for risk-taking. What remains to be seen is whether the phenomenon will continue as ‘direct-to-digital’ or ‘delayed-from-theatrical’. That is something we will learn in the process.”

Last but not the least, talking of government regulation the panelists maintained that it hasn’t disrupted life and work for them in any significant manner yet. The impact will become clear only when the first 10-15 cases arise. That being said, Rakshit opined that “one of the positive rub-offs of it is that dissent gets centralised and doesn’t run into unnecessary PILs and courts all over the country which is just negative for the industry. On that note, it’s actually quite welcome.”

The fifth edition of Content Hub 2021- ‘TV, Film, Digital Video, and Beyond’ was co-presented by IN10 Media Network and ZEE5, and co-powered by Applause Entertainment and Tipping Point, the digital content unit of Viacom18 Studios. PTC Network is the supporting partner. 

Latest Reads

Netflix’s Monika Shergill talks about crafting stories for every mood on OTT

The OTT platforms have taken the world by storm. If there is one key trend that has completely revolutionised the way content is now being created across mediums, it is definitely these new-age platforms. And leading the way is OTT giant Netflix which currently boasts of over 209 million...

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
“The idea whose time had come”: Hansal Mehta on making financial thriller 'Scam 1992'

When the ten-part series Scam 1992 hit SonyLIV platform last October, it captured the imaginations of millions of young Indians in no time. The financial thriller chronicling the life of Gujarat-based stock broker Harshad Mehta, and his involvement in the 1992 Indian Stock Market Scam soon became...

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content Hub 2021: Growing relevance of language personalisation in OTT advertising

Mumbai: The last one and a half years have escalated the pervasiveness of the OTTs and streaming platforms in our lives like never before. Not wanting to lose out on their share of the OTT marketing pie, brands have begun exploring promotions and advertisements on these channels.

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content Hub 2021: Content marketing - the most efficient tool for brand building

With five shows running across platforms, two delivered, and another five lined up for 2021, TVF president Vijay Koshy is looking forward to an exciting second half of the year!

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content Hub 2021: Viacom18 Studios' Ajit Andhare talks about creating cinematic experience on OTT

As theatres remain shut all through the pandemic, audiences were left with no option, but to turn to the OTT platforms for entertainment. The transition compelled major studios, and production companies to take a relook at their strategies and gear up for the big digital revolution that began...

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content Hub 2021: Television – A Twist in the Tale

At the fifth edition of the ‘Content Hub 2021 - TV, Film, Digital Video, and Beyond’ being organised by Indiantelevision.com, veteran producers from the media and entertainment industry delved into the state of television programming in the context of growing competition from OTT platforms.

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content evolves, but the heart of storytelling remains the same: Boman Irani

Almost two decades after making his debut in the Hindi film industry, renowned actor Boman Irani is now all set to don the writer’s cap for his first movie as writer-director. “Writing is the way to go,” says Irani emphatically, as he begins to share his vision of filmmaking on the first day of the...

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content Hub 2021 : Insatiable demand opens up vast opportunities for content creators

New Delhi: The pandemic may have stalled theatrical releases of big budget movies, but people will throng cinema halls once the pandemic situation eases out, opined leading film, TV and OTT producers as they gathered to discuss the entertainment industry’s evolution at the fifth edition of the...

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub
Content Hub 2021: Stage is set for the mega gathering of content creators

The stage is set for one of the biggest gatherings of content creators from across media platforms. The fifth edition of Indiantelevision.com’s biggest initiative- Content Hub 2021- ‘TV, Film, Digital Video, and Beyond’ begins on 28 July (Wednesday), 11 AM onwards.

Specials Event Coverage Content Hub

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required