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

The top executive got into a virtual fireside chat on the second day of the event.


New Delhi: 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 transforming the world of content.

For Viacom18 Studios, the transition to digital began much earlier, and it helped the film studio to brace the impact of the pandemic. “It was a conflicting and contrasting experience for us. As the big screen went dark and gloomy, things got exciting on the OTT front. Since, we had already set up our digital content brand – Tipping Point, we were well-poised to tackle this period,” says Viacom18 Studios, COO, Ajit Andhare at the fifth edition of The Content Hub 2021 on Thursday.

The three-day mega event being organised by Indiantelevision.com began virtually on 28 July, bringing content makers from the world of television, films and OTT on one platform to delve upon the evolving media and entertainment industry. Film critic and radio presenter Stutee Ghosh got into an engaging fireside chat with Andhare about the process of creating cinematic experience for OTT.

As theatres remained shut, the studio began enhancing its output through Tipping Point, which included ‘Ray’- a four-part anthology series based on stories of filmmaker Satyajit Ray for Netflix. Much before, the studio had worked on ‘Jamtara’- a story about a small district in Jharkhand – the phishing capital.

According to Andhare, the selection of stories was never dictated by a set formula, but purely led by instincts – something that he adheres to even today. “As a studio, we have never been volume driven. It’s hard to get good storytelling that way. Stories that excite us have stayed with us for several years, before we began working on them,” says the studio’s top executive.

As a strategy, Tipping Point began with its focus on originals, however, as the demand for content skyrocketed, it led the brand towards new territories and it started working on bringing adaptations on screen, from across the world.

“But the approach has always been to look out for distinct ideas, and stories. We don’t want to get caught in a certain formula or method. All our films reflect that, and that’s what people are expecting on the digital front too. That’s the value we want to bring to our brand - to do something that has not been done before. Ray is a great example,” shares Andhare.

Digital is the top choice of medium for different, and eclectic content, that may be too risky to be taken to the big screen for theatrical business, because of the huge runaway costs involved. The medium has also opened up vast opportunities to tell different stories.

When asked about the lessons learnt over the last year, Andhare says optimistically, “One big learning is that, the basics of great series are absolutely the same. We were awed by US premium drama series, and wonder whether we have that capability. The last few years have showed, that we are not lacking in any way. Look at The Family Man. In terms of craft, we aren’t behind. We just did not have enough opportunities for distribution. We have that hurdle removed by digital now. The intensity and engagement that we are able to produce now is as good as anywhere in the world.”

However, another factor that’s lacking, according to the leading content maker, is ‘scale’. India’s digital platforms are yet to see big output like the iconic series - Game of Thrones, or Outlander. “It’s an exciting area, and so many stories are to be told,” says Andhare emphatically, “The Indian OTT system is yet to wake up. That’s the next level for us. A spectacle is not only for theatres or big screens. If combined with dense storytelling, it can work in digital too. I’m really excited about that opportunity.”

On the finance front, Andhare is quite content with the current business model adopted by the studio, which continues to create original content, and then licenses it out to different platforms.

“For content makers, that is the only model. For years, the Indian content industry has been like a carpenter, called home to put nails whenever required. Unlike other countries, IPs have normally belonged to broadcasters in India. It doesn’t happen elsewhere. The content makers have their own ecosystem. In fact, in the UK, individual creators have their own IPs. We are much behind, but we have begun investing in good content and seeing better investment. This is the only business model which will work, the world over. It is a win-win situation for both studios and platforms,” he adds.

When asked about the future of content, especially movies, the top executive is quick to answer. “Both (theatres and OTT) will continue. It is just a matter of time,” he quips in.

“The question is about value,” he elaborates. “Does theatre have value? Any evidence of recent box office release will tell you that it does. People absolutely love to go to theatres. It’s an out-of-home experience that people will continue to want. It is not about a story, but an experience. So, this value will surge after the pandemic. But, OTT has brought in ease of distribution. Digital is great for driving content, and allowing content creators to experiment.”

Centred on the theme – ‘The New Dynamic’, the three-day event will witness several such insightful sessions with industry stakeholders deliberating on how the new forces are transforming the way content is created and stories are told. It will also delve upon the impact of these changes on the business models for the world of films, TV and OTT.

The fifth edition of Content Hub 2021 is co-presented by IN10 Media Network and ZEE5, and co-powered by Applause Entertainment and   the digital content unit of Viacom18 Studios. PTC Network is the supporting partner.

For more details, visit: https://www.thecontenthub.in/

Latest Reads

#Retrace2021: Influencer-led purchases played a big role in driving growth: SUGAR CEO Vineeta Singh

An established name in the Indian beauty & personal care market, SUGAR Cosmetics was among the early movers into the D2C (direct-to-consumer) space as a digital-first cosmetic brand.

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: Associating with marquee properties on TV helped us take a quantum leap on digital: Arjun Mohan

The only ed-tech “to have a ‘donkey’ as its brand ambassador”, upGrad has been hitting all the right notes, starting from its eye-grabbing ‘Don’t lick ass, instead kick ass’ 2020 ad to its fortune-teller donkey ad in early 2021 to drive across its “Sirf Naam Ki Nahi, Kaam Ki Degree” messaging.

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: Inching towards a connected future of audience measurement

It was for the first time since the 1960s, that Nielsen’s measurement lost a “seal of approval” from the industry that uses it, as leading advertisers and TV networks sought alternate means of counting their audiences.

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: Content and advertisers return to TV, AdEx remains elusive

2021 was the year of the paradox. The return of LIVE sports and original programming on TV continued to attract new and more advertisers to the medium ensuring a phenomenal growth in ad volumes over 2020 and 2019.

Specials Year Enders
GUEST COLUMN: How D2C brands can level up their digital marketing game in 2022

Mumbai: In today’s times, Direct-to-consumer is an extremely exciting space, primarily because there are so many interesting brands coming up in multiple industry verticals. Right from food to technology to health and many others, there are home-grown D2C brands making it big while raising...

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: A look back at print ad campaigns that stood out in 2021

Mumbai: Reeling under the aftermath of the pandemic, the Indian print industry began its road to recovery in 2021. According to the latest Magna Global Forecasting Report released in December, overall, the print industry grew +12 per cent from a low base (2020: -40 per cent), despite the slowdown...

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: How streaming wars re-shaped the global M&E industry in 2021

Beginning with the blockbuster M&A deal between Discovery and AT&T in May which created the world’s second-largest media company by revenue after Disney, intensifying streaming wars reshaped the global media and entertainment industry through 2021. At the heart of this transformation was...

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: From Nykaa's Falguni Nayar to dentsu veteran Ashish Bhasin, who all made news in 2021?

Mumbai: The year that began with the slowdown of pandemic cases, and phased opening of businesses across the country, is ending with another Covid variant rearing its head. The new cases of Omicron are spreading faster, even as the industry struggles to hold on to its post-pandemic revival after...

Specials Year Enders
#Retrace2021: The year of regulatory challenges and no TRPs for news channels

The year 2021 began with a rather chaotic legacy handed over by 2020. In the aftermath of the TRP Scam, TV ratings for the news genre remained suspended throughout the year. The legal tussle between Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and broadcasters over the rollout of the New Tariff...

Specials Year Enders

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required