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The Content Hub: Thinking digital

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MUMBAI: Digital has become the core of any strategy today. And highlighting the same were the digital content creators at indiantelevision.com’s ‘The Content Hub,’ where the makers shared their valuable insights on the success stories and how they manage making money in this competitive market.

Sharing their views were Viral Fever and TVF Media Labs founder and CEO Arunabh Kumar, Rajshri Entertainment MD and CEO Rajjat Barjatya, Viacom18 Media - MTV and MTV Indies EVP and business head Aditya Swami, Qyuki Digital Media co-founder and MD Samir Bangara, Zenga Group MD and CTO Shabir Momin, YouTube head of content operations India Satya Raghavan and Multi Screen Media EVP and head - digital business Uday Sodhi.

Moderated by CNBC-TV18 editor, storyboard Anant Rangaswami, the discussion began with Rangaswami raising the point of how each digital creator makes money differently in the business.

According to Sodhi, while ‘digital only’ may not be the viable way of going about it right now, for popular sports it will turn around. “Look at television or any other entertainment, sports is a critical part where money goes from advertisers and from an eyeballs perspective. Why the same pattern is not followed on digital? It will happen, but how it grows and how much money it takes, only time will tell,” opined Sodhi.  

Rangaswami believes it is an interesting curve and content can make money on digital. Agreeing to him, Kumar shared that in the financial year 2012-13, also the first year of TVF online network, its total turnover was equal to one day of shooting cost of an MTV promo and this financial year its total turnover is the cost of one promo of MTV. “The growth has been really phenomenal. Once upon a time, we were doing 10-15 thousand views on YouTube and the brands feature were also very less. That time there was this whole idea that a brand or a client could own a piece of content after giving you money. But cut to now, we have shows on MTV or our channel or AIB and you can see a lot of brands being open to that.”

For Kumar, it is a pretty much age old television model where for example Cadbury takes a lot of money for KBC, because it is watched by a lot of people.

According to Bangara, the big opportunity is the content marketing opportunity. “If advertisers and brands let creators do what they need to without putting restrictions, then it will work much better. Because audiences online are very different than audiences consuming content on the traditional platforms.”

The traditional media players believe that production value equals quality. “In the online space, production value is not directly proportionate to popularity. The concept drives engagement and therefore you don’t need expensive budgets to ride your films on digital platforms,” said Bangara.

Rangaswami further delved to find out whether is it easier to sell branded content on digital than on television? Contradicting his statement, Swamy feels that the future of TV is TV and from a reach and growth perspective, there is huge growth and spread still on television. “On branded content, the way we make this work is that it is the combination of bringing the screens together.  If you go to see TV and digital separately, the challenge will be much harder. But a lot of branded content that we do, we bundle the whole thing. For example, take the premium content like ‘Coke Studio’ series that we produce, we produce it as a broadcaster, give it legs on television and it kind of survives on beyond TV as well.”

Going forward, Rangaswami highlighted the different needs of monetisation of content. Barjatya revealed that Rajshri has 20,000 hours of content that it has aggregated with Mukta Arts. “That brings in the revenue. But we also do a lot of experimentations. We have a channel in the entertainment space, bollywood news space, hollywood news space, television space, channels in kids, food and devotional space. These I think will grow going forward.”

But, according to Barjatya, money still needs to keep coming in and that can come only through blockbuster movies, which the company has acquired over the last couple of years.

According to Raghavan brands are experimenting, content creators are experimenting and the entire ecosystem is experimenting. He pointed out that the difference the industry is noticing in the last few years is that advertisers are ready to put their money on content because they believe that the creator of the content or the participant will be able to create the content and distribute it as well. “Till now what was happening was that they wanted to own the delivery itself which is why a lot of brands created good stuff but later fell off the clip. Now, they are trusting a lot on the creators. That’s where the point of money floating to content creators and to networks is multiplying.”

Further adding to this, Momin felt that success on the digital platforms is not counted only by achieving the million views mark. “People get onto the digital platforms for multiple reasons. A movie production house comes to the digital platform not to make money or for ad sales but they are now looking at increasing their eyeballs reach.” He believes that there are other serious players who are trying to make this as a profession. “Branded content is becoming content and that will always be there because they are the ones who are pumping in a lot of their money but if you look at the industry overall , it is the rate of creating content which is growing,” said Momin. 

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