Television

Banijay Group's Deepak Dhar on adapting shows for OTT, regional foray and digital dynamics

Bajiay Asia recently created India’s first digital fashion reality show for Myntra.

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MUMBAI: Deepak Dhar, who has witnessed the evolution of reality shows from close quarters, recently also worked on India’s first digital fashion reality show. Despite his expansive knowledge in the field, Dhar humbly depicts himself as a fresher in the game of digital reality show as what works on television will not necessarily work on streaming platforms.

Back in 2018, ex- managing director of EndemolShine India Deepak Dhar partnered with Paris-based independent content creation company Banijay Group to expand its operations to India and South East Asia. Under the guidance of Dhar, the production house has already created a number of shows both for broadcasters and streaming platforms. After having a strong start in the cluttered market, Dhar thinks there is a long way to go. Aftrer launching Myntra Fashion Superstar, the format of the show developed together by Monia S Pinto, Banijay Asia team and Wavemaker teamBanijay Asia CEO and founder spoke to Indiantelevision.com.

Edited excerpts of the interview:

You have seen the evolution of reality shows in India when you were associated with EndemolShine India. How different is the experience of the first digital fashion reality show?

I have been doing reality since the evolution of reality television. But now I think the time is to unlearn first and then to learn the new tricks of the digital or the web game. Obviously, what works on the TV and linear space, does not work on the streaming side of the business. So from that perspective, I am quite a fresher and newcomer because you are constantly either learning or unlearning from what one has done in reality TV in the last 10-15 years. We had to craft this show in a very different manner for it to be consumed on our platform.

What was your target audience for the show?

The show is streaming on the Myntra app. The target audience is largely, I would not say just youth but, anybody who really samples the Myntra app and anybody who is conscious about what they want and at what price they want. Its a very large audience there that is consuming a lot of e-commerce platforms and I think thanks to Myntra we got an opportunity to keep them engaged.

How efficient is the influencer-driven content strategy to target consumers as it is gaining more prominence with time?

It is. I think this whole social media influencer theory is coming from the fact that there is so much time spent on social media and thanks to that there are celebrities and influencers who are influencing trends and patterns, the way content needs to be consumed and curated. The fact that we spend so much time on mobile phones, I think there is a huge captive audience there.

Are you looking at more digital reality shows?

Yes, clearly. But it is not that we are looking at digital reality shows and are not looking at linear traditional reality shows. We are producers who are right in the middle of doing a lot of good TV content and a lot of new media and digital content as well. So, we are servicing both sides of the game.

It has been more than one year for Banijay Asia’s journey in the Indian market. How was your experience? Have you been able to fulfill your initial target?

We have taken off to a very strong start. Having said that, this is only a start, there is a long way to go. But the fact is we have done Arrived for YouTube, we have done Kapil Sharma Show, Nach Baliye , Roar of the Lions for Hotstar, Hostages for Hotstar, Parchayee for ZEE5. All these for a 12-14-month-old company, I think is a decent start. I think we can do a lot more and we will for sure.

You have already worked with Hotstar and ZEE5. What are your plans with international players, especially Netflix and Amazon Prime Video?

As you can see, our portfolio is extremely diverse. We do a lot of stuff for TV and OTT, both non-fiction and scripted. Our development strategy is considerably diverse and balanced. From that perspective, we are an all-round studio working for Hotstar, ZEE5, Netflix, Amazon, ALTBalaji or across the board. For me, the excitement lies in the fact that we can develop all kinds of content and there are takers for it as well. Who would know a docu-drama like Roar of the Lion, MS Dhoni would come on board and take it to Hotstar. These are signs of changing times. Having said that, we have a very balanced strategy to be across all platforms, not just on two.

How does your pipeline look for the rest of the financial year?

A lot of scripted and unscripted projects are lined up. The OTT business will see some different projects while some conventional ones for the traditional side of the business.

Are you focusing equally on broadcasters?

That is our strategy. We are here servicing the broadcast side of the business. We are doing a big scripted show on TV as well which we will announce soon.

Is there any particular demographic in your mind while you are producing shows for OTT platforms?

I would say largely a lot of the youth is consuming OTT content. Having said that, we have broken that myth with Hostages because that show went really wide. My mother-in-law came and said, “Deepak, finally you made a great show.” I asked which one? She said Hostages. I was surprised to know she watched Hostages as she is an avid viewer of daily soaps and music realities. She watched an entire show in one night. It gives me one trend inside the home that youths are not the only who are watching OTT platforms.

What’s your plan to foray into the regional market?

We have a strategy and development plan for that. Very soon, we will hear some announcements again. We have a different strategy for the regional market because one kind of strategy would not work in various different markets. Tamil and Telugu would be the first because those are the big ones. Because you have to stagger your plan, you can’t go to five-six markets together. Obviously we will be taking one step at a time.

You have been associated with the industry for a very long time. How has the OTT boom worked for content creators?

You know there used to be like five networks and they had a certain way of creating content. They had their certain demographic, they knew their audiences very well and would create more audiences too. But now the entire ecosystem has opened up overnight. It is not just five broadcasters, there are ten OTT players. The kind of content they are looking for is very different from traditional content. As a content creator, I see that is a very big opportunity and not in terms of the number of shows but kind of shows also. Just another thought from what my mother-in-law told me. Earlier it used to take seven to eight months which used to last two to three years or as long as possible. It took me six-seven months to make Hostages and she consumed it overnight; the shelf life is over. That just tells me the kind of opportunities that lie.

What are the main challenges of content creation in the ecosystem currently?

I would not see these as challenges but as more opportunities. The pipeline needs to be working twice as more furiously because stories are getting consumed in one night, characters are becoming relevant or irrelevant in one night, you need to create more and more content, you need to have the right set of creative entrepreneurs and you need to constantly look for them.

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