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Endemol Shine India’s Abhishek Rege speaks on his plans for 2021

In 2021 content creation will grow by 30 to 35 per cent.

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MUMBAI: Endemol Shine India, a leader in producing non-scripted format shows such as Bigg Boss, Master Chef, Khatron Ke Khiladi and Dance India is planning to increase its content creation by 30 to 35 per cent in 2021.

It is now working towards increasing its scripted content volumes and is keenly eyeing the digital streaming space for it. The production house has several successful to its name — Arya for Hotstar, Bombay Begums for Netflix — and will be creating two Marathi web-series, Thorle Vishwasrao Dhakle and Radical, with more projects in the pipeline. It is also bullish on acquiring book rights –The Sane Psychopath draws on Salil Desai’s novel, content inspired from American novelist Robin Cook’s books, and an original series based on Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy.

For Endemol Shine India CEO Abhishek Rege, the digital streaming space is another way to increase the amount of revenue the firm gets from its scripted content. He hopes it will catapult Endemol Shine India onto an international pedestal.

It is now expanding into the regional markets and has went ahead to acquire the rights for Tamil blockbuster Master for its adaptation to Hindi. In a tete-a-tete with indiantelevision.com’s Shikha Singh, Rege spoke at length about his plans for 2021 in terms of expansion in the regional market, increasing the volume of work, technology and much more.

Edited Excerpts:

On 2021 for content studios

We're back to creating good content, or maybe more is what we can foresee in 2021. The demand for content has gone up and because of the lockdown a lot of content that couldn't be produced last year is also going to come now. There will be a lot of stress on key technicians and artists for dates. So, everyone's really gearing up.

On his targets for 2021

There will be an overall growth of 30-35 per cent in the overall content creation industry in 2021 as compared to the previous two years. The target for our growth will be in double-digits but the percentage would be a little lower than this. 

On acquisition, distribution, and syndication

Currently, the industry is focusing on acquiring more content and fresh content. So, I believe the focus would be on new content production and creating originals. The existing conditions on licensing and certifications will continue. 

On regional market expansion

We are looking at opportunities to enter more markets, from the regional perspective with a key focus on Tamil and Telugu market. Hopefully there will be several shows coming out from these markets. A lot of focus is also on some of the smaller scripted shows, both for linear television and OTT. We will continue our focus on non-scripted shows too.  

On acquiring the rights of South movie Master

Master is a brilliant movie with masterful performances and a powerful narrative that resonates with audiences across the country and will be remembered as turning the box office tide in the pandemic. We are incredibly proud to have acquired the rights to it. As far as the shooting is concerned it clearly depends on the dates available of the key talent - director, technicians, and actors. The work on casting and everything is already underway.

On how production houses will be working on a hybrid model

When it comes to linear television and OTT my definition changes a bit because I think production houses are technically content producers, there is no hybrid, we will continue to create content. It doesn't matter whether it's for an OTT or TV. The treatment, approach taken will obviously change. But I think all producers are primarily content creators.

On new normal in terms of shooting

We are slowly settling down as far as the production is concerned. One of our biggest challenges was to get people used to all precautions from Covid2019, and doing it the right way. I think over time, that habit is formed. As a new normal, people will automatically just try to keep everything clean, would worry about overcrowding. From a working perspective, we are back to the normal routine. We've all got accustomed to keeping only the required people, especially in the backend. We are back to churning out things fast. 

On what will be the gap between in house and outsourced content

There is no outsourced content, but I think today is the time for collaborations. The kind of content requirement that's coming, it's not feasible for one person to execute it. So, you see a lot more collaboration between production houses, to play up to their strengths, between creative people and production houses, and a whole host of other activities along the way. And you'll see it happening frequently in a lot of markets including regional. 

The market is maturing a little bit similar to how the US market operates.

On strategies to increase RoI

First step is to increase the volume of work by increasing the number of shows. It needs people to work together with others who have great ideas and try to focus on the talents that we have in the house to increase the bandwidth. If we achieve that, automatically once we'll do an X number of work we can expect better RoI. 

On the cost of each show

The cost was impacted in June, July and August but starting October 2020, it is bouncing back. There was a certain impact on producers, vendors, technicians when it came to money but I think that impact is now limited. Their salaries were cut but now it’s getting better. However, the added cost of Covid2019 expenditures have been broadly absorbed through deductions in the salary, so I think we're pretty much at the same cost range as we were at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. And if this year goes well, we might see better numbers come by in 2022.

On content studios focusing on low budget shows

It’s not easy to work on a compact budget and ensure that the production is not hampered. It’s a dream for every producer and platform but it’s easier said than done. The moment you decide to make a good story, you know that you will also need a great cast. That see-saw will always happen. We will try to reduce costs and do things that can be turned around faster and therefore have a faster churn. So, instead of doing a big show in a year, we could do two or three shows, which is something that everyone will attempt to do. But it's easier said than done.

When it comes to casting, we are not looking at A-listers but great actors working for originals and getting great reviews. They are in so much demand that at any given point in time, there will be three offers for them. At the end of the day, they charge premium amount to choose the one show that they want to work in. So, the cost is high. Also, one needs a larger ensemble for impactful storytelling, and you need them in as many frames as possible. The storytelling has evolved, and the quality has gone up. So, we just have to be conscious of that part and look at how things move back on track.

On technology aspect

We are looking at new technologies where we can get on and possibly create scenarios where we don't have to worry about too many locations. There are a couple of projects that we would want to look at this kind of stuff. However, it’s still in infancy stage, but we are exploring it. We will still continue with about 70 to 80 per cent of an original series especially being driven from real locations as the real feelings makes our shows very acceptable. The location gives you its charm, and that you will have to use. 

On things that will drive opportunities

Original series will certainly drive up the demand as we need more content. People are consuming content faster and need more if they like a certain genre. Kids content will grow, between education and fixed content, there will be a huge synergy that could slowly come about in the way content is packaged. However, the real unlocking of value like that will actually come when you start using certain characters and picking them up from licensing and edit them into the right level. Disney is for an age group of really younger kids. But tomorrow, you could do it with your Avengers or other characters, and do it for the higher age groups. A lot more synergies in technology and licensing will come up. We are kind of hoping to see maybe how the animation plays out. But I think more than that, there could be an opportunity to create characters. So basically, all these things I would certainly say would be something to watch out for from a growth perspective.

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