MUMBAI: Rajiv Bakshi describes his latest gig – CEO Big Synergy – as a homecoming to the media and entertainment ecosystem. During his 13-year stay at Discovery Networks, Bakshi helped curate thousands of hours of content across factual, lifestyle, kids’ categories among others. More importantly, his stint coincided with the network introducing and expanding new genres that delivered a lasting impact on television and the society at large.
Bakshi has witnessed the evolution of India’s media and entertainment industry from close quarters. The perks of his ringside seat have helped him compartmentalise that evolution into three distinct phases.
“When I started in television in the early 2000s, it was the era of ad sales. Everything was about attaining reach and filling the inventory. Post digitisation, the era of distribution set in and pay-TV model emerged as a strong component. Channels started getting rewarded for differentiated and high-value content. Now we have entered the most exciting and dynamic phase where content and consumer form the core of the business. I call it the golden era of content,” he says.
With the emergence of OTT and Indian broadcast getting sharply segmented into genres and regions, the direct and immediate benefits to the balance sheet from content innovation are substantial. In addition to that, there are exciting possibilities for building personalised relationships with consumers on mobile devices.
“The research and analytics available in terms of content and storytelling with respective audience sets are both liberating and refreshing for content creators. The content explosion being witnessed is most satisfying and charges us to deliver influence and impact,” highlights Bakshi.
Reliance Entertainment's Big Synergy today produces content for all platforms. Widely regarded as a content powerhouse when it comes to non-fiction, the company is now pushing to becoming a power player in the fiction arena.
“In the next 12 months, you’ll witness a lot of disruptive content from Big Synergy across all genres and formats. We have a range of high decibel developed projects aligned with top directors and writers slated for 2020 launch,” Bakshi points out.
The company is committed to invest in three key areas for growth - original formats and rights, scaling talent and teams, and building the finest production capabilities.
“The thing we are always working hard is to anticipate change. Client's requirements and business models and the market dynamics are ever changing, and therefore we prefer to invest in research and keep our ears on the ground to stay on top of things and trigger new trends,” the veteran executive adds.
The dependence on content to differentiate a brand is the biggest new development. With most of the markets now progressing towards a pay model, differentiated content will be the trigger for revenue and audience growth.
“It’s a period of transformation. The demand for fiction content, with OTT platforms appearing in the last few years, is on the up. The market has immense confidence in Big Synergy’s capabilities to produce breakthrough fiction content. Our parent company has produced some of the biggest movies and OTT show and offers us access to the finest creative talent and partnerships and an overall environment of mass entertainment. We are all set to wow the market,” says Bakshi with a great deal of confidence.
There's absolute clarity at the company in terms of what it has set out to achieve. Bakshi's vision has percolated down to the bottom of the pyramid.
"We want to produce the biggest fiction series on both OTT and broadcast, on both original and acquired formats. Dailies for GECs are something we are investing in. In non-fiction, we have some amazing in-house formats and a large slate of acquired formats and then we are also evaluating co-developing new formats with international partners. Expansion into regional space, on both broadcast and OTT is also high on priority," he states.
So, what are the obstacles that could prevent the team from accomplishing its goals?
"The only challenge could be to prioritise the right stories, formats, partners, acquisition and talent," he remarks.
Content creation is an intricate affair. It’s also an expensive affair. According to industry estimates, the top 15 OTT platforms are spending Rs 1000 crore annually on Originals. Therefore, content creators apply a series of filters to a project before giving it the green signal. There’s more to the process than just the power of the story. Content creation today comprises algorithms and data analysis. And yes, consumption trends.
Bakshi, however, has a rather different take on the matter at least when it comes to adopting trends as a marker for content creation.
“Trends typically do not occur over quarters, they establish over years. So I can’t certainly say we’ll have a dramatic new change this year. The trends from the last couple of years will continue - to produce sharper and bolder stories with great characters. And, I think the biggest trend will be to invest in a variety of content and not over depend on any one particular genre,” he says.
So, how does he greenlight a project?
“Story, characters and team's conviction. These factors help us in backing a project. We have a good sense of what is happening and we continue to invest in research to comprehend emerging trends,” is his instant response.
Creating content for some of India’s largest broadcast and OTT platforms is now a high-stakes play. The top five streaming platforms are not shying away from writing big checks and are certainly here to stay. As companies vie relentlessly for a piece of the consumer’s attention and wallet, collaborating with the best content producers is of paramount importance.
Therefore, companies like Big Synergy are bound to play a vital role in helping further build and scale up India’s content creation ecosystem. While Bakshi does not carry the burden having to shell out millions of dollars for consumer acquisition, he does have to achieve some significantly lofty targets. “Surpassing client's goals, team's ambitions and establishing new performance and quality benchmarks. And yes, a growing bottom line,” he signs off.