ShortsTV continues to maintain growth rate of 50k subscribers since launch month

It is adding more regional short movies.

MUMBAI: Feature films have always had an edge over other forms of movies in India. But the internet boom has enabled more short-form content with engaging plots and fresh faces. Against this backdrop, ShortsTV, the world’s only TV channel dedicated to short movies, is creating an example. Though the channel is now in an exclusive partnership with Tata Sky, it is also in talks with other carriers to make it available across the country.

The London-based television channel entered into a partnership with India’s leading DTH platform Tata Sky for the platform Tata Sky ShortsTV in last November. Along with availability on the telly screen, the service is also available on the mobile app as well as the DTH operator’s website.  With a growing library of over 5000 titles, the next step in the agenda is to launch its machine learning app in India which will personalise viewing for each customer based on his favourite genres and mood.

Tata Sky aimed to target the new youth with the Rs 75 a month channel, a steep number in price-conscious India. But the channel seems to be picking up pace as earlier this year, it acquired 18 shorts from Terribly Tiny Tales.

ShortsTV chief executive Carter Pilcher spoke to on the deal with Tata Sky, future expansion plans along with other relevant issues.

Edited excerpts:

How has the partnership with Tata Sky panned out for you?

Tata Sky is a great partner. I would say we spoke to lots of potential partners in India and Tata Sky probably is the most forward-thinking in terms of good content and technical delivery. They have a great digital programme and an extensive video-on-demand offering that the mobile app users also can enjoy. They are very creative as partners. We have really enjoyed working with them.

How many subscribers have you acquired since the launch of the service?

Tata Sky is the right company to tell you the exact numbers now. But we crossed 50,000 in the first month and maintained growth is at that rate since then. So, it’s been a very popular service.

Are you considering deals with any other DTH platform or other carriers?

Yes, we are exclusive with Tata Sky at this point but we are definitely talking with other carriers to bring ShortsTV all across India. That will happen towards the end of the year. We will be with Tata Sky for most of this year to promote the channel.

Do you have any plan to talk to OTT platforms at this point?

We talked to some but we are talking more to mobile operators and other satellite operators just because we think their business models are little more established.

What has been the consumption trend so far, as you noticed?

The things that really succeed, of course, are the big star films, the big films which are award winners. In Oscar month, we promoted a lot of Oscar-nominated shorts and we had great viewing numbers for the Oscar-nominated shorts. That’s always a popular thing, especially during the Oscar months. We also partnered with PVR Cinemas and released this year’s Oscar-nominated Live Actions and animated short films in theatres in more than 12 cities in India. That was a great initiative and I think pushed the viewership. The third area, always popular, is local stories. Our teams have been looking at and acquiring best shorts across India irrespective of language. We found great films in different regions and film cultures in different regions are very different. Now we are developing a catalogue that is particularly interesting that you can see how Maharashtrian films look opposed to Karnataka films as opposed to films from Bengal. Language is different, the set-up is slightly different. So, we find the audience really loves that exposure to different film cultures in India.  

As you said local stories always work great so what’s your plan in front of regional content?

We have our guys going to every part of the country and talking to production houses from different parts of the country. Definitely, we focused first on bringing films from Maharashtra, we also looked at Bengali films. We are looking at major film producing regions of the country and chasing great stories from there to add up to our catalogue.

Have you noticed any particular segment of audience inclined to watch these short films?

It’s hard to say because unlike online, it’s a little difficult to get this data as we are selling it to TV homes. We are not getting the exact data whether the grandmother, grandson, father or mother is watching. But we generally see in all of our territories, the first television audience that really loved us is the film enthusiasts. They are very committed to watching great shorts. We work very hard to provide the best experience and best shorts content. They understand the difference between a good and a bad film.

Then, the second set of the audience we track are young people who have been interested in watching shorts. They may have a TV at home but they go for work, they travel on the bus or train then they can watch short films.

How does the year look like for ShortsTV?

2019 looks great. By the end of the year, we will have several more carriers in India and we are looking at growing in several other regions and markets internationally. I think audiences in India, the US and Europe, are getting accustomed to short releases.

What has been the impact of the TRAI tariff order on ShortsTV, if any?

We were already selling the channel individually so it has not really affected us. But we were afraid of the factor that could affect us is that there would be a lot of churn, people might say ‘I have to pay for everything now, this is too expensive’. However, we have not experienced that at all. 

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