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Vikatan Group's B Srinivasan on TV-OTT dynamics, air time barter model, first digital-only daily soap

The company is producing its first digital-only 120-episode series.

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MUMBAI: Tele-Wise Tamil witnessed a one–on-one conversation between Vikatan Group managing director B Srinivasan and Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari which brought out interesting facts on the journey of Vikatan Group. The duo also discussed the company’s road ahead in the Tamil market.

The group creates content for various streams from television to YouTube and has its own YouTube channel with 10 million subscribers. The company is also looking forward to cater to the audiences in Tamil Nadu through OTT platform.

Taking the audience through the journey of Vikatan Group, Srinivasan said, “It has been 29 years since I joined. After the launch of Sun TV it took us around five years to gain the courage that we had lost in 1993. That time I decided at least to produce if I am unable to start a satellite channel. We were having our own fiction and that was the bread and butter of Ananda Vikatan. We have had the best creators working for us so we thought it was a natural extension to enter into production. We started in 1998 with a weekly serial called Akshaya.”

“We had an interesting journey; we consistently worked with some of the best channels in the industry. Daily soap is not easy to come by, it is tough to bring out the cassette at the end of the day and since the last three years it has become six days a week. 26 episodes a month is not a joke,” he commented.

Talking on the presence of Vikatan’s content on digital platform, Srinivasan said, “Since 2011 we are on YouTube as well. Today across fiction and non-fiction we have around 10 million subscribers on our YouTube platform. We crossed 150 million views last month. Today we got into a place where we can produce content beyond television. We are in talks with a couple of OTT players and trying to understand how it works since it is nothing like television.”

Wanvari mentioned that apart from Doordarshan and Sun TV, most producers operate on a commission model, then why did they choose the air time barter model. “In 1998, Sun was the dominant player in the television market and it had air time commission model, they did not have commissioning model at that time. That gave us one of the biggest advantages of creative independence and I can guarantee that none of the producers today have that. Creative independence is cherished a lot by our creators today,” replied Srinivasan.

Tamil TV is under-indexed compared to the share of viewing it gets, sharing his views on the impact of the same on Vikatan Group, Srinivasan said, “The market is rough but we have been having an amazing relationship with our advertising clients and they know us from different days. There is a trust that we have been able to build in the market.”

He further said, “Because of the market dynamics we have not been able to make money always but we have been able to supplement our presence through YouTube.”

Wanvari also inquired whether Vikatan Group would be opened to get commissioned from the broadcaster. To which Srinivasan replied, “I would rather get commissioned in the OTT space than on the television because our product will make lot of money with the kind of IPs we have.”

Going further he said, “The OTT space is completely different. On television, the investment that is required in a single episode can run into almost Rs 1 crore. So, that is something that we wouldn’t want to go ahead with.”

The group also shared his plan to produce the first digital daily soap for YouTube. Srinivasan said, “We have been fortunate enough to be the first producer commissioned by YouTube to produce the first digital daily soap and that’s likely to come out in the next few months.”

“There are going to be digital avatars of the characters. There will also be digital interaction which will lead to the storytelling and those will lead to the social interaction. That’s how the story will pan out. It’s a 120-episode series which will air from Monday to Friday,” explained Srinivasan.

If the show does well then it would be the first daily soap which will be told exclusively on YouTube. Srinivasan is hoping to get the interest of advertisers on the same and also plans to come back with seasons of the show.

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