Locating Originality in Indian Content

Akshat Agarwal

Online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime started the trend of producing high-quality original productions such as House of Cards and Jack Ryan, and now India is witnessing a boom in the creation of original local content. Even as such productions have become mainstays on both global and domestic digital platforms, industry-representatives came together on the final day of FICCI Frames 2019 to discuss whether this trend was here to stay, or just a temporary “bubble”. The discussion, titled Original Content – The Emperor’s New Clothes, was moderated by Bobby Bedi, MD, Kaleidoscope Entertainment.

Will it Last?

With a variety of original content being commissioned, both in Hindi as well as regional languages, millions of dollars are being spent to capitalise on the shift in consumption patterns towards the digital medium. Gaurav Gandhi, Director – India, Amazon Prime, expressed his faith in the trend of original and local productions becoming central attractions on digital platforms, attributing it to high-quality international content being made accessible and generating consumer-demand for similar local content.

Mr. Bedi wondered why many content creation companies are joining the distribution game through their digital platforms, and in response Kranti Gada, COO at Shemaroo, pointed to the ability to target niche audiences with content through such platforms. Digital distribution has allowed the creation of content that can be delivered to segmented audiences, and not just content created for mass-appeal. While agreeing that the creation of original content was by no means a trend, Ms. Gada stressed that it is not the only change occurring in the digital content ecosystem.

Has Content Changed?

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, AltBalaji explained how Indians are moving from family to individual viewing as a primary form of consumption, and demanding niche and differentiated content. Gautam Talwar, Chief Content Officer, MX Player, spoke of identifying and catering to various ‘need states’ of consumers – escapism, indulgence etc. Ali Hussein, COO, ErosNow said that this is the first time that the quality of creative content has assumed paramount importance – serving as a gateway to international exposure and partnerships.

Banking on Data

One of the primary drivers of growth of digital content has been consumer-data related analytics. Mr. Gandhi called this ‘a combination of art and science – using data to help storytelling’, as platforms gain unprecedented insights in viewer behaviour through millions of data-points. Mr. Talwar revealed how MX Player capitalised on the offline viewing data gained in its days of being a simple media player, using such data to customise digital content services. Even as Mr. Pantvaidya welcomed this trend, calling it the ‘democratisation of creative processes’, Ms. Gada sounded a cautionary note, highlighting that the true test of value will be if data analytics can indeed be proven to lead to enhanced profitability for content companies.

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