Outlook 2016: Digital content to drive media

If content is king, the internet is then the chariot it is riding to reach out to its audiences. From Yash Raj Films' fiction show Bang Baaja Baaraat to Pocket Aces' mockumentarycomedy Not Fit, documentaries such as The 120 Media Collective's Mission Everest 2015, YouTube, the online video platform owned by Google Inc, is full of content created by companies for audiences on the web.

Sample this: According to Google, YouTube’s watch time in India has grown 80 per cent over the past year. About 55 per cent of YouTube’s watch time comes from mobile devices. Also, hours of content uploaded from India has grown 90 per cent. And 60 per cent of the viewership for the content created by Indian partners is now coming from overseas.

“Till early 2014, in India it was primarily about traditional media companies uploading their content. But just before the 2014 general elections, the platform was flooded with content created by people. Also, most of the content went viral with people talking about it or sharing it online. That’s when we realised that the creator movement, which is the premise of YouTube’s existence, had begun in India,” says Satya Raghavan, head – content operations, YouTube India, Google Inc.

As more companies join this creator moment, online video content is going to be a hotbed of action in 2016.

Different strokes

Currently the world of organised online content creators can be divided into two groups. The first set comprises companies which have selected an area of focus and are now working towards creating content for it. For example, Yash Raj Films which is known for its fictions will continue to focus on the same genre. “We expertise in the art of story-telling, be it films or content for the web. Genres such as sports or cooking is not known to us,” says Ashish Patil, business and creative head, and vice-president, youth films, brand partnerships, talent management at Yash Raj Films Pvt Ltd.

And then there are those startups/companies which initially created documentaries and are now looking at spreading their wings. As Anirudh Pandita, co-founder of Pocket Aces Pvt Ltd, says, the company is not wedded to any single genre when it comes to creating content for web audiences. “The only criteria we follow is that viewers should be willing to share the content online,” adds Pandita.

The genre isn't the only thing that ensures eyeballs. Duration and production quality are important factors. With most of these companies targeting the youth, the duration of a web-series episode is 10-12 minutes usually, and at times just 9-10 minutes. Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, the last two episodes of Bang Baaja Baaraat was 23-minutes-long. “Apart from keeping the TG in mind, the screen size is also considered. Most of the online content is consumed on mobile devices and long videos usually do not generate enough eyeballs on the internet,” explains Vikram Mehra, managing director, Saregama India Ltd.

Value for money

Over the years, the cost of producing content online has increased. According to industry estimates, if earlier the cost of producing one episode of a web-series was Rs 1-2 lakh, now companies spend around 5-6 lakh and up to Rs 10 lakh in case of a fiction series. Interestingly, online content creators' spendings are at par with what broadcasters spend on television. The cost of producing one episode of a fiction show for a Hindi general entertainment (GEC) channel is Rs 5-6 lakh. The cost increases to Rs 9-10 lakh in case of mythological serials.

“Online is a serious play now. Also, with the launch of high-end smartphones, users expect better quality of programmes which has led to an increase in production cost,” says Roopak Saluja, founder and chief executive officer, The 120 Media Collective Pvt Ltd.

However, the rise in production cost has not been met with a rise in advertising rates. With all the content being shown on YouTube, companies get 55 per cent of the ad revenue generated. “For TrueView format of ads, the minute someone skips an ad, we don’t charge the advertiser a single penny,” adds Raghavan.

As a result content companies are now scouting for new ways to earn more money. Roping in sponsors is a strategy which almost everyone is following these days. For example, Yash Raj Films got Hindustan Unilever Ltd's cosmetic brand Lakme and Standard Chartered as sponsors for Bang Baaja Baaraat. “With consumers not willing to pay for subscription and ad rates being very low, getting sponsors on board allows us to retrieve some money. We make Rs 1 lakh as advertising money from one million views per video,” explains Patil.

This is also a reason why content creators are tying up with broadcasters and online video streaming platforms. For example, Saregama India has tied up with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd owned video streaming platform Ditto TV. The company produces serials for Sun TV Network Ltd in the southern market. Similarly, Saluja of The 120 Media Collective claims that from April this year, the company will be producing content for other over-the-top (OTT) players.

Media observers believe that digital commercial deals can still work on commission or a revenue share model. However, incrementally, content producers would like to retain their intellectual property rights (IPRs) and syndicate content to multiple platforms. “Moreover, many content houses as seen in case of Balaji and Eros Now would aspire to create their own direct-to-consumer services, in the process creating more value for themselves,” says Mihir Shah, vice president, Media Partners Asia, a media research company.

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