Original Content now accounts for approximately 40% of overall content usage. Exclusives, specials, consumer redemptions etc are unveiling new engagement models between artists and fans. A panel discussion was held at Music Inc 2018 on Original Content and OTT platforms moderated by Mae Thomas (Host of Maed In India Podcast) with Gurpreet Singh (Co-Founder & COO, One Digital Entertainment), Kranti Gada (COO, Shemaroo), Soumini Shridhara Paul (VP – Artist Aloud, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment), Tarun Katial (CEO Zee5 India | Founder CEO BIG FM), Vishweshwara Rao (Co-Founder, Sensibol Audio Technologies) as the other panelists.

The discussion started with Mae raising the question – How OTT platforms rival traditional media platforms? Kranti Gada was the first panelist to address it and her view on it was that digital medium gives opportunity to offer things to smaller communities and to cater diverse interests however as the digital community becomes more massy the consumption patterns will start becoming closer to main stream media platforms.

OTT platforms are currently not answerable to ROI parameters. The parameters they work on are different, the audiences they are catering to are more niche and are also the early adopters. These are the reasons the programming is different than mass media – Kranti Gada

Tarun Katiyal said that it is possible now to find large set of audiences for different music to appeal to in our country and the resurgence of regional music has been on the back of digital platforms. He also pointed out that traditional media platforms have become laggards to digital platforms as digital are first to break music and also the preferred choice of artists and other talents to establish themselves. Soumini was of the opinion that any artist establishing themselves on TV will be more exclusive and big in a way as digital is considered to be an easy access. She also specified that in India there will always be all forms of media and with our 1.2 Billion population each platform has enough to cater to.

The fact is that OTT platforms are in their investment phase, their exploratory innovation phase and that is a good phase for any industry to be in because you are able to do different things and come to a conclusion on what works and what doesn’t. Unless you give an opportunity to creators to be able to do diverse kind of content, you wont really know what works – Tarun Katiyal

Vishweshwara Rao spoke on the high engagement ratio that digital offers which can be experimented in many ways.  The panel then got into a debate on the topic – ‘Should digital platforms give too much importance to content’. Tarun was of the opinion that Digital platforms are 90% of technology and data and the remaining 10% consisting of content. OTT platforms have not invested much into original content (1/10th of what networks and traditional media have invested). Data and user habit accumulation is more important when it comes to returns. Kranti said that content curation is an important factor for an OTT platform which sets them apart from their competitors. Ananya Birla raised an interesting counter question – Will user data become redundant if you stop investing in content? and Gurpreet responded that it should always be a right combination of great content and technology.

You can sit where you are and make it big and Mumbai will call you. Regional has become hero today – Soumini Paul

Mae asked the panel – Will digital platforms compete with Bollywood in terms of ROI for an Artist? Gurpreet answered that an Artist should be smart and understand that ROI is initially limited but with regular relatable content, building your own community and patience any artist will be able to achieve profits. Later the conversation moved on to dearth of devotional music. Kirti mentioned that no big artists are putting out any new content in the devotional music space and that nobody is catering to the millenials due to this. Data study shows that millenials are inclined towards devotional music but there is a lack of investment in the devotional music for millenials market.

My Son is 5years old and for some reason he is into Sai Baba – Vishweshwara Rao

The next question for the panel was – Are streaming services profitable ventures? Tarun indicated that our country is growing towards paying for subscription. As the per capita income grows there will be more discerning Indians paying for what they want to hear. At the second level there will be more advertising led music platforms. These gradual steps coupled with unique and better curated content will eventually start making money for its worth.

The discretionary income is growing. There is a substantial number probably 50-60 million people crossing a certain threshold after which they will be able to spend on entertainment leisure and travel. That is what is going to contribute to the profitability – Kranti Gada

Mae drew the attention towards revenue and probed the panel on whether the monies really trickle down to an artist since majority goes into licensing societies, distributors and labels. Gurpreet replied that revenue is definitely flowing back to artists through digital platforms since its a transparent process. Ananya acknowledged that the whole landscape of revenues has changed and besides royalties there are brand endorsements and live acts as a different means of earning money. Soumini identified the importance of hero content that will sustain the artist over a longer span. The final topic of discussion was digital penetration with Kranti pointing out the statistics of roughly 250 million smart phone users in the country and expected to double in the near future.

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