Suraj Ramnath

"Netflix took 7 years to aggregate content before embarking on originals": Hungama's Neeraj Roy

We spoke to Neeraj Roy, managing director and CEO, Hungama Digital Media about the newly launched original show Damaged.

Digital entertainment company Hungama Digital Media has launched its original show Damaged. The psychological crime drama went on air from June 6 on Hungama Play, the brand's video on demand platform which was launched in 2015. Damaged has been directed by Aarambhh Mohan Singh and produced by Alligator Media Productions.

"Netflix took 7 years to aggregate content before embarking on originals": Hungama's Neeraj Roy

The digital entertainment company plans to take the content to a global audience with the help of existing and new partners. Hungama's association with Xiaomi will enable consumers to watch the shows via Hungama Play on Mi Video and Mi TV. In addition to this, users will be able to stream the shows through Hungama Play on Vodafone Play, Idea Movies & TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick and other Android TVs.

"Netflix took 7 years to aggregate content before embarking on originals": Hungama's Neeraj Roy

Trailer of Hungama's new original show 'Damaged'

Talking about the reason behind it taking more than two years, post-launch, to come up with an original series, Neeraj Roy, managing director and CEO, Hungama Digital Media, says, "To me, it is not about what took us so long because the platform lends itself to so much of storytelling. What we have done at the moment, is just the tip of the iceberg. We will never be a platform which will be driven by 'I have 20 shows and 30 shows'. I would rather do quality shows and also equally build on building audiences for those shows. These shows need to be made in a way where there is some connect and affinity with the audiences because if these shows are successful, then they lend themselves to seasons; whereas what we have seen right now is just volume that's coming around and we have put a filter on that. We want to concentrate on good stories and good audiences."

"Netflix took 7 years to aggregate content before embarking on originals": Hungama's Neeraj Roy

Neeraj Roy

For Roy, the first goal was to build audiences. "When we launched the company two and a half years ago, it was about putting the basic content in place, which was movies and we had 6,500 films across 13 languages including mainstream Hollywood. We have also focused on regional cinemas. We started bringing in some amount of TV shows and, as a company, over the last 10-12 years we have served 300 million audiences and our network has about 50 million-plus active monthly users."

He adds, "Within a matter of a few months, post launching Hungama Play, we realised that this platform is going to be almost equal, in terms of a platform, for original storytelling. When you start that journey, it is a process, so we engaged with 60-65 different film-makers from mainstream films, television etc. and the last production process started only one year back. Then we wanted to have all those shows and now we are ready with four shows."

70 per cent of Hungama's marketing efforts are going to be on the digital medium. And Hungama will promote Damage through OTT and Print mediums as well.

We asked Roy if it is going to be a game of originals that differentiates every VoD platform. He responds, "Every platform needs to differentiate with some form of content which is unique and original to it. Today, what is generic to that category - something like Netflix - and if you go back to the origins of Netflix, it took them seven years to aggregate the content and then they embarked on original stories. Of course, that was six years ago. Today, the base at which the India device and access market have opened, it is a case study in the world. The cycle of adoption is much wider. Lastly, for us, it was about filling a gap in the kind of stories which were missing in mainstream television viewing and trying and see what we can get. In markets like India, the original programming journey will be sharper and rapid and we are very committed."

Apart from Damaged, Hungama has also announced that they plan to launch another 10-12 original shows in the current fiscal year. The next three shows by the company to hit the platform are Hankaar (a crime drama series), Bar Code (drama) and Boys with Toys (comedy). These are 25-minute shows with 10-15 episodes in a series.

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