Sohini Sen

TV.NXT 2014: Fresh Content Will Always Have Takers

Day Two of TV.NXT looked at ways to monetise content created on the digital platform.

Day Two was a day of looking at both sides of the story. TV.NXT 2014 chose to discuss the challenges of content creation and distribution on the digital screen. Day Two's panel discussion on 'Programming - Beyond the TV Screen' was what the new age digital content creators were waiting for, and the panel delivered right on target.

TV.NXT 2014: Fresh Content Will Always Have Takers

Anchoring the session, Shruti Verma Singh, head, strategy & brand, NDTV Prime, spoke to the panel about what makes the digital platform tick, and what exactly are the hurdles on the way. The panel for the session was made up of Shruti Bajpai, international media consultant; Puneet Johar, co-founder & CEO, To The New Ventures; Arunabh Kumar, founder & CEO, The Viral Fever; Shabir Momin, founder, managing director & CTO, Zenga Group of Companies; Eklavya Bhattacharya, director, Viacom 18 Media & head - digital media, MTV India and Sameer Mody, managing director, Pocket Films.

Kumar started the discussion by explaining how 'Qtiyapa' - an online series - snowballed into (TVF). Kumar started his journey by making Rowdies, a witty, satirical take on MTV's Roadies which went viral on social media, collecting over a million views in 5 days. This would have been ordinary, save for the fact that the same content was rejected outright by television broadcasters.

"People often ask me, what is the secret behind our success at TVF. But there has been no secret, except for believing in the content we wanted to create. But people have to understand that just because the content is online, does not mean the cost of production goes down," pointed out Kumar.

Bhattacharya explained how to make money from branded content on the web. According to him, it is important to accept that all of them are in business and, thus, finances must be kept in mind. Bhattacharya further elaborated how even though youth are consuming content through a lot of mediums, what they are not consuming are advertisements. The 'Skip Ad' button on YouTube is a case in point.

Viacom's digital segment contributes 10-12 per cent of MTV's overall revenues. While the first proper video content was launched four years back on MTV. Today, MTV is launching sponsored content on the web every week. Bhattacharya's view was that branded content can work as long as the brand's ethos, values, or the brand itself, is integrated into it. According to him, viewers will consume content that is real and relatable. While independent content creators do not fall under the Censor Board, they have to be cautious because of the MTV logo attached to them.

Mody felt that everyone wants some sort of differentiating content. These can be short stories with new outlook and perception. He stressed on the fact that while there is an audience out there that consumes different content, there is also an audience who hasn't shifted completely to digital. The latter however will consume interesting and novel content if it is given to them.

Answering Singh, he said, "Monetisation is a challenge as of now. Things are better than what they were two years ago, and hopefully will get better two years down the line. YouTube remains one of the preferred platforms for viewership, screening and in terms of revenue. YouTube is a place where we can share revenues along with our film-makers and content providers."

Momin wants his company, Zenga, to become technologically more and more relevant. Which is why he has tried to make content accessible to viewers at low bandwidth. His trump card, however, lies in the fact that he can reach markets where the audience may not have smart-phones or bandwidth. Momin was of the opinion that television can be forgiving, but on the digital platform you cannot be boring for even one second. It is a wrong perception to think that only long forms work on digital. He felt that as long as the content is interesting, it will be consumed - be it long form or short films.

The idea that digital is not financially profitable was questioned by Momin. He suggested tying up with brands, small but many relevant ones, to monetise any content on the digital platform. According to Bajpai, content is the king. As long as it is interesting, people will find it, whether it is on digital media or television. Similarly, both small and big production houses as well as independent creators will find takers in the digital age.

Bajpai used the example of Awesomeness TV and Maker Studio - two independent content creators who were brought over by DreamWorks and Disney, respectively. "Broadcasters are making sure that they either learn (or replicate) from the new age content creators, or acquire them. But you never know what a small independent start-up can also do. Who would have thought that Amazon which started by selling books, would now own a full-fledged channel?" she asked.

Johar agreed with Momin and Bajpai and stressed on the democratization of content. He spoke about the stimulus to produce content. According to Johar, this has always been advertising or subscription revenue. But today, with the democratisation of video, the stimulus to produce content might just be to popularise a business of their own. This is especially true of the SME segment in the US where people have used YouTube to launch their own brands. What works for these individuals, according to Johar, is being out there, collecting followers, having a great social visibility.

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