Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Big screens to small screens, what changes?

While the screens of entertainment have gotten larger, they have gotten equally smaller too. The smaller screens on the mobile phone are individualistic and are the hottest destinations of digital OTT content consumption. ‘Small Screen, Big Screen’ was the core theme of a panel discussion at the recently conducted afaqs! vdonxt asia convention in Mumbai. The panel discussion was led by Vanita Kohli Khandekar, contributing editor, Business Standard and included Aparna Achrekar, programming head, ZEE5 India; Neha Toteja, senior director and head of Flipkart Video; Rajiv Bakshi, chief executive officer, Reliance Big Synergy; Ridhima Lulla, chief content officer, Eros Group and Soumya Mukherjee, head of revenue and strategy, HoiChoi.

(L-R) Vanita Kohli Khandekar, Aparna Achrekar, Neha Toteja, Rajiv Bakshi, Soumya Mukherjee and Ridhima Lulla
(L-R) Vanita Kohli Khandekar, Aparna Achrekar, Neha Toteja, Rajiv Bakshi, Soumya Mukherjee and Ridhima Lulla

While much of OTT content is consumed on TV in the West, it is consumed on phones in India. Will it ever go the TV way in India? How different is the execution when it comes to crafting for digital screens? These are a few questions the panelists pondered upon.

Khandekar initiated the conversation by asking about noticeable patterns in consumption on different devices. Eros’ Ridhima Lulla answered, “We really have different types of audiences and there is something for everyone. So while long format shows covering genres like comedy, family drama, etc could be skewed towards shared viewing, there can be content which could be a bit risque in nature, and could be skewed towards mobile.”

Taking the argument further, HoiChoi’s Soumya Mukherjee said, “We notice that the Originals are consumed more on mobile devices while the movies targeted at consumers aged above 40 are consumed on larger screens. But the 25-35 year olds are consuming content on mobile devices.”

“A high share of content consumed on most apps is catch-up television. So, it does not matter where you watch it. Mobile viewing might happen on the go in metros but in the rest of the country, people are happy to watch it at home,” said Rajiv Bakshi.

Toteja put forth her share of experience at Flipkart, saying content is created keeping devices in mind for digital platforms. “Since we don’t have a living-room strategy at present, the kind of content that we are looking to produce at Flipkart is going to be more snacky and based in genres like comedy, music, etc which are easily consumed on mobile.”

ZEE5’s Aparna Achrekar mentioned that there is an increasing demand for catch up TV on connected TV. “Anything that is general viewing is largely in family setups. It depends on the age group and the time of day the content is consumed in. A lot of consumption on connected devices happens on weekends and long holidays when people typically want to binge, which is not convenient for mobile. Say, during a Friday night you may have no problem consuming content that has abusive language or edgy scenes. But on a holiday afternoon when the children are around, you may choose more 'family viewing' content.”

Khandekar probed about the influence of the many variables on the minds of creators and storytellers. “I don’t really want to crowd the mind of my directors and writers with too many distractions. And it is also our responsibility to empower them and tell stories in a correct manner and feed them insights to be able to cater to various screens,” said Eros’ Lulla.

But when do they decide which platform can host certain content, Khandekar asked. ZEE5’s Achrekar responded, “It’s quite early in the strategy that you decide who you’re making it for. The data is not giving us very significant taste clusters spread across the country. There could be cluster watching of only crime thrillers and nothing else, it has nothing to do with their age or geography. It is not about screens anymore.”

Speaking about the shifts at HoiChoi, Mukherjee added, “Before entering the web space, we were already on TV and into movies. The idea was to showcase stories which are not possible in theatres and on TV. We try to offer something relevant, which is new and which hasn't been watched on TV and in theatres.”

However, Reliance Big Synergy’s Bakshi disagreed that the consumption tastes vary basis the time of day. “I don’t think the trend of digital consumption will be different from TV. The only difference is that, in TV the measurement was extrapolation,” he noted.

Eros’ Lulla however opined that a lot of factors come into play when it comes to viewing trends and time is a very important factor, both in terms of duration and time of day.

Putting forth her point of view, Flipkart’s Toteja said that when it comes to personalisation or immersive experiences, the mobile screen sits in a better position than a living room device.

She explained that in terms of content consumption, Flipkart isn’t competing with the other players in the entertainment based digital video space and has different priorities. “Our distinct factors are interactivity and gamification, which is yet to come,” she added.

Speaking on the change in the brief given to production houses over the years, Bakshi added, “Everyone wants something fresh. But everybody wants that content to lead to subscription. On TV, it still is about ad revenue."

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