Benita Chacko

We are poised right at the centre of growth on both sides - TV and OTT: Banijay Asia's Deepak Dhar

The content studio's founder and CEO speaks about India's first interactive adventure reality special 'Ranveer vs Wild with Bear Grylls' on Netflix.

Come tomorrow, Netflix viewers will be able to guide Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh in the jungles of Serbia, as he takes on a wild journey with British adventurer Bear Grylls in India’s first interactive adventure reality special, titled Ranveer vs Wild with Bear Grylls.

Ever since Netflix created its first interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, it has brought out more content in this format, making it a natural choice for India’s first interactive reality special. Produced by Banijay Asia, in association with The Natural Studios, it will allow viewers to join Singh on his journey, choose every step in the adventure and ultimately decide the outcome.

While Banijay Asia dabbles in new formats on OTT platforms, it continues to create adaptations of international formats like The Voice, Nach Baliye and The Big Picture on television. It has also produced shows like The Kapil Sharma Show and India's Laughter Champion.

In an interview with afaqs!, Deepak Dhar, founder and CEO, Banijay Asia, says, “We are poised right at the centre of growth on both sides of the spectrum.”

Edited excerpts:

What was the thought behind creating India's first-ever interactive reality special ?

Banijay Asia has brought in some of the most successful reality franchises to the country. We were thinking of how to disrupt the reality ecosystem when the genesis of the idea to create the first indigenous interactive reality special, started.

We started the journey by saying, what if we bring together two characters, somebody who's a specialist and the other who's never been on a wild journey, in a game-like setup? The reference point were the Indiana Jones characters. We immediately took it across to Netflix because, internationally, it has the learnings to really land this in a big way. We are already embarking on various other shows in this category and also want to take this franchise forward.

What is the kind of technological support that Netflix provided?

Netflix has produced a lot of these interactive reality shows on its platform. So, it has the technology, and are well-versed with this. Its team has been very instrumental in bringing this to life.

What were the challenges you faced while creating an interactive reality show?

When we started developing the show, it was a different world - the pre-COVID era. By the time we started production, the world had turned upside down. There were lots of discussions about pulling it back and doing it at another time. But we continued on this journey in the peak of the pandemic. That was a massive challenge.

We had to land this in a jungle where Grylls and Singh would come together and go on this wild journey. We decided to film this in the Serbian jungles. Being at the peak of the pandemic, it had to be shot in very restrictive filming conditions. Yet, we have not compromised on the size, scale, look and feel of the show.

OTT platforms are launching more reality shows now. How do you see this trend emerging in the coming days?

There was a time when a lot of scripted content was being created. Now, things are moving towards reality or unscripted content. It's good because there's so much of content to be consumed. The unscripted pieces just started in the last year. It's only going to grow further and build up to a lot more. At Banijay Asia, we are constantly delivering a lot of scripted and unscripted content.

Banijay Asia produces reality content for both television and OTT. But the needs of a digital viewer are very different from that of television viewers. How do you make your reality shows differently for the two mediums?

We are actually poised right at the centre of growth on both sides of the spectrum. We're catering to the demand on both sides. We have teams who have the domain experience of both sides of the business. So, we're only trying to build more shows in our production pipeline and deliver content to both sides of the spectrum.

With the rise of OTT platforms, is Banijay now creating more digital than television shows?

We are delivering a lot to digital platforms. But we're equally excited about the linear television space. So, we're not really pivoting one way or the other, rather, we are right at the centre of all the action and opportunity that lies on both sides.

There is an increased focus on South Indian content on OTT platforms. We have seen very few South Indian shows from Banijay so far. What are the plans on that front?

We've already created a lot of reality shows for South Indian audiences. For example, Survivor for the Tamil market. Now, we're creating two original scripted series for some of our platform partners in South India. The regional audience is a big part of our strategy. India is like the European subcontinent, where you can sell different shows to different places, and where the consumption habits differ from one part of the country to another.

Have news to share? Write to us