From selling movies through video cassettes to distributing blockbusters in multiplexes, content curator, aggregator and distributor Shemaroo Entertainment has come a long way since its inception in 1962. The five-decade-old organisation has forayed into what is often called the newest form of entertainment - digital video. Titled - ShemarooMe - the entertainment studio's video on demand (VOD) platform was formally launched yesterday.
Shemaroo already has a formidable digital presence through its wide bouquet of offerings on YouTube, a platform which has 250 million monthly active users in India. Shemaroo's flagship channel - 'Shemaroo' - has 14 million subscribers while its music channel - 'Shemaroo Filmi Gaane' - has 19 million.
"Overall, we see 90 million monthly active users viewing our videos on YouTube," says Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment. "We know what this 90 million like to consume and understand their behaviour and this is the audience we are launching ShemarooMe for," he adds.
ShemarooMe will follow a freemium business model where some of its content will be available for users to stream for free. That content will be monetised through advertisements. At the same time, the platform will put its movies and other original content behind a paywall which subscribers will be charged for access.
ShemarooMe will provide seven categories to consumers - 'Bollywood Classic', 'Bollywood Plus', 'Gujarati', 'Kids', 'Bhakti', 'Ibaadat', and 'Punjabi'. Viewers can subscribe to individual categories for Rs 49 per month or Rs 499 per year while the all-access monthly pack is priced at Rs 99 per month and Rs 999 per year.
Shemaroo owns over 5000 hours of curated content (3700 plus titles) across various languages and genres, "The existing library played a vital role in the way we categorised our offering," says Gada. There are already so many players in the digital video ecosystem, but Gada is not worried about ShemarooMe's late entry into the fray. "Indians may like Pizza and Pasta, but they love Indian food. ShemarooMe is that Indian food; we don't intend to create fiction shows like the others in the space and that distinguishes us from the rest," he adds.
ShemarooMe's original content will be documentary series around films and chat shows where modern-day stars interview heroes from yesteryears. When it comes to 'Bhakti' and 'Ibadaad', the platform will bank on live streaming from various shrines across the country and its library of Bhajans. The content team will create chat shows and darshan videos too.
"We own 70 per cent of the Gujarati content that exists in the market today. These include movies, Gujarati nataks, short-form series etc. So that was an obvious choice for us," says Zubin Dubash, COO, Digital at Shemaroo Entertainment. Shemaroo's Gujarati channel on YouTube has 1.3 million subscribers and is one of the largest Gujarati channels on Google's VOD platform. Going forward the platform will experiment with vernacular content in other regions.
"The affluent small-town audience in tier II and tier III markets is what we are going after. Our content will always appeal to the masses. As far as kids' content is concerned, we provide a restricted access option so that parents can relax when the kids are watching," says Dubash.
Shemaroo Entertainment has appointed a new set of people to look after the technology, distribution and sales of the new platform while marketing and content are handled by people who have been working on these verticals for Shemaroo Entertainment. "This is an experiment where we are trying to connect to the consumer directly and today's market dynamics are such that it allows you to experiment in the digital space," says Gada. He adds, "We will invest whatever is necessary, but at the same time, we will be cautious. We don't want to get to a situation where it becomes either work out or burn out."
Shemaroo Entertainment reported a Rs 28 crore profit in the quarter ending on December 31, 2018. Its revenue from operations in the same quarter were Rs 146.66 crore, down from Rs 158.10 crore in the quarter ending in September 2018.
So, is this digital launch to raise the valuation? "We have never thought about it. Digital gives us an opportunity to connect with more B2B partners and an additional way to communicate directly with our consumers," asserts Gada, who is not thinking about selling off at all.
In terms of marketing the new platform, Shemaroo will use its existing YouTube channels as they are the lower hanging fruits it wants to acquire initially. "If you release a new show, you create a marketing plan around it. What marketing can you do for people to come and watch a classic? We have a marketing budget and we are open to spending ad dollars, but before that, we need content which we can market," says Dubash.
Between international giants, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and broadcaster's OTT platforms Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, SonyLIV and studios' digital platforms - Eros Now and ALTBalaji, how ShemarooMe manages to carve a niche for itself remains to be seen.
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