BOLD CONTENT IN DEMAND ON OTT PLATFORMS?

Submitted by admin on Mon, 05/08/2017 - 15:01

Adult, steamy, bold and edgy content on OTT platforms entice the youth mainly because of little connect with centre-of-plate shows on Television and extreme censorship; now advertisers flock to them too

 

By Neeta Nair

 

OTT platforms or ‘content on demand’ has paved the way for all kinds of shows, even those that would perhaps create a scandal if telecast on a more centre-of-plate medium like Television. For example, there are shows like ‘It’s not that simple’ (INTS) on Voot which talks about a woman’s desire to have an extramarital affair, or ‘Married Woman Diaries’ on SonyLiv which touches upon a working woman’s inhibition and unwillingness to succumb to pressure over having a baby. The content breaks free from stale formula catering to the fast evolving sensibilities of audiences who have had enough of run-of-the-mill and at times regressive soaps on TV. But the big question is, do they have sponsors?

Ajay Rawal, General Manager, Marketing, JK Ansell Pvt. Ltd (the company which manufactures Kamasutra condoms) the sponsor of ‘Married Woman Diaries’ responds, “Our association with the web series has worked out phenomenally well, the traffic on our website has increased 10-fold after the show was aired on SonyLiv and this was achieved at a fraction of the cost we incur on Television. OTT platforms provide a big opportunity for a brand like Kamasutra, considering that there are huge reservations when it comes to condom advertising on TV and other mediums. In this case, the storyline revolved around a husband who wanted a baby and a wife who didn’t, so the condom becomes an integral part of the plot. We are willing to spend close to 5-10% of our advertising budget on such integrations because it helps us reach the right target audience.” Currently, the advertising on such platforms can broadly be divided into three types - either the product is integrated with the story, or there are regular ad placements at intervals, or it is a brand-sponsored web series.

OTT platforms have deliberately walked up to the other side of India which is mature, always online and doesn’t shut their eyes when they watch ‘Game of Thrones’.  Matching their confident strides and turning their attention to advertising on such platforms are brands which are traditionally known to spend aggressively on Television like Micromax, Maruti, Fogg, VIP, Arvind Limited, etc. These brands are associating themselves with courageous plots and equally bold execution, be it shows like Untag, Tanlines or Love Bytes.

Talking about the advertiser response to such shows on SonyLiv, Uday Sodhi, Executive Vice President and Head - Digital Business at Sony Pictures Networks India says, “These are definitely bold shows if the benchmark is Television. A year ago, the number of sponsors and the amount of money brands wanted to put in on OTT platforms was very limited, now we are finding many more big companies willing to ride on the Digital content. This is because at a much lower cost, you are able to reach a precise target audience which in this case is the slightly premium smartphone user in metros.” At the moment, SonyLiv claims to have a total viewership of 20 million per month while for Married Woman Diaries specifically, the number crosses a good 5 million, which means a significant percentage of the Digital audience is consuming bold narratives.

TARGETED ADVERTISING A BOON

In a largely one-TV-per-home country, brands have the compulsion to create content that addresses all members of the family, but what works for one member rarely works for the other. Digital solves this problem, allowing brands to address their TG more sharply because more than two-thirds of the consumption there happens on mobile phones, which is an individual consumption platform. It leaves very little scope for wastage, unlike in Print and TV. Also, within that, video currently accounts for 60% of mobile data traffic, as per the KPMG India-FICCI report, and is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 63% between 2016 and 2021. This will open the doors for several such sponsored shows in future, many of which can afford to be edgy and bold in their outlook.  

Anand Chakravarthy, Managing Partner, Maxus says, “For BARC, the rural audience contributes to 50% of the total ratings now because of which a lot of the content on the core channels is actually catering to rural viewers. This means that for the younger audience, whether it is small town or metros, Television content is not as exciting or relevant as it used to be. And to address that, brands are already moving into the content on demand space.” Clearly, the success of atypical shows by TVF and AIB on YouTube played a big role in bringing about the OTT revolution, revealing a possibility for sponsor integrations on such platforms too. Chakravarthy adds, “Tata, a hardcore Indian brand, has shown that it is not conservative by associating Tiago with the show TVF Tripling. The language of the show is real, and not contrived. Maybe five years ago, it would have been disastrous to show characters like you and me using Hindi swear-words so frequently, but today it would look all contrived if the characters don’t talk like that, because that is exactly how the audience speaks. So a lot of brands are willing to move to a platform like OTT which shows what is real, because that’s the only way to connect with the younger audiences.”

Also, the unlimited data offers ushered in by telecom players like Jio, is playing a big role in pushing data adoption for the youth which no more needs to worry about spending a fortune to access content on OTT platforms. As a result, marketers are forced to redraw their Digital strategies including OTT in their marketing mix. Ali Harris Shere, VP, Marketing, Britannia says, “Gen-Z experiences the world through their mobile devices with information and opportunities at their fingertips. Therefore, after having recently established 'India's 1st aural social network', Good Day Campus Radio, to connect deeper with our younger consumers, we are also open to associations with bold shows on pertinent OTT platforms. Of course, there should be a brand fit and a message that is aligned to Britannia’s philosophy.” Also, advertisers can in future be surer of the returns from such platforms, with BARC to provide digital measurements soon. At the moment, advertisers have to largely rely on the data provided by the OTT platforms individually.

NO CENSORSHIP HURDLE

Lack of censorship is another factor which has contributed in a big way to the steady flow of not just viewers but also renowned film-makers to OTT and Digital platforms. An excellent example is Vikram Bhatt, who has made blockbusters like Raaz and Ghulam and often courted trouble with the Censor Board in the past. Bhatt started his own web channel VB with Maaya, an adult love story which has BDSM -- bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism & masochism (S&M) -- as its basic plot. Talking about whether he has had any luck with sponsors for the show, Bhatt says, “My marketing team did approach a few brands and their eyes popped out when they heard of BDSM and about a married Indian woman breaking a marriage in search of her fantasies. The brands went into a swoon, I don’t think they wanted any of their products to be associated with such a story. To put it simply, no other brand except Brand VB wanted to be linked with Maaya.”

Similarly INTS on Voot did not have any sponsors. Commenting on it, Monika Shergill, Content Head, Voot, Viacom18’s OTT platform, says, “The series boldly yet sensitively shows a married woman’s journey of realizing how one-sided and toxic her marriage is through an affair with an old flame who makes her realize that she is worth loving. INTS was a very bold experiment and we did not want to dilute the theme and story narrative in any manner to suit any sensibilities other that what was required for the subject... so we consciously stayed away from the sponsorship route. However, now that it’s a successful series and a brand, we have active interest in Season 2 from sponsors.” Another series from their stable -- UNTAG which dealt with issues of body-shaming and keeping your sexual orientation closeted — did find a sponsor in MOTO Z. It was perhaps because of the ideal brand fit considering Motorola’s new proposition--`Different Is Better’ which justifies their association with a bold theme like UNTAG.

 

NUDITY STILL FROWNED UPON

So while one can say novelty appeals to brands, sex and nudity may also have takers as long as they are a natural part of the storyline and not the storyline itself. Something like Californication, the American series which was all about sexual exploits of the lead character, may still be considered too dramatic for a brand in India. Sangeeta Sharma, Senior Manager, Marketing and Product, Lufthansa Airlines, explains, “We will not associate with anything which will take us away from our ‘More Indian than you think’ proposition. We don’t believe in plastering our logo onto any 20-minute content. We are associated with a show called ‘Runway to Success’ on ET Now where we are part of the strategy so we have control over everything. It won’t be the same for a web series with such a plot.”

Perhaps it is to reduce the dependency on sponsors that ALTBalaji has taken to a subscription route even though the rates are very low compared to competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji, says, “We have a partnership to distribute the app with Micromax and Mobikwik, something more may come up in future; but for now we are clear about not following the advertising model at all.” ALTBalaji decided to launch with some edgy content, be it Bewafa Si Wafaa on extramarital relationships, Romil and Jugal, a gay love story, DevDD about a woman Devdas who is believed to be wilder than your imagination and Boygiri. Talking about the kind of market for such shows, Pantvaidya says, “My estimate is that the market is about 100 hours strong for original exclusive content. By putting out 250 hours just on our platform, we are more than doubling that market. Television programming has a 200 million plus audience base in India while OTT platforms catering to English content appeals to another 4-5 million. Our programming here appeals to roughly around 75-100 million people, primarily the urban mass audience.”

 

DIGITAL MARKET IS EXPANDING

It is a fact that there is still a lot left to be desired as far as Internet connectivity and the reach of such OTT platforms in India is concerned, so most players are left with targeting only the urban audiences. According to a 2016 report released by UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development in 2016, India has overtaken the United States to become the world’s second largest Internet market, with 333 million users, trailing China’s 721 million. But the figures also show that just six nations, including China and India – together account for 55% of the total global population still offline, because of the sheer size of their population.

However the recent decision by the Government to strengthen the digital infrastructure in rural India including the allocation of Rs 10,000 crore to Bharat Net may prove a shot in the arm for OTT players. Bharat Net will connect more than 150,000 gram panchayats with high speed Wi-Fi hotspots indirectly widening the target base for the OTT players, 75% of whose consumption is currently driven by the urban audience.  Perhaps anticipating the Governmet’s big Digital thrust, Amazon Prime Video had announced 18 original Indian shows, making it the company’s largest number of originals outside the US. Also Hotstar, the OTT platform from Star India, which had so far stayed clear of original content, was seen making a debut in the genre in December 2016 with Tanhaiyan. Also declaring their intent to enter the now cluttered Originals space is Spuul, while Viu has just released Spotlight, again a bold show by Vikram Bhatt.

Therefore, it is a market waiting to explode, propelled further by extreme censorship on mainstream platforms and the fact that Television is turning more and more mass, thereby failing to connect with the young digital natives. Chakravarty sums it up beautifully: “The fact is that while we have evolved as a nation, unfortunately our laws have not evolved with us. So Television falls short at some level, especially in relation to the youth. Digital content has the ability to talk to young Indians in the manner that they appreciate, because they are not dumb, they are broad-minded, they have a perspective of the world. Things like LGBT communities, homosexuality, sexual promiscuousness, are things which are part of life and that’s why there is far more relatability with these kind of shows. I won’t call them bold, I will call them real. These are real shows on OTT platforms which reflect the sensibilities of a part of Indian society, not everyone. And that’s why they are so popular.”

 

@ FEEDBACK neeta.nair@exchange4media.com

 

Category: 
Volume No: 
13
Issue No: 
48