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BY Mitaksh Jain

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Actor Shreyas Talpade tells us he last watched a play around the end of 2019, a Marathi one titled ‘Dad Ek Good News Aahe’. Since then, the disruption caused by the lockdown along with his love for theatre compelled him to do find ways to save it. Talpade has just launched his own OTT platform, Nine Rasa with the aim to bring the magic of theatre to digital screens. He takes us through his vision for the new platform, his new avatar as an entrepreneur, plans for Nine Rasa and more…

Q] In a cluttered OTT space with so many players, what will the marketing strategy be for Nine Rasa? And what is the TG you aim to reach?
We are not thinking about any particular marketing strategy for the first three months. It is a one-of-its-kind platform which is dedicated to theatre and performing arts. We are going to go all out in terms of distributing certain coupons to certain groups. We want people to come in and sample it and see how it is, we will gauge their response, and then decide on a strategy rather than just going all out right now. As far as the media mix is concerned, digital is going to be pretty heavy, rather than offline or traditional media because everything is digital today. The target audience will be theatre lovers and people who miss theatre. The idea is to take theatre to every household because theatre is one of the oldest, richest and purest art forms of entertainment. My idea is that theatre needs to come back with full force.

Q] As an actor turned businessman, do you think you will be in an advantageous position to draw audiences in the beginning? Will the ad campaigns feature you extensively?
There is a certain advantage that I will have, without a doubt, because I have received immense love from my audience. I feel that this effort of getting theatre to the mobile screens or laptops or TV screens has got only positive feedback. It will help definitely. People also say that actors are not great businessmen but you have someone like Shah Rukh Khan who is a great actor and a fantastic businessman. Most actors today have started understanding the nuances of business. The people who are involved in the programming or acquisition and operations, and the business part of this platform have a lot of experience in this field of business and content management. I’m not so worried about it. The ads would feature me initially. While Shreyas Talpade has a certain amount of reach but say if I’m able to convince someone like Shah Rukh Khan, who’s also done theatre, then the platform will go miles ahead of where Shreyas Talpade can take it.

Q] Will you be able to sustain the momentum for the platform once the vaccination is completed and the pandemic is brought under control? Do you think that live experience can be replicated on a screen?
Nothing in this world can replicate the magic of a live performance. However, cricket is played on a ground but do you feel if cricket wouldn’t have been covered by cameras and brought to our TV screens, it would have been able to achieve its current status in our country? There’s only a limited number of people who can go and watch it in a stadium but because all of us wanted to see it, radio commentary started happening and then it came on TV, and then you were like, “Wow! The stadium can come to our living rooms.” We can see those action replays, we can see umpire decisions and we are okay with the ads playing in between. When everything is going Digital, why should theatre remain behind? All content is original and exclusively shot for Nine Rasa. We give producers the freedom if you want to perform it offline, you have the freedom, go perform and earn that money. I’m not going to stop you.
Q] Speaking of content, what will the size of your content library be when Nine Rasa goes live? What will the share of regional languages be in the entire content library?
We have 100 hours of content shot for Nine Rasa approximately which we will upload in a phased manner. Not all the content is going up together. We will be shooting another 120 hours of content. We were supposed to shoot this month but because of the restrictions, we have decided to postpone it. We have content in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, English and Hinglish. We are also trying to acquire content in Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam. Bengali is finalised. We are still searching for content in Tamil and Malayalam.

Q] Your OTT platform will square off against much larger players like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, which have deep pockets and slick algorithms; how do you plan to stand out in such a competitive space?
Deep pockets is an understatement for them. We are in no way trying to compete with them. It is the only reason that we have decided to focus on theatre and performing arts. For me, I need to figure out the first 3-4 months and see where I’m heading. I have no reference. There is a separate audience who would want to watch theatre and I’m catering to them.

Q] Tell us about your revenue model as you have opted for both – a subscription-based model and an advertiser-led channel. What was the insight behind opting for both?
There are only two plans that we have— a monthly plan at Rs 59 a month and an annual plan at Rs 599. People who usually watch theatre are aware of the ticket prices any particular show will have, and in that respect, most of my friends and relatives that I spoke with have said the price is quite reasonable. Theatre has a certain premium to it. In addition to AVOD and SVOD, we are introducing merchandising in phase two. There are other avenues we are looking at in terms of syndication, or cross-platform promotions and integrations. It is also on the cards.

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Tags : interview OTT Mitaksh Jain Shreyas Talpade Nine Rasa theatre