‘Consumers are moving to smaller viewing environments’
ShortsTV, a channel dedicated to short films, recently partnered with Amazon Prime Video in India. Until now, it could be accessed for a fee on DTH platforms, and the Airtel Xstream app. Carter Pilcher speaks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about the media company’s ambitions in India, leveraging the growing appetite for diverse content among Indian audiences, and more.
In India, your content is available on DTH channels as well as on a mobile app (Airtel Xstream). Why the tie-up with Amazon Prime Video?
Consumers now have different preferences to watch content because they have multiple options. Our goal is to make ourselves available in as many ways as possible. We have observed that consumers are moving from a big viewing environment like a TV or computer to smaller viewing environments like a mobile phone. That’s an area where we think of short films as a key form of entertainment. Here, the Amazon Prime Video partnership comes into play, because people can watch short films on the go.
We launched with Amazon Prime Video Channels in Europe about six months ago, and have seen steady growth in those markets. We will extend this service next in the US. The ShortsTV app will be launched in India in the first half of next year.
How many paying subscribers do you have in India now? How big is your Indian content library?
We have less than a million subscribers currently in India. We are really hoping that the Amazon Prime Video partnership will grow our subscribers past a million. We are targeting film aficionados. The Indian film industry is making a big shift. In the last 10 years, we have seen audiences develop an appetite for films that tell deeply personal stories about things that are happening in day-to-day life. That shift from fantasy-based films to situational movies is perfect for short films and short filmmakers.
We have about close to 1,000 hours of content of which 30-40% is Indian content. In India, we are showing roughly 400 hours of Indian content. We will be targeting a 10-15% growth in content year-on-year.
Doesn’t the Amazon tie-up cannibalise your other offerings?
Amazon is a great partner, and we want to keep every subscriber in the environment they are used to. Once we launch our app in India, we will also probably provide our Amazon subscribers access to the app through their Amazon subscription. We work with each of our partners to understand their environment and audiences, and design our products to increase viewership; not take away viewership. We try to create slightly different experiences in different environments. On DTH channels, we offer a few video-on-demand titles that viewers can choose from. On Amazon we have observed that people are interested in individual titles and selecting their own titles to watch. So, we have given Amazon one of our largest catalogues of individual films. We are making 300 films available to our Amazon subscribers at any time.
Is bundling the only way forward for niche platforms in India?
India is leading the way in innovation in the media space in lots of ways. Players like Tata Sky are offering bundling services. I think bundling is a no brainer. It offers an easy way in for everybody. Audiences are used to buying several channels at the same time, particularly on their cable subscription.
Premium OTT platforms have introduced multi-tier subscription plans, especially for mobile, in India. Do you plan to do the same?
We are already experimenting with different pricing options with various operators. For instance, we have launched an experimental two-day subscription plan with Airtel Xstream for Rs 9. And we have already seen good growth coming from that initiative. In fact, I find the two-day model to be more exciting than just the mobile subscription.
Some OTT apps syndicate content for other platforms. With your production division, Shorts Factory, are you considering it too?
We are not about to start syndicating shows to other OTT platforms. We have large audiences watching our films. We are not in any hurry to move away from short films.