Keeping up with the times, Shemaroo Entertainment, one of the largest distributors of content in India, has forayed into the OTT space with ShemarooMe. The company is working with a dozen production houses to create content in the realms of Bollywood, regional, devotional and kids. Hiren Gada of Shemaroo Entertainment talks to Ankita Rai about the company’s digital media business, monetising its OTT service, content partnerships, and more. Edited excerpts:
How will Shemaroo differentiate its OTT offering in a market that already has more than 30 players?
The digital video consumption market in India is very nascent. Currently, there are 250-300 million users consuming digital video, and this is expected to cross 700 million in five years. So, the market potential is huge; there is room for many players. Secondly, India is not a homogenous market. Consumers’ tastes in terms of their audio-visual preferences can be segmented. That’s why ShemarooMe has seven distinct categories — Bollywood Classic, Bollywood Plus, Kids, Gujarati and Punjabi in the regional category, and Bhakti and Ibaadat in the devotional space.
Shemaroo offers VAS services on all major DTH platforms. Will there be synergy between your DTH and OTT offerings?
We have launched many premium consumer offerings in the last two years on DTH platforms; these have not been aired on any free platform. We have created more than 100 hours of peripheral content around Bollywood classics which is available on paid channels. For example, we have created Cinema ka Safar, a 22-episode feature anchored by actor Renuka Shahane. We are creating 50-100 hours of content every year. Such exclusive offerings will be available on our OTT platform for subscribers.
Will you be producing original web series, in line with the current trend?
We don’t want to create yet another web series. At this point, the creation of a digital series does not fit our strategy. Many players are doing a good job in the web series space. We are creating peripheral content on cinema and devotion.
How will you promote the OTT service? What kind of monetisation avenues are you exploring?
We will be expanding our OTT distribution through strategic partnerships with telecom players, TV platforms, cable operators, etc. We have rolled out multimedia campaigns. The digital aspect is very important. We have a captive audience base for similar content on YouTube. For example, one of our over 50 YouTube channels, Filmi Gaane, has 90 million monthly active users. We will target this user base for ShemarooMe.
We are looking at monetisation in two phases. First, through a subscription plan — people can subscribe to a monthly, annual or regional pack. In phase two, in Q2 or Q3 next fiscal, we will look at an advertising-supported model. It could be branded content and sponsorships, but that will depend on how many users we are able to garner.
Shemaroo has launched Bhagavad Gita on Amazon Alexa. How else do you plan to leverage smart speakers/virtual assistants?
Technology is evolving and access to content is becoming faster and cheaper, thereby, increasing the overall consumption pool. The commercial model is still evolving in this space. Given the state currently, it is more about being a part of it and creating a commercial model over a period of time. While Bhagavad Gita was the starting point, we have also added discourses of spiritual speaker Gaur Gopal Das on Alexa.
How big is the digital media business for Shemaroo? What are some of the key revenue streams?
We are very bullish about the digital business. In four-five years, we see the digital and traditional revenue streams to be 50:50. In digital, our key source of revenue is telco platforms, followed by syndication with OTT players such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. We also have ad-supported monetisation on YouTube.
Content syndication with other OTT platforms will continue. Typically, we distribute contemporary films to other platforms. There are many segments where other OTT platforms have a good hold. Instead of spending on our own platform to attract consumers, we would rather partner with others to monetise the content.