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We are in the race to build a niche product, not to increase user numbers: Aditya Pittie

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“We are not in the race of having x million DAUS or MAUS or active users. We are in the race of building a niche product.” IN10 Media Network managing director Aditya Pittie is pretty much clear about where he wants to position the network’s OTT business in an ever-growing market. Anand Mahindra- and Aditya Pittie-promoted IN10 Media has a bouquet of varied media offerings such as television (Epic TV), OTT platforms (Epic On and Docubay), and production house (Juggernaut).

During a virtual fireside chat with Indiantelevision Group founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, Pittie asserts that Epic On and Docubay are not driven by number of users. They are rather driven by time spent, organic tractions, etc. Instead of increasing the number of users, the aim is to build a niche product as a vertical player. That is the OTT strategy the company is following. He is also bullish about Juggernaut, which is going to be one of the company’s key businesses going forward. He says that having an asset like Juggernaut will definitely be a big value addition. “We have the probably largest order book in the industry right now with more than 11 shows confirmed for production,” he states.

Here he dwells at length on the network’s OTT business, strategy, etc.

Excerpts:

After the successful entry into the broadcast business, you launched Docubay. Tell us about it.

Docubay came about because of our love for factual entertainment. We were very interested in documentaries and we believed that as a genre it is the most popular in the world. Prominent OTTs like Amazon have a good library of documentaries. A lot of people across the world enjoy watching them. Then we thought: why don’t we look at a dedicated platform for documentaries. Then we thought of going global, instead of making India-centric. Today, Docubay is a very powerful product; the experience of watching documentaries on Docubay is far superior than any other platform. And we don’t call our subscribers. We call them members, because the idea is to build a community. That’s why it has the tagline of ‘one tribe, many stories.’ The message is that there are many things to explore in this planet, but we are all one tribe. That is the message of Docubay. We just went live on Roku in North America.  And we are one of the very few companies – in the smaller media networks segment – in India that has its own OTT technology in-house. We spent almost a year and a half in building that technology. As an organisation we are really proud of both our OTT products.

How are Epic On and Docubay faring in terms of pricing and number of subscribers?

As regards the KPIs and metrics, Epic On and Docubay are not driven by number of users. They are driven by time spent, how many organic tractions, etc. We are not in the race of having x million DAUS or MAUS or active users. We are in the race of building a niche product.  The pricing of Epic On or Docubay is far higher than any of the horizontal or generic OTT. We are very clearly a vertical player. We have very specific offering and then charge a premium for that offering. That is the model we are working on. By no way we try to fret about how many users we have or how faster our user base is growing. We are not hungry just to drive traffic. We wanted quality traffic. Some of the conversion rates that we have in terms of install vs number of people who are subscribing is probably one of the best in the industry. Those are the kind of models we try to work on. Stickiness, higher paying members who are looking for a specific service as opposed to getting everybody to come on the platform and give what they like. That is not our strategy.  

Since you are not looking at metrics, what is your business game plan to monetise?

Profitability in the media business is about how much content you want to put out. We have a business plan in place. We believe in a direction we want to take. Going forward, 15 to 20 years from now, when OTTs become mainstream, there will be a big market for vertical OTTs where people will subscribe and pay you a premium for the kind of content you create and curate for them, which is dedicated to the genre they prefer focusing on. So the differentiation is that in horizontal you have all kind of content under one umbrella, whereas vertical is slightly more focused on niche. That is the base model behind our OTT strategy. There are various other vertical OTT players all over the world. They have less number of users, but very viable business model.

But here you have entered a global space. So are you competing with Curiosity Stream?

Curiosity Stream has a lot of short-form content and docu-series. Docubay is a feature platform. We only do films. We carry content that has minimum duration of 20-25 minutes. The product offering thus is very different. Theirs is a very knowledge-based, and about science, research, etc. On the other, we give perspective for you to form your own opinion. That is how the documentary genre should be. If you look at the content at Docubay you will realise that they give perspective but let you form your own opinion about the topic. While they are in some degree competition to us, we believe that we are a completely different platform than Curiosity Stream. And we don’t necessarily consider them to be a competition.  

What is the thinking behind having own production company and forging partnership with Applause?

I think we need to separate the Applause Entertainment deal from us being in production. While they are connected they are two separate business models. We were able to foresee last year that the demand for content for OTT platforms is going to skyrocket. Unfortunately, good content creators who understand what kind of content works for OTTs are limited in our industry. There are only a handful of players that are able to create good quality content. As an organisation we have created so many hours of content for our broadcasting business. We felt that we could leverage that knowledge and expertise to build successful production business for other platforms. In terms of scale, we felt that the business can be large enough to justify our resources, time, and energy. That’s why we hired Samar Khan to lead our production business for OTT. And Code M was a super-hit (which came on ZEE5 and Balaji).

And we have the probably largest order book in the industry right now. We have more than 11 shows confirmed for production, with an order book of over Rs 100 crore for the next one year. Juggernaut is going to be one of our key businesses going forward. We are really excited about the ability to create content at scale. Samar and his team have really worked hard to build our good talent of writers and convince OTT platforms that we have the ability to deliver solid products. I am really excited about the Juggernaut business. Having an asset like Juggernaut in our portfolio will definitely be a big value addition.

You work for local OTTs or big international ones like Amazon, Netflix, etc.?

I won’t be able to divulge specific contract details because that will be breach of confidentiality with them. We have one or two shows with every Indian platform. We are obviously in conversation with international OTT players. While Samar has a very big pedigree of content creation, Juggernaut as a company is new. So we are building some traction. Our aim is to deliver some hits this year and then start working with OTTs like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Max, etc. at some point as well.

What genre is Juggernaut positioned in?

We have seen the success of Code M and Samar as a content creator has been very good at certain shows, but we don’t want ourselves to be restricted to that. Content creation is a collective effort. Success in content creation happens by bringing the right people together for the right type of project. So we are not focussed on just doing thriller shows, fiction or non-fiction. The idea is to create good content that is in demand by platforms. OTT is such a fast-feedback medium. It is not like television. You come to know the feedback – whether it works or not – the same day of launching the show. And there is so much data. The platforms specifically know what they want, what kind of content works, and in which region. So rather than focusing on a particular genre like thriller or non-fiction, etc., we want to focus on knowing what works with audiences, learning from experiences in creating good content, working closely with the platforms, leveraging our relationships to pre-empt what kind of concepts and stories are going to work down the lane and prepare our content bank to cater to that need. That’s the broad strategy we are looking at. You can see that we are creating shows across genres.  

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