Reliance Jio will help us scale our business: Eros Now COO Ali Hussein
Mumbai: Competing with nearly 30 rivals in the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming market doesn’t unnerve Eros Now, the digital arm of movie production and distribution studio Eros International, even as a minority stake acquired by Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) in the parent company late last month brought it under the spotlight.
On the sidelines of the media and entertainment event Ficci-Frames in Mumbai, the newly appointed chief operating officer, Ali Hussein, discusses content plans, implications of the Reliance stake and more. Edited excerpts:
What do you think are the implications of RIL taking 5% stake in Eros International for Eros Now?
I don’t think there are that many implications because it’s a minority stake. On one hand, the joint venture will help us come up with better quality movie and original programming which would be available to both Jio and Eros Now. The second side of things is that the association with Jio will help us scale up our business in a much better way—in terms of content—with what we’re looking to do with the product as well as with marketing and distribution. It gives us more ammunition to be able to go out into the market and set out a better consumer proposition.
How do you look at this entire convergence between telecommunication and media companies?
Telcos are one of the best and most effective paths to (content) distribution. For that reason, the relationship between them and the content creator is totally symbiotic. Telcos will obviously be able to speak of their strategy better but the reason video is so important to them is that it is the highest form of data consumption. However, because Jio has a minority stake (in Eros), we as a company, are open to working with all players.
What are your content plans going forward?
There are four parts to this. One is our legacy library, or the old movies that we have. Then there are the new movies we are looking at, and we shall get into that ecosystem with both co-productions and acquisitions. Our originals are slated to launch towards the second quarter of this year, we shall start off with Hindi and then get into regional languages. Apart from that, we are looking at shorter, snackier formats within the longer movie format. It could be like black & white, our piece-to-camera chat show. Viewing can be both binge and long-form as well as recreational and we want to cater to both (demands).
How do you think subscription is holding up as a business model in India versus advertising?
While advertising is a hybrid model, the real battle of the business globally is based on subscription. In India, there are lots of issues with YouTube making content available at almost zero cost, Jio coming in with its content and data plans as well as the kind of piracy that is rampant, so taking the advertiser model is the easy way out. But value creation needs to happen at a price that is affordable to the consumer. We’re looking at entertainment as a value commodity to the customer because it’s almost a habit. The question is how can we put it out for them in a convenient way at a cost that doesn’t put a dent in their pockets. So, while subscription is going to be a long-drawn exercise, I believe it is something we will start investing in, in all aspects—payments, functionality, value-added services, everything.
How do you plan to differentiate yourself in this cluttered OTT market?
Differentiation is not going to be a challenge for us. We are deep-rooted in the market of films. We are very clear about that and our originals will also bring out that flavour, that we are, for the lack of better words, closest to B-town. Studios like Dharma Productions and Excel Entertainment also work with us so we are very synergistic to the ecosystem. Eros is one of the best platforms for distributing Indian content globally and the world has broken down into niches so people know what to expect from whom. So in terms of defining a large sample niche, who better than us?
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