New Delhi: Balancing a slate of prime-time television shows such as Bigg Boss and Masterchef India with new-age web content across video streaming platforms is now part of the DNA of the 14-year old Indian arm of Endemol Shine Group, primarily known for TV soaps and reality shows. In an interview, chief executive officer Abhishek Rege talks about straddling the two media along with various genres across them, and challenges of working in a cluttered industry where good talent is hard to come by.
Q. How are you balancing web and TV content and what is the focus?
Ans. The way we look at it is not web and TV but scripted (fiction) and non-scripted (reality shows) content so verticals will be on that basis. What would happen down the line is that we would also look at non-scripted online. Globally, we’ve done Hunted in Italy and Family Food Fight in Brazil, so we would be adapting some of our non-fiction formats for the OTT (over-the-top streaming) players (in India) as well. The focus on looking for a team is more from a genre perspective, who is the showrunner, director and writer. And it could be for TV, smaller OTTs and the larger premium OTTs as well. As of now, 80% of our content in India is non-scripted and 20% is scripted. We want scripted to grow much faster wherein we can attain equilibrium of roughly 50-50 by 2022.
Q. What are current challenges especially on OTT?
Ans. One of the key things is talent, especially for scripted content, it’s about getting the right writers, showrunners and directors when you need them. The second challenge comes from the gestation period, you’re waiting for some talent to come by, you’re waiting for a green signal from the OTT platform. Now the teams have really been ramped up, there are new faces at Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, there is a lot of clarity slowly coming by and that is going to fastrack a lot of stuff. On OTT, there is apprehension because all of us content creators have not cracked the code on how non-scripted should be presented to a consumer in a snacky manner. Plus you can’t make it expensive.
The first lot of content on these platforms has come from Bollywood film producers, because the understanding was to make something super premium. Now the understanding is when you want to make it work in India, you also have to have volume. So it boils down to producers who can bridge the gap between TV and films. The next phase of growth for streaming platforms will come from good content that is not necessarily premium. Faces could be fresh, or great theatre actors, but not necessarily stars. That should also bring budgets down. If you need to make a $2 million episode, they will give you the money. But it needs to be a real requirement and not unnecessarily making a show out of it, rationalizing costs is where we should be heading.
Q. How would costs for a TV show versus an OTT show compare?
Ans. The thing with an OTT show is it all depends on what the topic is, whom you are bringing to the table. But to give you a range, a scripted daily show (on TV) would cost anywhere between ₹7-10 lakh, per episode (for 260 episodes), a one-hour weekend episode would be for ₹30-45 lakh (for 26 episodes). The medium-level OTTs, on the other hand, function in a ₹60 lakh-1.3 crore per episode range (for a 10-episode series) while for premium OTTs, it’s ₹2-6 crore.
Q. What are you working on at the moment?
Ans. We are working on a Netflix show titled Bombay Begums, we’ve tied up with Ram Madhvani’s Equinox Films for an adaptation of our Dutch show, Penoza, we’ve also acquired some book rights like The Sane Psychopath which will most probably become a digital feature and Trial by Fire on the Uphar Cinema tragedy. We’ve tied up with director Prashant Nair for a 7-10 episodes series and there are a few more things in the pipeline that we would be getting confirmations on.
Q. How are you acquiring scripts?
Ans. One, we have our own international formats that can get converted and we put up our own writers’ rooms for the same. Then there are book adaptations. Third, we have a relationship with various people in the market who are talking to talent that can come to us because we invest in development. Once we like an original idea, we give the writer time to develop it and we ensure he doesn’t go without compensation. When we’re making a show, the consumer should want to come back to the next episode and that will only happen if he relates to it, so the idea is can the stories be identifiable or aspirational. At any point in time, the viewer shouldn’t feel that he’s being asked to over-intellectualise, it should be content that people want to watch faster.
Q. Is it fair to say that both online and TV will continue to grow?
Ans. Absolutely. From a TV perspective, advertisers have the ability to reach out to a mass audience. Advertisers want that brand to be created and sustained, they need continuous exposure. TV gives you four months of exposure, on an average, that is always going to remain.
Q. How do you see the Banijay development playing out? (Banijay Group, the French production and distribution giant had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 100% of the equity of Endemol Shine Group globally last December)
Ans. As of now, we continue to be competitors and separate companies and regulatory approvals are in process (globally). We expect it in a minimum of five months and a maximum of 13 months, if and when they come, we will talk the next steps.