ShortsTV, the London-based television channel dedicated to short films, is set to launch a video streaming service in India by the second quarter of 2020. The company currently operates in the country through a partnership with direct-to-home television company Tata Sky Ltd, as Tata Sky ShortsTV.
ShortsTV, whose library includes critically acclaimed short Indian films such as Chutney, Ahalya, Shunyata and international Academy Award and Sundance Film Festival movies, has also announced expansion plans by partnering with Dish TV, d2h and Airtel Digital TV.
The streaming service will be offered for a subscription, which the company is yet to finalize.
However, if a user is already subscribed to the Tata Sky package on TV, they get free access. Like several audio streaming services, the films will play on a loop on the ShortsTV app on auto mode.
“We are in the process of testing our app in beta mode in the US and the first quarter will see a commercial launch. It should be here in India soon after that," said Carter Pilcher, chief executive, ShortsTV on a visit to India.
“We think while watching shorts, you don’t want to choose things. It’s like music, you just want it to keep coming and it has to be something you like," he added.
To be sure, the big focus, when ShortsTV starts streaming next year, will be content in local languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi, apart from Hindi and English. Viewers will be able to choose from categories based on director, language, mood and genre.
Pilcher said what works most in India are horror, thriller and romance. While the service has partnered with Bollywood directors like Anurag Kashyap and Subhash Ghai, it is in talks with the Zee group for a project too. More partnership announcements are in the offing in the first quarter of 2020. The company is looking to licence and produce a minimum of 200 hours of Indian content and over the next year, roughly 50% of its library will be made up of titles from the country. When it was launched last year, Indian titles ran into 150-175 hours with another 500 hours of international content.
“Short films have been having a real moment in India. When we initially started working, it was unclear if our catalogue which is full of international titles would fit with Indian films, but what is happening in the creative industry in India with short films is amazing and it is on the verge of really breaking out. We, as a platform, can see a huge difference in the market," Pilcher said adding that it has been a great year in the Indian market with Tata Sky where the service has acquired 100,000 subscribers, something Pilcher attributes to the appeal among young audiences for short-form content.