NEW DELHI :
Last month, American streaming service Netflix released the latest episode of its popular talk show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman in conversation with Shah Rukh Khan right before the Diwali weekend. While there were three big-ticket Bollywood films and two Tamil offerings scheduled to arrive in theatres for the festive weekend, the Reed Hastings-owned video-on-demand (VoD) platform managed just the right amount of noise for the high-profile episode.
Netflix’s other big-ticket show, spy thriller Bard of Blood, was released on a Friday preceding the Gandhi Jayanti weekend, while its crime drama Sacred Games was released for the Independence Day week. Arch rivals Amazon Prime Video’s The Family Man and Hotstar’s Out of Love were both released on Fridays, a route that most web shows take.
Media industry experts say cashing in on extended, festive or even regular weekends to release originals is a strategy streaming platforms have learnt to follow, thanks to consumer insight and the model long set by the mainstream film industry.
“Timing a release is one of the key strategies (for an OTT player) now," said Aparna Acharekar, programming head, ZEE5.
Over a period of time, streaming platforms have gained learnings about the timings when consumers watch OTT shows the most which firstly includes long weekends. This is similar to how producers schedule, say, a Salman Khan film release before a long Eid or Christmas weekend because fans flock to theatres at that time. There is opportunity to be seized even on smaller or partial holidays, a Friday that precedes a weekend or a Monday that follows one or if there is a Tuesday off with a working Monday, which a lot of people tend to club with the weekend. The target audience for OTTs is millennials— specifically people between the ages of 25-34 who work without a break from Monday to Friday, and have time on their hands over the weekend.
“Our Christmases, Diwalis and Eids come every time there is a long weekend, though every weekend is a golden opportunity for all OTTs because that’s when people actually have time on their hands. We start putting shows up Thursday night which is when millennials start going into the weekend mode, Friday is when people have some time post parties, or work and that’s when they start watching content," Acharekar said adding that Saturday and Sunday afternoons are good for consumption too, as are Sunday nights when viewing can go up to almost 4 am.
While ZEE5 chooses to put all shows out on the midnight of the announced release date, Hungama app that is part of Hungama Digital Media, wants to cash in on the weekend by starting even earlier.
“For five out of our seven shows, we have chosen to do a mid-week release, by Tuesday or Wednesday. Since almost 40-45%of our platform’s viewing happens over the weekend, we are giving ourselves those two or three days to create a buzz on social media and remain in the consideration set of our consumers," said Neeraj Roy, managing director and CEO of Hungama Digital Media. Even promotional material, like trailers are released by noon, taking inspiration from Bollywood, in order to give them time to hit the top spot on Twitter trends and Google searches. It also helps that Hungama’s viewership starts to grow from 6 pm and hits its peak between 9-12 pm.
Further, there is opportunity in linking show themes to real-life happenings—ZEE5 released Badnaam Gali, a comedy drama on surrogate motherhood on Mother’s Day this year while its Marathi show Hutatma, based on the Samyukta Maharashtra movement was launched on 1 May, which is Maharashtra Day. An upcoming show, Chhabis Gyarah (26/11) is slated for 26 January.
Global players like Netflix, however, like to mix it up—while their originals are released simultaneously across time zones, licensed or acquired content is given multiple launches depending on location. The platform believes, on Netflix, every night (or even day) is a premiere night (or day) for a member and they always have new audiences discovering stories that may have been around for longer.
To be sure, movie marketing and marketing for a web show are not very different, players say. Just like movies need word-of-mouth praise and positive reviews to go beyond the opening weekend, viewers on the web also have to be told there is content exciting and compelling enough for them to either renew their subscription every month or buy a six-month or even better, annual subscription.
“Almost 100% of our promotional budgets are digital, though in some cases, the outdoor medium has also been reasonably prominent," Roy said. “The first thing we actually rely on is our own social media community. Second, we leverage the audiences of our telecom partners, then we put the trailer out there on an open platform like YouTube, and if our talent is linked to TV or film, we amplify it with their social media presence."