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Video streaming services are increasingly going beyond advertising and subscription to look at ancillary streams of revenue such as merchandise, music and brand integrations to monetise their content.

Such strategies not only build appeal among audiences and widen mediums of reach but also help create enduring intellectual properties that will ultimately result in larger fan bases, according to media experts. These could possibly account for up to 25% of the total revenue of streaming services in the coming years, they said.

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ZEE5 and ALTBalaji have collaborated with e-retailers to launch merchandise for shows such as Rangbaaz, Bicchoo Ka Khel, and Mum Bhai, while the soundtrack of web shows and movies such as Bandish Bandits (Amazon Prime Video), Ludo (Netflix), and Scam 1992—The Harshad Mehta Story (SonyLIV) found traction on audio streaming platforms.

Services such as ALT and Hoichoi have also tied up with short video apps such as Chingari and MX Takatak. Others such as Disney+ Hotstar and VOOT are taking to brand integrations to spin narratives.

“Advertising and subscription are the primary focus of video streaming platforms, but it is important to keep an eye out for all kinds of branded solutions that are tactical commercially to engage with audiences," Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures said. Many of these are emerging experiences right now but have the potential to scale up as much as advertising and subscription in the coming years, he said.

OTT platforms are looking to monetize beyond primary streams but said that strategies and segment break-up will be specific to IPs in the coming years, said Ali Hussein, chief executive officer (CEO), Eros Now.

“All our marketing alliances are done to strengthen reach and increase our audience base across the country. Content-related e-commerce (merchandise) is definitely one of the most promising opportunities as video content and smartphone sales increase," said Divya Dixit, senior vice-president, marketing, analytics, and direct revenue, ALTBalaji.

ALT has brought out T-shirts, shot glasses, mugs, and bags for shows such as Dark 7 White, Bicchoo Ka Khel, and Mum Bhai, in partnership with an online platform Bollywood.com.

“Non-metros, especially tier-two and three towns are important markets for us and our focus has been to expand our footprint across these cities. Personalised products help us establish a better connection, and expand our brand recall in the heartland," Dixit said. ALT show soundtracks are also available across audio streaming platforms.

A ZEE5 India spokesperson said as the popularity of a show and the target audience grows, merchandising takes off, giving birth to a new tribe of followers, a cult, or a community of loyal fans. This tribe not only makes the platform sit up and personalise surround content for them but also commands a sense of exclusivity to make them stand apart.

After product placements in films and TV shows, branded content is also making its way to video streaming platforms, a growing trend that incorporates products within narratives of shows in genres ranging from food and fitness to travel.

VOOT has a show Cheat Week in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board. Branded content has been big on YouTube but needs to be done carefully on OTT platforms where users, paying for content, are used to a different experience, said Sanjeev Lamba, executive producer, Hungama Originals, Hungama Digital Media.

Overall, these are strategies to create relevant IPs and build fandom among audiences, especially for shows that go into multiple seasons, pointed out Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency.

“The shelf life of the content grows and the potential to reach out to newer audiences is crazy," Gupta said pointing to Hollywood studios such as Walt Disney or Universal Pictures that have explored everything from merchandise to theme parks. Globally, Netflix has merchandise for Stranger Things and even went to the extent of organizing a fair in California in 2019 ahead of the third season. In India, films such as Shah Rukh Khan’s Ra.One had attempted things such as action figurines and an electronic game.

“We’re getting there," Gupta said.

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