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Content and distribution are pillars of our growth strategy: Ali Hussein, Eros Digital

In a conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, the COO of Eros Digital shares how the platform has been successfully able to double the number of subscribers in last one year on the back of its short-format video content, original shows and video library

Ali Hussein

In the last one year, Eros Now has been able to double its number of subscribers to 18.8 million, surpassing its original target of 18 million paid subscribers.

The COO of Eros Digital, Ali Hussein, credits the growth to original and innovative content along with efficient distribution of the OTT app through telcos and OEMs. To attract subscribers, Eros had earlier launched a short-format video content service — Eros Now Quickie.

On the original front, Eros Now is set to launch two massive originals where it is collaborating with third parties. In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Hussein talks about how it’s successfully making people pay for the content, revenue through branded content, growth from international markets and how it is taking on the streaming giants such as Netflix, Hotstar and Prime Video.

Excerpts:

How are you planning to differentiate Eros Now Quickie from other existing original content?

Quickie in itself is not competing with other originals in the market. If we look at the short-format content available on YouTube and Facebook, they are more of DIY content. Pocket Aces and TVF are creating more slice-of-life kind of content. But at Quickie, what we do is high-quality drama with smaller narratives. We have taken the learning from our originals and tried to narrate the stories in 16-18 minutes rather than 300 minutes. We have taken high-quality talent and production values that do not necessarily exist in short-form space and brought them together under the Eros Now Quickie umbrella IP.

Our Quickie shows are of six to eight episodes wherein each episode varies between 8 and 10 minutes. The turnaround for Quickie is shorter than our originals because the writing is not as extensive and the pre-production exercise is simpler. Hence, we are able to churn out Quickies between six and eight months, depending on the project.

What kind of synergies do you enjoy with Eros International?

In terms of content creation, we work hand in glove with the studio business. When we work on films, we get access to large-scale celebrities who develop short-form content for us like our chat series Black and White, featuring several celebrities. It is a sub-brand within the Eros Now Quickie. We leverage the fact that we are a vertically integrated studio and the fact that we are native content producers for the last 40 years.

Are you open for syndication deals with Eros Now Quickie content?

We got distribution deals with multiple platforms like Reliance Jio, Airtel, Idea and BSNL but we are not looking to syndicate any of Eros Now content on third-party platforms. If there is an opportunity with international players in terms of dubbing the content in say Portuguese and entering different markets, we will be happy to consider because it will mean that we will be able to attract new viewers for the IP.

What will be your focus in 2019? How are you planning to strengthen the brand?

We have divided our business around two key pillars — content and distribution. Our main focus is how we will build the entire content strategy where it is the larger play in terms of films across languages, Eros Now Originals and Eros Now Quickie, which deals with short-form content. We are focusing on the content strategy to building an overall experience for the customer. The second focus is distribution, what we are doing in our domestic markets — India and South Asia — and what we are doing in the international markets. Eros Now is one of the most extensively and evenly distributed OTT products from India and has the largest global reach. Now that Apple+ is launching in the next few months, Eros Now is going to be the only non-US brand to be part of their launch. Distribution is another area we continue to invest in. We got several deals; we are the only entities to have BSNL pre-paid. We will soon announce other deals in the coming few weeks.

All digital platforms in the country are coming up with original content to attract viewers. In such a scenario, what kind of advantages do you see for Eros Now?

Several OTT platforms tie up with third-party producers and work with them but at Eros Now we have our own in-house writers’ team that looks closely into the script and the entire creative process. There is a larger opportunity for us to make sure that final creative output stays closer to the original narrative as we are able to hand-hold the process. Also, we are in movie-making business for the last 40 years, so we understand the process of making high-quality entertainment. Since we have a stronger and older relationship in the film business, it also helps us to work with a varied set of cast/talent, which we believe is right for the story. We also feel like we will be able to market the product very well because there are enough incentives from a film business, in terms of how we are able to create a brand value, how we are able to take our learnings from the film business to the digital side, and also how our transaction opportunities will have more uptake for our originals. So I think it is a combination of these three things and that we are able to reach out to the larger audience in the country rather than making it a metro-centric.

Eros Now is focusing solely on the SVOD model. How challenging is it to attract subscribers?

Most of the platforms that have opted for hybrid models are associated with the TV networks wherein they are essentially in the advertising business. For them, the initial viewing happens on the TV channels whereas OTT is the second screen. The content offered by them is repetitive in nature from the second screen perspective as it is already offered through advertising on television. Hence, advertising becomes an important play. For us, our core play is movies which are sold to theatrical audiences at a certain ticket price. For our brand, the best place is to look at the subscription revenue and drive the uptake on that. According to our last quarter results, we are sitting at 18.8 million paid subscribers and we have shown 100% YoY growth in what we delivered as per our FY 2017-2018 versus FY 2018-2019 results. It is an area on which we will work hard and focus. We believe that it is an area that will grow aggressively in the future.

What kind of telco partnership have you inked for Eros Now?

We have coverage across telcos such as Idea, Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio, among others, so we have covered almost all the telcos. However, we have a few interesting partnerships coming up, which will be launched soon. We have inked a few international partnerships that we will be announcing in the coming weeks. With the help of telcos, we have tried to open the video economy as telcos have a way to collect payment from the subscribers. We have leveraged that opportunity so that people will subscribe to the platform and grow the SVOD market. As a company, that is the area we have focused on for the last two to three years and that has really paid off.

What kind of ARPUs do you expect from India and abroad? Which are the key markets for Eros Now?

Our average revenue per user (ARPUs) abroad is obviously 4X to 5X that of our India ARPUs because a lot of our popular markets are the UK and the US. The native ARPU in markets such as the US and the UK are much higher and there is also a conversion in terms of charging in dollars and in rupees. I think we are in the business to ensure there is qualitative consumption and distribution of platforms. Slowly down the years, we are looking at ways on how we will be able to increase the ARPU in term of technology and using value-added services as a core strategy.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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