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How 55-year-old video cassette company Shemaroo transformed into a major digital content player

Shemaroo, one of the oldest production and distribution companies, has got a new lease of life because of growing OTT services. The company with a library of 3,500 films is now relaunching itself with a new logo and a tagline

The world is fast moving towards digital, and movie aggregation and distribution company Shemaroo Entertainment is not to be left behind. The company, which was one of the top film production and distribution players till the 90s, is reinventing itself with a new brand identity that includes a new logo and tagline.

In a continuous effort over the last few years, the 55-year-old company, once known for its video cassette publishing business,divided its focus between traditional media platforms and digital and has now found its place as a major player in the digital content space. The result: the contribution from digital, which was less than 10% about four years ago, is now about 25% of the company’s overall revenue.

Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment, expects this to increase further. “Physical media is migrating to digital media and that’s how the revenues are also shifting. It hasn’t yet completely shifted though. Digital has grown to about 25% of our overall revenues. There’s a significant shift underway and considering how the digital landscape is emerging with Jio and the number of video consumers, digital is a very important and exciting play for us. Everyone is expecting the current 250 million consumers to double in the next three years,” he said.

Moreover, overall traditional media, including TV and DTH syndication, smaller revenue streams like DVD-VCD, partnerships with airlines, contributes to the rest 75%. Gada told that TV is a scaled industry and hence takes up the maximum part of the traditional media.

L-R – Mr. Atul Maru, Joint MD, Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, Mr. Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment Limited and Mr. Kunal Jeswani, CEO, Ogilvy India

Shemaroo is primarily into the business of content aggregation and distribution. It has ventured into producing movies to a certain extent with titles like Ishqiya and DedhIshqiya among few others. The company that started over 55 years ago as a video cassette library, finally stopped publishing video cassettes in 2001 as the world moved to digital. Even the DVD-VCD business is just a lower single digit contributor to the revenue.

On its digital play, Shemaroo has nearly 50 channels on YouTube, FilmiGaane being the most popular of the lot. The company is said to have over 20 million views a day on YouTube, with 30 million subscribers on all channels. FilmiGaane has over 60 million unique views. The content syndication deals for its 3,500 movie titles spread across OTT, television channels and DTH specialised services too.

Along with all the upbeat digital play, the company has gradually taken the shift from being a B2B business to a B2C business. Earlier, they had to deal only with the broadcast business, airlines, cinemas and others. Now, with the digital outlay, they are directly facing the consumers. In a bid to refresh the look of the company, it has revamped its logo, brought in a new tagline and adorned a colourful identity.

Gada, AtulMaru, Joint MD, Shemaroo Entertainment and KunalJeswani, CEO, Ogilvy India showcased the new brand identity at an event on Tuesday. Earlier this year, it brought Ogilvy India on board to chart out its new brand identity.

The new logo has been devised after a thorough understanding of the brand, consumers and the trade. It comprises a series of overlapping layers in rich Indian colours standing for Shemaroo’s promise of offering an imaginative range of zesty Indian content to a diverse group of consumers. The shape of the design elements has been derived from the digital play button. The company also announced ‘India KhushHua’ as its new tagline, an emotion that emphatically states the joy we bring in people’s life.

Gada shared, “Shemaroo is proud to be truly Indian. We Indians love our masala as much as we love our masala content. And with over five decades of doing what we do best, we’ve come to understand what India really wants when it comes to being entertained. It is a momentous occasion for us as we re-introduce our brand with a fresh and disruptive format which will appeal to Indian audiences across the world. I am proud to launch the new brand identity which combines the needs of a digitised age with the nation’s vibrancy.”

Earlier this year, the company had embarked on a transformation journey and set out to achieve 5X growth in five years. “This new identity clearly reflects our ambition, passion and commitment to the goal. We are now gearing up for consumer facing business opportunities, which will help fuel this ambition,” he added.

Jeswani shared, “It has been a fantastic journey working with Shemaroo to bring their rich and colourful legacy alive through a new brand identity. The new identity is dynamic and future facing. Both the new logo and the tagline are representative of what the brand has always been intrinsically known for – entertainment and joy."

A phased campaign to target consumer and trade touch points will be rolled out soon. When asked if this refresh is majorly to reinstate the B2C connect, Gada said, “Our B2B side of the business has grown at a huge scale, but that doesn’t mean that the B2C connect has reduced in any way. For us, through the upcoming campaign, the first step is that the existing viewers should reconnect to the new Shemaroo. For this purpose, all the media will be covered, except for print though. All of our services, offerings and even audiences are audio-visual, so, the main drivers of our campaign would be digital, DTH and TV.”

Since the company plans to advertise on its own platforms, the spends wouldn’t be too much. However, that might mean a loss of certain amount of revenue. As Gada describes, “It is because I am not taking any other advertiser, but I have to run my own ads.”

Having stayed in the business for over five decades, Shemaroo has seen a couple of changes in the way people consume content. Gada said, “People consume content to which they have an emotional content. If Amar Akbar Anthony was a hit on video cassettes and DVDs, it is being watched on TV and digital too. Technology has only enabled the content to be accessible to a wider audience.”

Ad revenue stream

While the company is majorly into content syndication, it doesn’t have any direct ad revenue stream. However, the TV channels, OTT platforms and even DTH platforms do sell the inventory and that is where the money from syndication is earned by these platforms. YouTube is one platform where it has a direct ad revenue stream. Speaking about how that has been, Gada said, “We don’t sell the ads, we only get a revenue share of the ads sold by Google. Though we have more than 50 channels on YouTube –Shemaroo, Shemaroo Movies, kids, regionals, devotional amongst others – the CPM and fill rates are not governed by us.”

He explained how the growth of YouTube has been affected dramatically in last couple of years. Gada said, “Because of the consumption going up so much in last couple of years, the amount of sellable inventory has also gone up significantly, thereby causing imbalancein the supply-demand chain. Not everything gets sold and the (ad) spends grow at their own place. Hence, the overall fill rates have been affected on YouTube. Adding to these were demonetisation and GST. YouTube had another challenge of brand safety, which meant its growth was muted.”

Interestingly on the company’s YouTube play, while some of the movies have to be paid for by the consumers, others are available for free. When asked about this, Gada said, “The paid ecosystem is remunerative on per user basis. But consumer is not going to pay for everything. There is certain premium content for which people are willing to pay. Our effort is to window the content in a certain way that you have premium content going as paid content across platforms, DTH, OTT and YouTube. We make sure that we maintain the content exclusivity and premiumness. On the other hand, there is content that has come out of its premium valuation window and goes for free. This is very much like TV where you have pay channels and FTAs.” But Gada couldn’t reveal the number of movies being offered as paid or the number of people buying these movies on YouTube.

“As we are expanding from metros to urban to smaller towns, the consumption trend is mirroring television. It’s very early days, though, we don't have enough history,” he added.

Why not launch your own OTT, instead of partnering with other platforms? Gada said, “We have launched a few specialised services like Ibaadat and Bhakti and will look more in specialised direction. We don’t intend to pose as a competition to the likes of Netflix. We would rather use all the platforms to distribute our content.”

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