Content media

Our guiding philosophy is to create quality content and get rich slowly: Sameer Nair, Applause Entertainment

Applause Entertainment CEO says video streaming business in India is expected to quadruple in the next five years.

Applause Entertainment, the content production house backed by Aditya Birla Group, completes five years this year. Media maven and studio CEO Sameer Nair talks the faqs! on the video streaming ecosystem, why he thinks individual consumption is here to stay, and what new shows Applause Entertainment is working on next.

The studio head wants to bring Indian epics – Mahabharata and Ramayana – to a global audience and plans to focus on movies next.

From K series and KBC to Scam 1992 and Rudra, what are the similarities and differences between television audiences in the 90s and today’s OTT platforms?

Basically, before Kaun Banega Crorepati and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, TV consumption was really driven by weekly soap operas. Doordarshan and channels like Star TV have made a lot of innovations in terms of programming.

Then there were experiments with shows that looked like hour-long movies. In the late 90s, Star TV aired a Bestsellers show that gave an opportunity to all of today’s major league directors.

In the 2000s, television underwent a fundamental change with the introduction of daily soap operas. Daily soap operas very quickly completely dominated the program – like a killer app, they completely decimated all other types of storytelling. This is why even today, 22 years later, the daily soap opera continues to reign over television in the same way as reality shows, dance shows, singing shows, etc.

OTT has introduced new technologies, and unlike TV, it is not linear, geographically limited, or tied to language. OTT is almost like a mall whereas TV used to be like a store.

OTT has given us the opportunity to create a lot more content. Because as television grew, manufacturers had to chase ratings. And the higher the score, the lower the denominator. For 20 years, the fiction industry has focused on movies or soap operas. Now a wider set of talents, actors, directors and writers can work together to tell different kinds of stories.

The format is more beginning-middle-end as the daily soap opera begins and never ends and the series format follows a seasonal arc and there are multiple seasons.

Television in the 2000s was dominated by family dramas and now on OTTs we are seeing a predominance of crime dramas. Is it because women mostly watched TV while now the cell phone is in the hands of the male member of the house?

In fact, crime is the most popular genre in the world. The biggest and most successful shows in the world are crime shows. Crime, action and thriller shows tend to be popular, followed by comedy, romantic comedies, dramas and the rest. The horror and supernatural genre is very big but hasn’t really caught on in India so far.

This thing, you would say, is true. As television grew, it was increasingly the woman who had the remote control in the house and the man was pushed to the edges. This is why the news is also consumed at 10 p.m. The bulk of prime time went to female audiences.

With OTT, it’s more of an individualistic viewing because it’s not time-limited. I know enough women who watch a particular type of show alone, a different type of show with the family and then there are couples who watch different shows on their own. Watching together was a thing of the past.

Will the era of connected televisions usher in family viewing again?

People will start watching together again, but the thing is, the medium lets you not do it that way. They can still make it an opportunity. Now the things that will bring people together will obviously be live sports or a big movie on an OTT platform.

Now, with so many individual devices, people are making choices to watch for themselves. A younger audience chooses to watch different things. They also spend a lot more time on social media consuming content to snack on.

In the future, people will continue to watch on their own devices because it’s a consumer behavior that has changed and it has nothing to do with technology. The personalization that has occurred is a matter of consumer behavior and taste.

When Applause Entertainment launched, the strategy was to adapt shows and books and create original content. Was it because you were trying to learn what works in India? Now that you’ve completed five years, will we see fewer adaptations?

When we started, the plan was to do book and series adaptations mainly because it was really about speed to market. Second, when you do an international adaptation, you learn quickly, see how they write, what’s the story arc, what’s the pacing, the highlights, etc.

Often what happens with adaptations, people say everyone has seen it. It’s not true. No one saw it from a wide audience. So when we adapt a show, we always do it for a new audience. The adaptation is not for those who have seen the original.

There are always great stories to tell – there is an Israeli show that we are reimagining in the IT sector in India. Additionally, the anime series based on Amar Chitra Katha will be released in early 2024.

Reality shows like KBC, Indian Idol, etc. have been going on for two decades. Will this format work well on video streaming platforms?

It’s amazing to think that nothing has changed on TV between 2000 and today. We still have the daily soap operas and the reality shows are the same as we saw 15-20 years ago.

The Netflix show My next guest is could last several seasons the way Coffee with Karan has new guests every season. Jerry Seinfeld does Comedians in cars having a coffee. He does a lot and it’s a format that allows him to do it.

Other shows like CBC were designed for this medium. It compels viewers to come and watch it when it airs. That’s why a lot of these reality shows have almost become like live events. Reality works well on TV because it’s about creating a cultural moment. Streaming tends to be a destination where viewers watch and relish content. That’s why things like documentaries, docu-reality, and fictional shows run on OTT platforms.

What about live streaming…

It looks like sports and news are the only two formats left. Live will mainly be major sporting events, a major cultural event such as an awards ceremony that can be broadcast live, or major debates.

These genres always require immediate viewing. Beyond that, most other formats can be viewed later. In some of the competitive formats where there is an element of competitive elimination in something, then you have to see it right away.

Platforms will certainly try various experiments with live content and see how it works and how it can boost consumption.

We would like to try content that can be streamed live. We haven’t found the right thing yet. I’m not sure which one is the right one to pursue, but it’s an interesting thing to do.

Content in languages ​​other than Hindi now has a wider audience. What made this possible?

More importantly, in the last two three years, because the audience has been exposed to a lot of international content. When people can watch Korean dramas, shows like Money Heist and Narcos, technically they can also watch a Tamil show or movie in the same way.

Now we can make a Tamil show which is not only made for Tamil audience. The platforms have created a secular platform that offers consumers a lot of choices. It is then up to us to produce it well.

Over the past two years, we have seen a boom in OTT content consumption. Are you now able to claim the kind of prizes you would claim for the content you produce?

Our approach is more from a repeat order perspective. We don’t try to kill the first time. We seek to build lasting relationships with audiences and platforms, which means we need to create good content.

Applause Entertainment plans to roll out 15 shows and 10 movies in FY24. What new genres and formats will you be piloting soon?

The big goal is to do the epics – Mahabharat, Ramayan and all the other mythological stories around them. The plan is to make them for an international audience and bring Indian epics to the world.

We make documentaries and have taken small steps in that direction. We have started to develop some of them. We will become more ambitious in our film projects. We also have a series on Gandhi that we are working on.

When you sit down for a similar conversation when Applause Entertainment would have completed 10 years, what would the video streaming ecosystem look like then?

Video streaming activity would have at least quadrupled in size in absolute terms, not just in number of users. The number of users might have increased tenfold, but the market value would have become at least four to five times what it is today.