For OTT, certification helps more than censorship: Sameer Saxena, TVF

Sameer Saxena

In conversation with Social Samosa, Sameer Saxena from TVF shares insights from TVF’s journey, and the way ahead for OTT industry.

Sameer Saxena, Chief Content Officer and Head of TVF Originals, The Viral Fever, talks about TVF, branded content and industry’s understanding of the concept.

Excerpts

How has the year 2019 been for TVF? 

2019 has been good for us. Starting the year with ‘I’m Mature’. MX Player launched with that show. Post that, we did ‘Gullak’ with SonyLiv and then ‘Kota Factory’ happened. It is one of our best shows.

We are ending the year with the launch of three new shows in the last 10 days- Cheesecake on MX Player, Cubicles on YouTube and Hostel Daze on Amazon Prime.

Over the years TVF has evolved from being an OTT Platform to an independent production house that caters to Global OTT platforms and a talent powerhouse. What is the strategy behind this diversification?

We are like a production house with a unique business model. For us, the primary objective is to tell stories and make shows irrespective of the platform.

Sometimes, there are shows which are brand-friendly that go on our OTT. In other occasions, there are shows which needs a different set of audience. In such a case, we aim for another OTT platform that caters to a different set of audience aligning with that particular show.

You recently collaborated with DSP Mutual Funds for ‘Cubicles’. Please elaborate on the thought behind the series and how you saw a mutual fit for DSP Mutual Funds? 

A lot of us have worked in the corporate setup to work here full-time. So, all the stories associated with it are close to our hearts. We thought there is nothing that has been shown like this anywhere. As nowhere has the working at the IT/corporate structure been glorified.

What we have also observed is that these are the people who are bored with life and as per the common perception they are doing things without any passion. But here the fact is that there are 15 million people in that industry. All of them are not sad. They do their job and are excited about it.

We wanted to capture this facet of corporate life as well and highlight the fact that it is not a sad job. And DSP was an easy fit for this. As the whole insight that one should invest soon in one’s career, is extremely important but people don’t realize that.

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What is the nature of the partnership with Amazon Prime Video for Hostel Daze or MX Player Cheesecake? Is it pure-play content syndication or there is a different rationale behind it?

It is content syndication. Putting it out on amazon prime or MX Player helps us to reach a wider audience. So, we know that each time a particular content goes on such OTTs, they are reaching a different set of the audience every time. Hence, it makes sense to do that than putting out the content on just one OTT platform.

Please take us through the process of Branded Content Collaborations. Is the approach Content First and Brand Later or Brand First and Content later? 

It is both. There have been cases where we have had the idea or thought before and then we have fit a brand in that idea. In other cases, we have got a brand and then we have developed on a show.

I believe that the key is whatever we do, the integration ‘has’ to be seamless and organic. Eventually, we tend to have an idea that this kind of brand does not force-fit into this and vice-versa.

What should be the ideal percentage for Brand in a Branded Content Piece?

There is no way to define a percentage. For example- Tripling with Diageo. The car is in front of you in every single frame, almost in 100% of the show and there is brand integration happening there. Then there are cases where you can have the brand mentioned on the show for only once. So, it varies with brand and content.

As a creator, you get a sense when you tend to overdo things or are on the verge of over-utilizing a brand. All we try to do is- no ‘on-your-face’ integration. With once in a sketch or once a week depending on the content, it usually works well for both the brand & us.

What made you think that Kota Factory should be made in black and white?

Most of us are from Kota. The life in Kota is very monotonous. The students out there have almost the same life each day. They have fun but it’s the same for most of the time. Either they are very happy or sad, just like the colors of black and white.

They don’t have a colorful life when you compare it with other cities. Giving it that hue went with the milieu and the setup of the life in the city. Even after having fun, students are back in a particular zone.

What are the various avenues for TVF’s monetization strategy? Is every show or series dependent on sponsors/associations?  

Yes, it is. Either, we license out stuff or we have brand associations.

What are your views on the rising debate on digital content censorship? 

I believe if it comes to it, there should be a certification to it instead of completely censoring the content. The good thing about OTT is that you have the liberty to do what you want to do.

But one needs to be responsible for whatever he/she is doing. Certification helps censorship no,.

Even if its censorship, it should be self-censorship. You, as a creator, should be aware and honest about what you are doing. You should not be doing just anything to grab eyeballs. Self-censorship is more important than complete censorship on content.

What are the trends you foresee in the content creation space for 2020?

  • People will start going into regional space
  • Also, the audience will hopefully start going into non-fiction.

Quick Questions

Your Favorite TVF and Non-TVF Shows from the decade?-

  • TVF- Permanent Roomates Season 1 as it was a first.
  • Non-TVF- The Family Man

The Three people you follow for inspiration in the Web Series Content Space 

I gather inspirations from shows I admire such as the content on HBO, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Succession, Fargo, and more


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