Interview: Ali Hussein, Eros Now speaks about RoI on Original Content

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Eros Now announced its foray into the original content space with its first original series Side Hero. Ali Hussein, COO at Eros Digital shares insights behind launching original content and how the investment pays off.

With all episodes available for binge-viewing on September 24, 2018on Eros Now, Side Hero is directed Rohan Sippy, starring Kunaal Roy Kapur as a fictionalised version of himself, trying to become a lead hero and prove that acting is not just a ‘hobby’.

In conversation with Social Samosa, Ali Hussein, COO, Eros Digital puts the spotlight on foraying into original content with Side Hero, consumption patterns on OTT platforms, and much more.

Excerpts: 

Insight behind launching ‘Side Hero’

Reason number one was that Rohan Sippy came to us with this good idea. Secondly, a lot of other brands in the market have done a lot on drama, thriller and some of the other genres but comedy is the most watched genre in India. We decided to explore the genre and go ahead with the ideation. The third potential reason could also be that is almost like – I call it poetic- because it’s from the house of Bollywood (Eros), making fun of Bollywood and also about Bollywood. And Kunal Roy Kapoor is a phenomenal actor, right from his comic timings to his exceptional acting skills. It is his story. We are riding on the fact that it is his comfort role. Plus there is a good chemistry between the actor and the director as they have worked on multiple projects together.

What was the idea of going for Original content?  What would you say is your objective from original content? 

Eros always wanted to do originals. The reason why originals become important today is that a lot of films are watched in a theatre or on TV, but these originals will be exclusive to brand leaders only. When it is exclusive to brand Eros Now what it means is that it goes a long way in terms of the culture we want to create for Eros Now when it comes to programming. The other philosophy we believe in is since we have got a great history of creating quality content, we are now extending it to move in an angle of doing quality content for the younger millennial audience. That is why we are working more on creating originals as it helps creating the brand and quality programming for younger demographic which is drastically underserved.

How are you planning to calculate RoI on original content? Do you think the cost production per episode will be recovered? What was the cost of production? 

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For the first one we are more interested in the number of views, the time spent now that we are due to deliver across eight episodes that we are launching. We are also targeting at regular consistencies where we are able to drive paid subscriptions. Because you are almost creating a reason to say that if I have to watch a day I have to subscribe to this channel and this is going to become one of the channels of my choice.

So in the initial days, we will focus more on the time spent, affinity ratios and post that we can look at bringing more paid subscribers with new launches and retain them.

Which TG are you targetting with original content? 

‘Side Hero’ specifically is more similar to movie going audience in india. So I don’t see anybody who watches any of our movies like Tanu Weds Manu or a Bajrangi Bhaijaan would not like to watch it. Hence it is targeted to a wider audience. The core strategy is looking at equally targeting the 18-30-year-olds and audiences globally.

Do you think OTT players are recovering the investment made in big budget content properties?

We are ensuring to build up a kind of affinity for our entire strand of programming. You can’t measure recovery just on one show, it is always over a period of time. Again, an advantage to the brand like Eros Now, we are not just available in India but in August we are available live for viewers across 100 countries around. So ,we are also earning in Dollars and Pounds in addition to all these.

Is the recovery happening in the short term? No. When you are looking at the kind of traction in building a brand over a long term period, just like any other business, initially you have to spend in growing the brand. Within the time, there is a certain loyalty that it develops which is then looking at certain ROI over a period of time.

A lot also depends upon the orientation. We are trying to deliver a high impact budget, good quality creative production values within two hours of release. I think everybody in the industry is doing a great job. The cost of content is going up. I think there is an only limited amount of quality talent available in the market in terms of writers, and actors. One of the things that will also happen is that the scale of talent will also increase. 

Also Read: Interview: Digital consists 16-18% of our total spends: Rahul Pansare, FCA India

What kind of distribution channels will you be using to make sure your content reaches the apt TG?

This is the area where we are the best at because we have got the best partnerships with telcos like Jio, Idea- Vodafone. We are also working with a lot of ISPs and broadband spheres to distribute the content. We have got some fantastic deals across OEMs like LG, Samsung, Xiaomi, long standing relationship with Apple, Google, quality marketing partners like Grofers, Nature’s Basket to further enhance our distribution looking at non-video as a primary channel for the marketing product. 

Between acquired and original content – what is the apt split for Eros Now?

We will continue to amp up on both sides aggressively. Movies in India are a national phenomenon that creates of viewership for trailers, music videos and even for long-form film on a paid subscription.  It helps in drawing more audiences onto your platform and originals are almost like creating depth of viewership in creating a brand or a product. We also do a lot of content in the form of short films, digital original films who also give out a unique flavour to the customers. The overall programming strategy is going to be a nice mix.

What’s next for Eros Now?

You will be hearing two very interesting announcements in the content space- one acquisition and one original in the next two weeks.

Please take us through some content consumption trends as seen on your platform?

Our most active viewers finish watching a movie in about two sessions. People who stay beyond the first two-three seconds, go on till a minimum of 15-20 minutes.

In the month of August, we saw viewership coming from first 100 countries around the world. Some of the most active users visit the platform at least three times a day. 


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