Sneak peek into ‘Asia’s gay Netflix’ with Jay Lin, Founder, GagaOOLala

GagaOOLala founder Jay Lin

Jay Lin, founder of GagaOOLala shares his thoughts on Asia’s first LGBT+ video streaming platform and continent’s gay Netflix with content consumption patterns in the OTT market and the distribution strategies in Asia.

GagaOOLala is Asia’s first LGBT film streaming platform which has been officially launched in India on June 14th, 2019. This platform will expand into the 8 territories that constitute South Asia.

In the wake of the content explosion to the audiences where they are exposed to various genres, GagaOOLala is said to feature many exclusive queer contents. Jay Lin, the director of the Taiwan International Queer Film festival and the founder of the platform, sheds light on the OTT market, changing content consumption patterns, and much more.

Excerpts

From an OTT market perspective, how was 2019? Which were the major trends?

The major trend right now is the increasing competition especially this year with big players launching their own OTTs (Apple, Warner, Disney…).

We still don’t know for certain how this is going to affect the market but we believe while all the big platforms are trying to cater to everyone, our niche approach might prove successful.

Please shed light on the changing content consumption patterns.

It is well-known by now that the main device people are using to consume all types of content is their phones, while only a couple of years ago a TV was still predominant. It has been such a fast transition and the numbers for content consumption in phones are still increasing.

How would you position GagaOOLala in the OTT market? What is the USP that keeps the platform ahead of its competitors?

Our key differentiation is our understanding of our audience: by targeting a very specific part of the population (LGBT) with very specific interests that we follow up and understand. Once we become close to our audience, we can more easily engage and cater to them.

Also, our small size (we are almost a family company) is something we have played in our favor: we can adapt to new territories and try new features at a faster pace than the big guys.

Known as Asia’s first LGBT+ video streaming platform and continent’s “gay Netflix”, what are your plans to expand in India?

The same as in our other territories: localization! Asia is such a complex region that the social, cultural and technological context changes completely from one country to the one next to it. We are planning to adopt new payment methods unique to India, create original content.

Any social media campaigns to promote the platform.

Our first main media campaign in India was the tie-in with KASHISH. We are promoting our “Best of KASHISH” channel in all our social media platforms and even offered all the Indian films for free during the first weeks after our launch.

What are the major challenges faced by OTT players in India?

I think the biggest challenge is monetization. Many of the local OTTs offer a lot of content for free or with a very low subscription fee.

We want to reach as many people as possible but, at the same time, we cannot lower our prices too much if we want to keep our platform viable.

Originals is the new buzzword in town. What is your take on it? What is your content strategy like, when it comes to Originals?

We have been developing originals since our inception 3 years ago: features, shorts, series, variety shows… you name it. Original content is key for GagaOOLala and, this year, we launched our own production platform GOL STUDIOS (www.gol-studios.com) to be able to create even more originals. As I mentioned, we are a small company so we don’t have the manpower to do a large number of productions by ourselves only.

GOL STUDIOS is a collaborative platform where anyone can submit their film projects, at any stage of development, and we will help them finalize them.

Either we will connect them with other creators to collaborate with or we will help them as co-producer. Our goal is to not only bring more originals to our platform but also put more LGBT content out there and help the community.

What kind of distribution strategies are OTT players adapting to, to enhance the reach of their content? Do you plan to partner with other OTT networks and telecom players as a distribution channel for their original content?

We are definitely studying it, but we are very open to the idea. The OTT market is becoming more and more crowded with new platforms every month and consumers have a limited number of services they are willing to subscribe too, so, I believe, bundling with telecoms and other OTT will become part of our strategy in the near future.

Also read: OTT in India: Mixed pricing likely to work best

When we talk about LGBTQ, it is something that has not been tapped by many players in OTT as the central content to the platform. Are you confident that it would work on the platform?

This is already our 3-year active so I can already tell you it works! We started in one country, our native Taiwan, and we are now available in 21 territories around Asia, and planning to go global by the end of the year!

Censorship on OTT platforms is one of the most discussed topics. Will GagaOOLala be adhering to TRAI Guidelines of censorship?

We have been present in territories where homosexuality is still illegal for a while now and never encountered any issues. We are aware of TRAI guidelines and we believe our content already complies with them. 

How does the arrival of OTT platforms help the distribution of LGBTQ films in India?

The arrival of OTT platforms is a huge boon for independent filmmakers, especially those making films on LGBTQ subjects, as there were no avenues for wider distribution of these films earlier. Especially Netflix and Amazon as well as Indian OTT platforms like Zee5, Voot, AltBalaji, etc have been huge game changers for such films – both features and web series. 

What are the pros and cons of LGBTQ Specific OTT platforms?

Whereas the big players do not encourage the distribution of short films, LGBTQ specific OTT platforms encourage short film content. In fact, the mainstay of these platforms are short films and these platforms being subscription-driven encourage curating a diverse mix of short films across genres.

How is KASHISH facilitating the distribution of Indian LGBTQ films in the country? How will its tie-ups with GagaOOLala and Revry help?

KASHISH has always believed in nurturing Indian LGBTQ cinema – first by showcasing a maximum number of films, by offering cash awards, and year-round screenings across India and globally through its KASHISH Global & KASHISH Forward programs – and now also helping distribution of Indian LGBTQ films through our partnerships with LGBTQ OTT platforms. Already 10 films from KASHISH archives are up on GagaOOLala as part of the ‘best of KASHISH channel. We will also soon be working with another LGBTQ focused OTT platform in USA – REVRY. We hope these amazing films will reach audiences far & wide through these platforms. Also, it is KASHISH way of helping generate income for the filmmakers. They have to get money back for their film so that they will be encouraged to make more films on similar subjects.

Through these distribution initiatives, KASHISH hopes to keep the Indian LGBTQ cinema movement alive and kicking.

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