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Eros Now to invest $25 mn in FY16, plans original content

MUMBAI: Eros is planning to invest $25 million in its on-demand entertainment portal Eros Now this financial year as it gears up to make original series and widen its content plate.

With this, the total investment in Eros Now would go up to $50 million. “We are going to invest $25 million in FY16 in Eros Now,” Eros Digital CEO Rishika Lulla Singh said. “Our prelaunch phase has been very successful, with 19 million registered users globally. Now we want to drive our subscriber growth.”

Having put the plans to launch a movie channel on the backburner, the company has decided to direct all energies at the video streaming service.

“TV is largely a linear medium, which demands appointment viewing. It doesn’t give a viewer what he wants and when he wants… There is also absence of premium content on TV, which is making the younger audiences move to digital. We want to target those audiences. Today the lean-back passive viewing of TV is paving the way for lean-forward, interactive viewing,” Eros International PLC group CEO and MD Jyoti Deshpande said, while announcing the launch of the new logo and plans for Eros Now.

ErosNow-Press-Conference

While the over-the-top (OTT) service will continue to have exclusive content from the Eros library, taking a cue from Netflix, Eros Now will also launch original series made for Eros Now only.

“While there were plans to launch a TV channel, the times are quickly changing. We are seeing how digital is growing and even advertisers believe that digital is going to be the future. So we have decided to put all our focus on Eros Now,” Deshpande added.

Deshpande denied media reports that stated that Eros Now is in advanced negotiations to dilute 10 per cent stake to Temasek unit Fullerton Fund. There was no plan to delist the Indian company, she also stated.

Content strategy: ‘TV se pahle’

Eros has a two-pronged content strategy. Starting 19 July, Eros Now will premiere five films. The idea is to premiere films on Eros Now first, have a one-month exclusive window, and then syndicate them to television channels after that window closes.

First to premiere will be this year’s biggest blockbuster so far, ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’. This will be followed by films like ‘Badlapur’, ‘NH10’, ‘Shamitabh’ and ‘Happy Ending’.

“Hollywood is master of windowing. They have proven that sum of parts is greater than the total. Their movies first get released in theatres, then go to pay-per-view, then premium pay TV (subscription-driven) and then ad-supported channels. In India, we skip all the in-between windows and a film directly goes on television from theatre. We are going for disruptive windowing. So we have the concept of ‘TV se pahle’ on Eros Now,” Deshpande explained.

When asked if the digital premiere would affect monetisation ability from selling satellite TV rights, Deshpande said that the movies will have a month’s window on Eros Now. After that, they will have a blackout period, following which they will go to a television channel. “I can confirm we’ve been able to successfully negotiate deals where it actually makes no difference to our syndication model.”

Original content

The second part is in-house original programming made for digital. The shows will be of higher quality, bolder and edgier than TV shows as the online space is unfettered by the restrictions that constrain television programming.

Eros Now’s content will include adaptations of international series and original productions spanning drama, comedy, thrillers and reality shows. Deshpande said that as in Hollywood, full seasons of these shows and series would be available for binge watching.

Interestingly, Eros’ film production division Trinity Pictures will look after the original programming. Trinity Pictures CEO Ajit Thakur, who earlier headed Life OK and Sony Entertainment Television (SET), will spearhead the projects.

“There are lots of frustrating problems about television. First, young India has stopped consuming TV five years back. If we try to push boundaries, it becomes too bold for television. Big stars are not convinced about good projects,” Thakur said.

For Eros Now, the mantra for all the content is “big scale, big talent, and big bold themes.”

The company has finalised three shows for now. ‘Khel’ is a wicked, dark drama featuring an insider’s perspective on the twisted characters that populate the world of cricket and the Indian Premier League (IPL). It is directed by Karan Anshuman.

‘The Client’ is a stylish, edgy, action-packed thriller starring Bipasha Basu as the main protagonist. It is to be directed by Rohan Sippy.

‘Ponniyin Selvan’ is an epic period drama based on a popular Tamil historical novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy. This is an in-house production by Eros South.

Additionally, Eros Now will co-produce the Indian adaptation of a popular international sitcom with Anil Kapoor Film Company (AKFC).

“We will have 10–13 episodic seasons and one whole season will be offered at one go for binge viewing. We are already thinking multiple seasons of ‘Khel’ and ‘The Client’,” Thakur said.

When asked about the IP, Deshpande said that Eros would either produce shows in-house or co-produce with others and keep the IP. “We want to have that exclusivity and competitive edge over others. We are going to be like the Netflix of India,” she said.

On the disruptive strategy, Deshpande said that as it is the beginning, right now the most important task is to break the clutter and get attention. “As the world is moving from linear to digital, we call it a category move. The next five years are going to be complementary and not competitive. It is all about driving consumption and later we can think about converting some of the subscribers into paid subscribers. Revenue is not primary right now; for that, we have our core company. The goal is to establish the platform and monetisation will follow.”

Currently, the service is free and the company is in the process of finalising different subscription packs giving flexibility and ease to subscribers.

Singh informed that the company is planning to give multiple options to the subscribers, including daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly subscription plans.

Deshpande added that for a price-sensitive market like India, the company will be looking at volume game and the monthly subscription might vary between Rs 50–150.

Marketing

In its prelaunch phase, Eros Now has never gone out and done mass marketing. It has been organically acquiring customers. But starting now, it will be creating a buzzer on the brand and on the original content programming that the company is going to put out.

Eros Now will run TV ads, press campaigns, and digital marketing. It has shot campaigns with all the leading film stars endorsing Eros Now.

The campaign is more to commercialise a launch and let people know that Eros Now is here. It will highlight the celebrity association as the film stars will endorse this product and position it as the coolest app to download.

“Our promise to the consumers is endless entertainment and that is what we will communicate,” Deshpande added.

International plans

Incidentally, Eros is trying potential Chinese digital partners to launch a curated version of Eros Now in that market. The company believes that this is an opportunity to not only expand the new release slate and mix, but also to unlock further value for its library of over 2,300 films.

Eros’ library contributes close to 25 per cent of its total revenues.

Meanwhile, Eros wants to replicate the Eros Now model in South Korea, Japan, South America and other such emerging markets.

Diluting stake in Eros Now?

According to media reports, Eros International Plc is in advanced talks to dilute 10 per cent stake in Eros Now to Fullerton Fund Management, valuing the OTT company at $800 million. Deshpande, however, did not confirm this.

“The numbers are very flattering but are unconfirmed at this point of time. If those numbers are flashed to us, we would also sit up and take notice,” she said.

Acquiring Times Internet’s BoxTV?

Eros is reportedly in talks to acquire Times Internet-owned OTT subscription service BoxTV.

When asked, Deshpande had this to say: “I don’t know where did that come from. Again, unconfirmed at this point of time. But it is an interesting company. We will come back to you if there is anything to share.”

Hot game in India

In India, the OTT market is hotting up. While there are pure-play OTT players, broadcasters like Star India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) and Multi Screen Media (MSM) have built their own digital platforms. Star has got Hotstar, ZEEL Ditto TV and MSM Sony Liv. Viacom18 has announced its own digital plans, with Gaurav Gandhi spearheading this venture. HOOQ, a joint venture between Singtel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros, has already launched in India.

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