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Pocket Aces: The journey of a digital entertainment company
MUMBAI: Launched in 2013 as a film production company, Pocket Aces has changed direction to become a digital entertainment outfit with aggressive growth plans.
Pocket Aces was founded by Anirudh Pandita and Ashwin Suresh, who were batch mates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The duo grew up in West Asia and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US. After following their career paths as investment bankers, their interest in films and high quality content brought them back to India.
In December 2013, the duo decided to launch a film production company Pocket Aces. They were later joined by Aditi Shrivastava as co-founder of sales and brand solutions for the company. Previously, she worked as an advisor for an advisory firm Intellecap.
Following the launch of Pocket Aces, the founders sensed the increasing need of revolutionary content targeting the young generation. It was in Cannes MipTV conference that the trio realised the importance and growing opportunities with digital revolution.
“We realised that digital was better than film as we had a lot of control in terms of content production. We didn’t have to depend or wait for studios or distributors to release our content. Besides, there is freedom when it comes to storytelling. The digital medium isn’t controlled by celebrities; we can have regular people as over here content is the hero; audience watch it for the content and not for the actors. Considering all these factors, we decided to go into digital,” says Shrivastava.
Re-launch as a digital entertainment company
In 2015, Pocket Aces was relaunched as a digital entertainment company creating and distributing content for the Indian millennials. Soon, the promoters launched their first channel Dice Media that dealt with sketches and web series. This was followed by Filter Copy, which focused on short format and sharable content. And then Gobble, revolving around food, was launched recently.
Since the relaunch, the company has created several videos ranging across genres and topic, and has acquired millions of views and engagement. Pocket Aces has clocked over 135 million organic video views in the last 12 months and is receiving positive response from advertisers.
Shrivastava states, “Our belief as a company is that we need to be where people are; hence, we are very socially distributed. All our content is easily available on social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and more. We are pretty much across all the social platforms, and that is how our content is reaching people.”
Pocket Aces uses data analytics extensively to create and analyse content, understand audiences, and optimise distribution and marketing spends.
The company focuses on producing content based on relationships and other relatable storylines. When it comes to content trends, Shrivastava observes that people consume content on-the-go, as they no longer want to schedule their shows to particular time slots.
Due to the on-the-go content consumption, the short format has seen positive response. “The 15–20-minute web series has helped us to create loyal fan base and bring in more band. As the loyalty increases, we can eventually extend our minutes of web series. We are seeing the same trend with ‘Little Things’. People are requesting longer episodes as they are loyal to the web series, so they are willing to invest time.”
Another trend is to launch web series in seasons. As youths are consuming international content, the season trend is working in not only attracting new viewers but also brands. Shrivastava states that since people remember the characters and the content, it works well for brands.
The season concept has also helped the company to create intellectual property for their content.
Pocket Aces recently cracked a partnership with Dainik Bhaskar, leveraging their content. The digital platform for Dainik Bhaskar is featuring the company’s short videos. They have also licensed their content to NDTV Prime to air their web series on their channel. ‘Not So Fit’ is the first web series being aired in the prime-time slot of 10–10.30 pm.
“This is the first time that a digital property is being aired on television. This highlights that IPs do have a true value, and having season helps us leverage it in the best way. Apart from TV, we have also partnered Radio One. We are discussing long-term partnership with them and some other channels,” she comments.
Brand integration & marketing strategy
With increasing social media features like cross posting and hashtags, the company finds it easy to integrate brands in their promotional activity. Also with the active brand integration, the company has witnessed steady growth in their brands.
Dice Media’s recently launched web series ‘Little Things’ has received positive response with a total of over 8 million views, over 70,000 shares and 50,000 comments. The series was sponsored by Little App, a consumer lifestyle deals marketplace, and was powered by VelvetCase.com, an online jewellery store. The cast was styled by StyleCracker.
“The logistics that brand want from us is that the brand gets great recognition in terms of brand awareness. They want to be associated with the story, character, and of course everyone wants to increase app downloads. So, these are the main metrics they care about,” Shrivastava says.
For ‘Little Things’, Dice Media did various offline activities like hosting posters of ‘Little Things’ across 150 outlets of Café Coffee Day in Mumbai and Bangalore. Similarly, they had charging stations at Bengaluru and Hyderabad Airports. The company has also hosted a dedicated Facebook Live, created chat sessions and contest for Velvetcase, which gave direct traffic to the app.
The company has tied up with Sequoia, a venture capital firm, for whom they hosted a hackathon, an event for coders.
“When it comes to marketing, we are planning to work with more influences, especially bloggers, so we are planning to do something offline for our gobble channel. We had partnered with Sophia college for their festival so we are also planning to partner some more colleges, but nothing is concrete yet,” Shrivastava states.
OTT platforms & their challenges
“If you are content creator, distribution power comes from how big you are in the social media platforms. Our combined weekly reach across Dice Media, Filter Copy and Gobble is about 25 million, which is really huge. Also, content dictates people’s engagement. Luckily, our content has got lot of shares, comments and other engagement as it is very relatable and shareable.
Another thing that is good of social distribution is that it is very easy to include brands in the content, and it is something where OTT platform can’t perform on their own,” she adds.
The talent scouting for Pocket Aces works mostly on word of mouth and through in-house networks. Shrivastava mentions that scouting new faces, especially female talent, is difficult. “It is important for artists to manage their schedules, so we are helping talent to manage their projects, time and social media. We are also making sure that they are fairly paid, which is a problem right now. We want them to work with the best brand and best production houses and get good PR. We are looking forward to creating talent management for our artists,” she says.
Pocket Aces is planning to come out with around 400 videos in 2017, four web series and some interesting content format for Gobble.
For Gobble, the company is looking forward to signing multi-video deals with brands and is planning to create around 100 videos. A deal with Saffola has been signed. Currently, the company is working with 20 brands and is looking to work with top brands.
The company is all set to launch its six-part web series Rent.Con, a comedy of errors, in 2017. There are also plans to launch three more web series in the coming months. One of this is a light drama revolving around three women aged 16, 23 and 35 years. Also coming up is a thriller series about a female drug lord.
Also planned is a series in the food space and talks are on with a bunch of food brands. It will be a coming-of-age series revolving around a boy and a girl who come to know each other professionally because of a food truck.
Shrivastava comments, “It’s an exciting time, and there are three to four influential digital content creation players in the space. So, our strategy is to be innovative across formats, double down on stuff that is working for us, such as web series, short video, full videos and other articles. We want to provide great Indian content that resonates globally.”