‘Innovation and disruption in content is always important to stand out in the clutter’

BBC Studios, which has undergone significant changes recently, is looking at new genres for growth in scripted and unscripted genres. BBC Studios business head productions Sameer Gogate, who joined the company earlier this year, said that the primary focus is on the premium scripted dramas on the back of its formats catalogue and also to invest in developing original ideas that emerge from India. TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with Gogate to find out about the company’s agenda for the fiscal.

Excerpts:

What are the focus areas going to be for BBC Studios Production in India this year?

The focus areas for BBC Studios Production in India will be a mix between our premium scripted properties like Criminal Justice, Luther along with some exciting new unscripted properties that we are developing. The sports documentary space is emerging to be an interesting space for content creators and you will soon hear some big announcements in this space from us. Branded Content has always been a part of our mix and continues to be an area we will focus on.

How many shows do you have on-air?

While ‘Criminal Justice’ and ‘The Office’ debuted earlier this year, we are close to completing about 150 Episodes of the popular Colors show ‘Khatra Khatra Khatra’ with Bharati and Harsh. We also have a few more launches in the works and announcements are coming including an unscripted series for Netflix and Amazon respectively. You will also see a big Drama series for Hotstar coming up this Diwali.

How many and what shows are in the pipeline in the coming six to eight months?

We have a lot going on in production and you can expect a few key announcements in the next two months of the shows in production. You will see some of our bigger scripted properties like Luther making their presence in India with some big names attached. You will also see the debut of our new show on Netflix shortly.

Regional is whitespace both on TV and OTT. How are you tackling this area?

There is a huge opportunity in regional markets with the growth in OTT. We are looking at taking some of our scripted dramas to these markets … Tamil and Telugu offer an interesting landscape for content creators. Over the years, BBC has produced some of the biggest dance shows in the regional markets from Jhalak in Bangla to 2 Mad in Marathi to over 3 seasons in Kannada of another popular dance format. We continue to invest in these markets and is a space we are actively focusing on.

Which genres and formats resonate the most with the audience and is there a big change compared to three years back?

We are seeing an emergence of Female centric dramas come to the fore along with some interesting books that are getting adapted in this market. While three years back it was the Shinny floor formats taking centre stage on mainstream channels, we are now seeing the emergence of other genres like sports documentaries coming to the fore.

Under the NTO, will innovation in terms of formats and genres be important?

Innovation and disruption in content is always important to stand out in the clutter. People have multiple screens and timeslots now to consume content and hence it is imperative to ensure innovation and storytelling is of the highest order.

How did the deal with Applause Entertainment come about?

Applause was looking for interesting content ideas and it was a perfect partnership to develop with the team there. Sameer and his team understand the nuances of good storytelling and marrying their vision to our catalogue of BBC formats was the perfect combination.

The success of ‘Criminal Justice’ shows what good content can achieve and you can watch this space for some more big titles to be announced soon with them. We are discussing some more drama series with them.

How is BBC Studios scaling up the production business?

BBC has a rich format catalogue, quality content and is known for its production values…The key to scaling up is having a good team on board to ensure these standards are maintained. Our primary initiative is to build a scalable business on the back of our formats business but also invest in developing original ideas that emerge from India. After ‘Criminal Justice’ we have seen the doors open to our format catalogue and now attaching these formats to known talent is the key to scale up our business.

Do you see AR and VR increasingly playing a role in the entertainment industry?

Yes and No. In India, TV is not going away anywhere in the immediate future … but the widespread acceptance of OTT allows both AR and VR to grow while adoption increases. As creators, we are always excited to embrace new technology, but it needs to be around good storytelling, to begin with.

Right now India is an ‘and’ market when it comes to TV and OTT consumption. Do you think that it will become an ‘or’ market in a few years’ time?

Not in the immediate future. But what OTT has allowed is producers and platforms to experiment with content themes/ genres and allowed us to push the boundaries. The mobile won’t completely replace the TV so easily. However, what it has done is from a Single Tv household it has allowed India to be a multi-screen market catering to individual content choices at their convenient times.

How important is branded content for BBC Studios?

Branded Content has always been important to the BBC, whether it has been Har Ghar with Asian paints or Mission Everest with Nicotex and Mindshare. We work closely with all our key agencies to develop and build interesting franchises in the branded content space. Look at how No 1 Yaari has developed in the south in just 2 seasons. If you can find the right partners in platform and Brand, this is a highly under-penetrated space with tremendous scope for growth.

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