‘We plan to launch six to seven shows for digital platforms in 2018’
After mastering the art of creating non-fiction content, Big Synergy, the production house owned by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Mediaworks and Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films, is betting heavily on digital content creation.
As over the top (OTT) platforms like Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Voot, SonyLIV, ALTBalaji and YuppTV battle it out in the hyper competitive OTT market, the production house sees a huge opportunity in working with OTT platforms for creating digital content.
While digital will form an important component in its growth strategy, Big Synergy is also expanding its footprint in TV by venturing into fiction.
In an interview with TelevisionPost.com’s Swagata Panjari, Big Synergy chief executive officer Indranil Chakraborty talks about the company’s plans ahead.
Big Synergy is synonymous with producing non-fiction content for TV, are you looking to enter digital content production?
Big Synergy is not the same company which it was two years back. We used to be specialising in non-fiction shows but in last one and a half years we have taken the plunge to create content for digital platforms. We will create content for all the digital platforms. I don’t think there are any production houses that are focusing on creating digital content across platform. Last year, we got associated with Phantom Films and now, with them we are creating shows for Netflix and Amazon.
How many digital shows are you creating and for which platforms?
We are planning to launch around six to seven shows for digital platforms in 2018. We are working all the top-notch OTT players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, ALTBalaji, Viu, Applause Entertainment and Voot. We have already produced a web series for Voot called ‘Yo Ke Hua Bro’. We have also produced ‘Bose Dead/Alive’ for Alt Balaji. The action thriller will release in November. We are also producing ‘Sacred Games’ for Netflix, ‘Kaushiki’ for Viu, ‘Vishpuri’ for Amazon Prime Video and an untitled project for Applause Entertainment.
We are also planning to create Anthological series like ‘Narcos’. We have brought rights for various books for the same and have invested a lot of time and money.
What is the cost of producing digital content?
When it comes to the budget of producing content, Big Synergy is planning to create shows that are at par with international markets. We are looking to create shows from Rs 1.5 crore for 7-8 episodes to Rs 30-50 crore budget. For example, the production cost for Bose Dead/Alive falls in the range of Rs 10 to 20 crore.
Are you planning to partner independent producers/directors for digital content?
Yes, we are looking to associate with independent creative producers and directors to create digital content. We are looking at strategic alliance with producers and directors. When we are working with Phantom Films’ Vikas Bahl, we are working with him as a director and not as the owner of Phantom Films. Like for Bose Dead/Alive, we are working with Hansal Mehta so we are looking forward to get associated with more such great talents.
‘We are looking to create shows from Rs 1.5 crore for 7-8 episodes to Rs 30-50 crore budget. For example, the production cost for Bose Dead/Alive falls in the range of Rs 10 to 20 crore’
How do the logistics of creating digital content compare with television and film content creation?
For creating digital content one requires complete different sensibilities. Currently, nobody in India is well versed on how to create content for digital. We are learning it as another language. The story narrative is very different. In digital, the narrative follows the structure of TV where every episode should be connected and there should be start, end and middle for episodes but when it comes to production the design it follows is that of film. Fortunately, we are working with Netflix and Amazon so lot of screenplay inputs are coming from them. Hopefully, within next one and half years we will excel in the format and produce the show for their market as well.
As a production house, how do you see Swastik Productions’ decision to retain IP for ‘Porus’?
Today, in the television scenario one has to innovate constantly and have to take risks. Unfortunately, not many producers are willing to take risk. Swastik Production has taken some bold and risky moves. It’s not just Swastik but even Sony which has taken a great decision by supporting it. As a trend, if producers are ready to take a financial risk then it is great but I feel TV channels will resist.
Big Synergy has done a lot of non-fiction shows, are there any plans to enter fiction format?
We have produced over 4500 hours content revolving around non-fiction format. We are planning to foray into fiction content as well. We shot a pilot for Star Plus which will be a long-running thriller drama comprising of 60 to 90 episodes. The show will feature a parallel story narration. Following the success of this show we hope to create more fiction finite series. We are also working on five home grown non-fiction formats. We have already shot a pilot for Star Plus and are also in-talks with Sony Entertainment and Zee TV for the other formats.
‘We are hoping to increase our content hours and content offering in coming two years. Our plan is to offer atleast 10 digital shows in a year and around two fiction and non-fiction shows on television’
How are five home-grown formats different from your earlier offering?
The formats of three shows will revolve around live interaction with audience while the other two shows will have a game format. Post the success of Rising Star I think Live interactive shows has become quite big. We also saw good response on Kaun Banega Crorepati through our live initiative of Jio Play Along. We are planning to bring back Dus Ka Dum, next year with some tweaked live interactive format. With Dus Ka Dum we want to further bump the live interaction by involving audience right from the start which is the audition process. Our challenge is how to involve people.
Reliance ADAG has moved out of several businesses in the media space, how committed is the company to Big Synergy?
There is a huge positivity as far as Reliance is concerned. Reliance is now concentrating only on content production business they have got out of other media businesses. When you are doing a business and if you are not losing money then why sell. And there isn’t any heavy investment going, the heavy investments like radio and TV has been sold off. Reliance is concentrating on content production across devices. The film distribution is pick and choose and not as a business trend, they have first right of refusal. Now, Reliance is launching Golmaal Again.
Where do you see Big Synergy two years down the lane?
We are hoping to increase our content hours and content offering in coming two years. Our plan is to offer atleast 10 digital shows in a year and around two fiction and non-fiction shows on television. We are really hoping to build our fiction content offering and record a double digit profit.