Sidharth Iyer, Lead Digital Strategist at redchillies.vfx during an interview with NexTV News India revealed that the company is evaluating the OTT market in India before deciding whether it will join the bandwagon. Iyer further said that OTT players need to invest in technologies and further focus on developing much richer relationships with their audiences.
- Q. Can you give a brief overview of redchillies.vfx’s activities in India?
- A. Residing in Mumbai, redchillies.vfx is among India’s premier visual effects companies. Set-up back in 2006 by Bollywood Superstar Shahrukh Khan, chief operating officer Keitan Yadav and chief creative officer Harry Hingorani, with the sole vision of bringing uncompromising creativity and a commitment to developing innovative technology for Indian cinema, the studio has carved a niche for itself in the visual effects arena.Having worked on groundbreaking visual effects for movies like Ra.One and Krrish 3 the company continues to push the envelope with each project and cement its reputation for cutting edge visual effects with its repertoire of work.Having been around for well over a decade and setting new benchmarks in the realm of visual effects on Indian celluloid, the studio is geared up to adding yet another feather to our hat with our most difficult and groundbreaking project till date in ‘FAN’.
- Q. Digital platform is booming in India, is redchillies.vfx planning to join the bandwagon?
- A. This is clearly a great time for content creators regardless of the platform in general, given the government’s push towards digitization of the entire nation. Digitization of cable network will hugely benefit the entire ecosystem consisting of the government, broadcasters and consumers. For consumers, this translates into wider choice of TV channels, better quality of transmission, increased value added services and paying for what they view. For the government, greater customer declaration will lead to better tax compliance and tax revenues. Lastly, broadcasters will enjoy a reduced dependence on advertising revenues with subscription based services as well as a lowering of carriage fees.Coming to the primary suspect in this case – digital platforms; for starters, the entire content strategy has seen a paradigm shift. Firstly, we need to understand and evaluate the current players in the space, with most broadcasters – Star India’s hotstar, Viacom18’s VOOT, Zeel’s Ditto TV and Sony Pictures Networks’ Sony LIV – already wanting a piece of this scrumptious pie and a few production houses also expanding into this space with the likes of Balaji Telefilms’ ALT Digital Media and UDigital’s digital media brand Arré, which is co-founded by Ronnie Screwvala, B. Saikumar and Ajay Chacko.Secondly, what’s also needed is to understand the content offerings that will be present on these platforms and other emerging ones. What genres will or are being explored, duration of the videos being produced, quality of the content and whether they can be having a playback on HD even with bandwidth constraints (which we all are aware of), among other factors.And finally, and what we believe is the most important factor is the revenue model on which these platforms will function. India is a very unique market. Although people are from different stratums with varied spending capacities, but all share a common notion when it comes to seeing value in any product; that notion being, “how can I get the maximum output on something that is having a premium offering”! This is the biggest question that various OTT, VOD, SVOD and other digital players will need to answer when they show intent on jumping onto this bandwagon.Are we thinking of getting on board this bandwagon? That’s something that we are still evaluating and would be in a better position to answer in a few months from now.
- Q. What is the digital strategy of redchillies.vfx for this year and in the coming years?
- A. Our digital presence is complementary to our world class facility and infrastructure. A dedicated systems support department fuels our heterogeneous technological infrastructure. Our engineers manage the robust render farm and the mammoth storage systems. They also provide support for all the software and hardware resources in the studio. The production team works relentlessly toward the pre-visualization of narratives and ensuring optimal time management to aid in the delivery of projects.The software and tools that we have developed are the new age weapons to beat all the cinematic limitations. Redchillies.vfx constantly strives to develop cutting-edge tools, advanced techniques and new generation technologies.That being said, we will continue to expand our digital footprint by means of our persistent efforts to explore and innovate newer ways through which we can overcome any hurdles that come in the way of setting new benchmarks in creative innovation for storytellers.
- Q. According to you, what type of content is mostly consumed in India?
- A. When we talk about content being consumed, we also need to understand the audience that we are talking about. While television continues to be the standard platform for carriage and delivery of content across the demography of the nation, digital content consumption is slowly but steadily picking up. Another trend that’s been seen is of short form and snackable content primarily driving the growth in consumption of digital media, and is very popular with the millennial audience.
The average length of video viewed in India is less than 20 minutes, with short form content constituting 62% of all content consumed on YouTube. While television serves as the primary screen currently, we are entering an era where all screens will work seamlessly together they will just come in a wide range of sizes. In terms of the popular genres which work for short form consumption include: comedy, drama, parody, animation, reviews and highlights packages of live matches or events.
- Q. What is your opinion about the OTT industry in India?
- A. The OTT industry is at a very nascent stage in the country. While there are numerous hurdles that can be seen in the current scenario, it also presents equal opportunities for those who wish to take a plunge in this arena at this time.The preference of the Indian consumers towards vernacular and regional language content is constantly on the upswing, with 93% of the time spent on videos in Hindi and other regional languages. And while mass content will evolve to suit the new market needs, aided by the increase in individual content consumption, and the ability to unicast content. We can also expect to see increased niches being created and the focus move from only mass products, to mass and niche communities.All said and done companies and content providers on OTT platforms will need to focus on developing much richer relationships with their audiences. Players will also need to invest in the technologies that will enable them to analyze audience data, deliver deeper engagement with advertising and prove incremental value to brands. Further, easier digital payments mechanisms together with sharp analytics will enable an on-impulse transaction ecosystem for entertainment content consumption.
- Q. Is the entrant of international players like Netflix going to shake the OTT industry in India?
- A. As I had mentioned previously, pricing acts as the most detrimental factor when it comes to a long term association with any consumer in India. While Netflix’s initial strategy to give a month’s worth of subscription free is a great idea to get early signups and more importantly create a customer database, the pricing by other SVOD players in India range from free/ad supported to mostly freemium. Without a freemium or the option to watch the one-off movie or TV show I find it difficult to see how Netflix will survive the ‘harsh conditions’ in India.Another spoiler for Netflix is India’s below average broadband speeds and penetration. Mobile internet is no different either; forget better data connectivity, when the industry still faces brickbats for call drops in this era. While Netflix can do very little to control the telecom ecosystem, providing an unbuffered user experience on mobile has to be a priority to survive. Even the likes of YouTube had to come up with offline viewing features for markets like India to sustain its leadership.And we don’t even want to get started on the topic of censorship now, do we? So all we can say is – Godspeed Netflix!
- Q. Lastly, what should we expect from redchillies.vfx in the months and years to come, any special projects in the pipeline?
- A. Watch out for 15 April, 2016. ‘FAN’ is the most special project the studio has worked on and it’s a film that will forever be remembered in setting a new benchmark for filmmaking on the global stage. That being said, into our 11th year as a visual effects studio, we have loads of plans in the pipeline which we will execute in a phased manner as and when the time is right. So stay tuned for some very interesting times ahead!