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News being syndicated to other OTT platforms, content no longer exclusive

Video streaming platforms are no longer insistent on keeping original content entirely exclusive and are syndicating it to rival players in some form or the other. While shows from Atrangii, an app owned by film, television and web content producer Vibhu Agarwal, are available on MX Player as well as Star Bharat, a TV channel, hoichoi shows are dubbed in Hindi for JioCinema. Earlier, ZEE5 and Ekta Kapoor-owned ALTBalaji, too, had announced a content alliance. Media and entertainment industry experts say the move is aimed at improving distribution, reach, and monetization at a time when paid subscriptions have plateaued for all platforms and advertising is yet to take off. However, content costs are escalating and services have to keep a regular flow going, which such partnerships help with.

“It takes time and investment to create new content and we’re increasingly seeing that our Hindi dubbed business is big,” Soumya Mukherjee, chief operating officer of Bengali streaming service hoichoi, said. While the platform’s original Bengali programming remains its bread and butter, Mukherjee said it is a good idea to explore dubbed versions of this content on other services that give consumers easy access to the company’s huge library.

Sharing their originals with other OTT platforms helps the original IP (intellectual property) provider to ensure his content reaches a larger audience, agreed Rajat Agrawal, director of Ultra Media & Entertainment Group that operates Marathi language OTT platform Ultra Jhakaas. “This not only helps in garnering new and more eyeballs for their content but also ensures that the brand equity of the original content is enhanced. It helps the original owner to measure the success of their content and plan strategies for the future,” Agrawal said.

Syndication is the future for all OTTs, both national and regional because national players watch out for good regional content which they can get from local OTTs, said Sandeep Bansal, managing director, Chaupal OTT, a platform specializing in Punjabi, Haryanvi and Bhojpuri content. Amazon Prime Video has added Chaupal to Prime Video Channels, its content aggregator offering. “The benefits are that the reach of the brand increases and you get more revenue, and the challenges are that you need smarter and good content to satisfy that particular audience,” Bansal added.

Without doubt, while bigger streaming players will fight to keep their content exclusive, a lot of smaller entities will need to look at these new means of monetization, Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO of independent digital agency SoCheers, said. “It is difficult to keep reaching out to the masses otherwise. Users are not going to download every app there is. Especially when the content gets older, you have to spend on advertising it to find draw,” Gupta explained.

To be sure, several experts feel in the long term, to create a direct-to-consumer streaming business, content exclusivity is imperative. “There will always be tremendous value to original content on an OTT platform. Exclusivity maintains the unique value proposition of each platform and encourages subscriber loyalty. It’s a space where real money is to be made in the long term. For that core proposition’s exclusivity should not be diluted,” Saurabh Srivastava, chief operating officer, digital business at Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd, said. However, such business decisions fundamentally depend on how a brand or business sees itself—if it is an OTT first or an IP (intellectual property) studio primarily. “There is nothing wrong with being a studio and creating content for both your OTT as well as others, with certain exclusivity. Otherwise, in the business of exclusivity, sharing content largely comes from being pragmatic about monetization, marketing, and distribution of content,” Srivastava said. LiveMint

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