IN November 2020, when the world was barely recovering from the first wave of the pandemic, Rana Daggubati launched his YouTube channel, South Bay, which had content ranging from chats, snackable short forms, news, music, animation, fiction, and non-fiction to cater to users with different tastes and preferences. While sharing the news with mid-day, the actor-entrepreneur had then said, “It is 2020, and clearly stories can, and should be told by producers on all platforms.”
Eight months on, the multilingual, multi-format South Bay is flourishing. Daggubati admits that the ‘stay safe, stay indoors’ period gave him an opportunity to give shape to his thoughts. “The lockdown provided time to reinvent. I was always interested in creating culture-based content, from music to racing to animation,” he says.
As people holed up at home devoured copious amounts of digital shows, it drastically altered the country’s content consumption patterns. Daggubati realised that there were need-gaps in this powerful means of entertainment, which he could fulfill.
“People’s capacity to consume OTT content has grown tenfold. People are willing to see varied genres and cultures within the OTT world. The viewer is now more experienced and wants the best. Filmmakers have started realigning their ideas to tell unique stories. Educating the platforms to start picking up culture-based local content has been challenging, but we have been at it.”
Daggubati’s model is simple. “We aim to populate our content in the next five years to make it mainstream. We are now building a racing property, Race Monkey, as well as a quiz and wrestling-based show. ”
The Telugu star runs South Bay like a film production unit. “The YouTube channel is the subset of a larger culture and content company,” he explains.
The shows so far are a freebie set-to-test content with plans to expand further. “Our quiz show, India Wants To Know! clicked with viewers.” Why Are You? described as the ‘world’s most irreverent show’ also did well for them. “We are also creating content for television and OTT platforms. The focus is no longer on gaining subscribers on a single platform. Our aim is to make sure that the shows and artistes traverse effortlessly between platforms.”
South Bay has also successfully blended animation with storytelling. Daggubati’s inspiration is BoJack Horseman, an American adult animated tragicomedy sitcom. “In the West, animation is an art consumed as content and to crack that full-fledged in India is going to take some time. We started with Why Are You? and then we created another show, Edible, but for animation to truly become a serious form of storytelling, we need more filmmakers exploring it,” says Daggubati, who often wonders if South Bay would have been a fruitful endeavour if he had introduced it in normal times. Mid Day