Between buzz-generating variations of worldwide hits (amongst them Hostages and The Workplace), best-selling e book variations and authentic concepts, Applause Leisure has established itself as a number one supplier of content material for India’s voracious OTT panorama.
CEO Sameer Nair, who based the corporate three years in the past as a enterprise of Aditya Birla Group, tells TV Asia concerning the thrilling alternatives rising in Indian storytelling as world and native streamers alike battle for subs, and the way he and his crew at the moment are seeking to increase their distinctive mannequin to the worldwide market.
TV ASIA: Whenever you launched Applause Leisure, what gaps have been you seeking to fill available in the market?
NAIR: My sense for the streaming area has at all times been optimistic, regardless of the success of linear tv in India. With Jio coming into play, we now have the most cost effective knowledge on the earth. Additionally, the truth that we now have 500 million smartphones solely provides gas to the streaming enterprise. I’ve at all times been tremendous bullish about streaming video. The opposite factor is, in India, TV content material has remained frozen in time. We’re nonetheless doing the day by day cleaning soap operas on tv. We by no means had an HBO/Showtime second; we by no means did The Sopranos. We do nice actuality, however fiction has been confined to day by day cleaning soap operas. That Netflix and Amazon would quickly come to India was a no brainer, even because the others proceed to develop—Hotstar, SonyLIV, MX Participant, Eros Now, Zee 5, ALTBalaji, Voot. They want premium drama collection, what we additionally name cinematic tv. That’s what we got down to do with Applause Leisure as a content material studio.
A enterprise of the Aditya Birla Group, we now have arrange a novel hub-and-spoke mannequin. We’re a core crew of about 40 folks—a artistic crew, a advertising and marketing crew and a income crew. We work with quite a lot of proficient creators, administrators, writers and manufacturing homes. We make investments money and time in writing and growth, we oversee the artistic course of and we finance your complete manufacturing. We make completed tape after which we present it to platforms. That was a punt—we’re going to have it prepared after which present it to folks.
We mentioned we’d do three issues initially to realize speed-to-market. The primary can be worldwide variations—or as we name it, good originals. We did Felony Justice, The Workplace, Hostages and Your Honor, amongst others. Then we mentioned we’ll take books as supply materials. Certainly one of our productions, Rip-off 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, is predicated on a e book by Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu. Now we have additionally produced Avrodh: The Siege Inside, based mostly on India’s Most Fearless by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh. Lastly, there may be authentic writing. This was a three-pronged assault to create a myriad of content material. Within the final three years, we’ve produced 18 collection which have streamed on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, SonyLIV, MX Participant and shortly on Eros Now.
We work with quite a lot of glorious artistic companions. Sudhir Mishra did Hostages for us, as showrunner and director, and Banijay Asia produced it. We then confirmed it to Hotstar and so they picked it up. The market is colossal and the demand for content material is huge. You may have 500 million Indians who’ve walked into this sweet retailer solely wanting extra. It takes 18 months to get one season prepared from thought to display screen, whereas the viewers finishes a present in a weekend and begins asking for the second season proper after!
TV ASIA: I’ve heard that the pace with which OTT is rising in India is outpacing the capability of the content material manufacturing group. Do you assume that’s the case?
NAIR: I agree with this utterly. Within the ’90s, when satellite tv for pc tv began in India, content material and distribution grew collectively. Initially, there was Doordarshan after which satellite tv for pc tv got here into being, which then prodded us to make content material. Once we did KBC (Who Desires to Be a Millionaire?) in 2000, there have been 25 million cable and satellite tv for pc properties; by 2010, there have been 90 million, and now in 2020, there are 197 million.
As distribution laid the cables, content material grew. Within the case of streaming, due to the telecom revolution, you have already got a billion telephones. These telephones in the future transformed into 4G and 500 million folks acquired entry to 4G, however the content material has not been equipped for that. The content material continues to be TV. Even when somebody says, I’ve quite a lot of money, I’m going to throw cash at this downside, you continue to need to make the content material. There’s no HBO/NBC/ABC library to purchase from. The broadcasters themselves have arrange their very own platforms, and all the large libraries are primarily day by day cleaning soap operas.
TV ASIA: And the distinction between these and the premium storytelling you’re doing is staggering.
NAIR: There is a chance to inform so many alternative tales. There are courageous new voices and concepts, permitting you to discover totally different genres and milieus. We’re doing a model of the French office comedy Name My Agent!, set in a expertise company in Bollywood, with cameos by actual actors. It’s such a pleasant expertise. How might you try this on a day by day cleaning soap on TV? There’s no probability.
We’re attempting to inform actually robust and intensely native tales that can have world relevance. We’re not attempting to inform the nice crossover story. It’s a must to inform a narrative to your core market. In case your core market loves it, the remainder of the world may prefer it too. Tales with authenticity at their core usually resonate with audiences globally.
TV ASIA: Inform me about your worldwide plans.
NAIR: We’re doing a collection with Gurinder Chadha and Sunder Aaron referred to as Seeker, which is being written out of Mumbai, London, New York and L.A. We even have variations of the favored world collection Fauda and Luther within the planning phases. We’re attempting to do some co-productions with U.S. studios for a few movies.
Now we have made many originals that I consider are distinctive and could be remade wherever on the earth. We did a present referred to as Hasmukh about an aspiring small-town comic who discovers he solely performs properly after killing somebody; he has to actually kill offstage to kill on it! Stand-up comedy is as we speak a common phenomenon and this “small-town-big-dreams” darkish drama in a comedic universe can resonate with audiences all over the place. There are a lot of different authentic collection that we now have created that may be tailored in different markets and milieus. We’ve been talking to producers in Canada, the U.S., Israel, South Africa, Indonesia. We’re blissful to associate, co-produce and work collectively. I consider these Indian tales have world resonance. Not all of them, however some do.
TV ASIA: You’ve made so many scripted-format variations. What’s the important thing to getting these proper?
NAIR: Once we’re selecting these codecs, we firstly take into consideration if we will think about this in India. If you happen to take all of the worldwide reveals that get made, 90 p.c don’t make the lower. They’re both too particular, too distinctive or too totally different. However, let’s take a look at The Workplace—I believe it ought to be remade in each nation. It’s that present: a sleepy little city, a sleepy little workplace, a boss from hell who’s self-absorbed and a bunch of individuals goofing off who assume they’re doing nice. It has these common insights. However, Hostages at its core is a thriller that may discover expression all over the place. We’re additionally producing Fauda; the battle over Kashmir lends itself to that Israeli-Palestinian storyline. It’s a matter of land and folks separated by faith and, due to this fact, politics. We did Your Honor and set it in Punjab. It’s not city. And the whole lot doesn’t need to be in Hindi. Rip-off 1992, our most up-to-date present, has a lot Gujarati in it. The brand new streaming viewers is up for lots of coloration and selection.
TV ASIA: What are a few of your plans for 2021 and past?
NAIR: We wish to construct on our hub-and-spoke mannequin and increase it. We’re rising into motion pictures, documentaries, animation and gaming—and we wish to use the identical technique. Our enterprise is discovering like-minded expertise, enabling them and investing in them to create premium content material. That may very well be fiction collection, a actuality present, a film, a documentary, an animated collection—any story actually, and technically, wherever on the earth.