Eros Now, the digital arm of Eros International Plc, is shifting gears to transform itself into India’s leading OTT player with a big presence in global markets. At the last count, as of June 2018, Eros Now has garnered 10.1 million worldwide paid subscribers and 113 million registered users across the mobile app, WAP and Web platforms.
Eros International, which has been in the business for four decades, has the richest Indian content libraries (over 11,000 films), and is taking a deep dive into creating “Originals” for its Eros Digital Platform. Led by RishikaLulla Singh, Eros Now has created a new digital ecosystem for content consumption in India.
“For over four decades Eros has been entertaining consumers with compelling content, both within India and abroad. With Eros Now serving as a leading OTT film content player, we are well positioned to dominate the global entertainment market by meeting the needs of users worldwide that are hungry for fresh ‘Originals’ and regional content. There is also going to be a consistent and strategic focus on the technology layer of this OTT brand. Besides, we have a prolific in-house technology teamand we are also slated to launch a coupleof industry first products in the next couple quarters,” says Rishika.
Eros Now is focused on bringing “all round entertainment” to consumers. As a part of this plan, one can expect to see the addition of new genres in Eros Now, like tie-ups to use existing famous characters; a broader focus on sports – similar to the company’s recent alliance with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in IPL 2018 and other opportunities to fulfil the ever-growing entertainment appetite of global consumers.
“The collaboration with RCB was a part of the company’s endeavour to build a truly digital video brand with Indian users and provide the best of entertainment the country has to offer. Our wide reach across leading worldwide brands, such as LG, Roku, Vodafone, Paytm, Gold’s Gym and many more have enabled us to reach this scale. We have existing partnership with brands across sectors like banks, lifestyle, FMCG etc,” Rishika adds.
India is seeing a surge in demand for broadband data, which is fuelling growth in the number of wireline broadband subscribers in India. BhartiAirtel, India’s largest telco, has more than two million broadband (DSL) customers today and is seeing a 5.5% year-on-year growth in its broadband customers.
The entry of Reliance JioInfocomm into the segment with its JioGigaFiber technology is set to further reduce broadband rates across the country, fuelling competition and further growth in subscriber base.
Speaking on how Eros Now is working with various telecom players and cable distribution channels to get more subscribers, the Eros Now CEO says: “Our dual strategy of direct-to-consumer offerings and distributing Eros Now through leading apps across telecom operators and OEMs continues to drive our exponential growth. Whether it’s a Jio product, Airtel or Vodafone, we’ve got fairly exhaustive relationships with the telcos in terms of having the Eros Now app available. We do a lot of BTL marketing with them. There are a lot of insights in viewership patterns that we’ve learnt from the large pole of the telco customers.”
Earlier this year, Eros Now renewed its platform integration partnership worth $250 million with Reliance Jio to enable Jio users access Eros Now content on their phones. The content would include full length movies, thematic curated playlists and functions such as multi-language subtitles for movies, music video playlists, regional language filters, video progression among other things.
Eros Now already has a strong hold on regional content. “With a population of over 1.3 billion, India has as many as 23 languages spoken across the country. In India and the Indian diaspora abroad, Indians have a huge appetite for entertainment and the demand for content in multiple languages is only growing,” says Rishika.
Hindi and regional films available on OTT platforms in India comprise 93% of the total division while only 7% are foreign language films. Out of the 93% of films, around 60% of films are in Hindi and the remaining portion comprises of films from various other regional languages.
“Eros Now has the largest market share of premium Indian OTT film content with over 70% of market share with digital rights to over 11,000 films, of which approximately 5,000 are owned in perpetuity. Our most active customers on Eros Now complete watching a film in two sessions and we are now the ‘most social OTT/entertainment brand in India’. Our library comprises content across 9 different languages. In fiscal 2018, the company’s slate of 24 films comprised 14 Hindi films, 1 Tamil/Telugu films and 9 regional films,” the Eros Now CE0 adds.
However, with the entry of global players like Amazon and Netflix who are willing to invest in localised content for India. Eros Now has a tough task at hand.
Rishika believes that since Eros Now has been in the movie business for long, they have understood content consumption patterns and the pulse of the Indian consumer. “We’re able to take that learning and build a customer brand ourselves. While nobody views it differently, we’re looking at technology to play a key role here. Our USP is film and entertainment and that is where we sit strongest in terms of our library volume. We have 11,000+ plus films on our platform which is about 60% to 70% market share,” she says.
Besides relying on its vast library, Eros Now also has other plans in place. Recently, it was announced that Eros International would invest $50 million on creating original shows, with 10 originals going live 2018, starting from second quarter.
“We recently launched our first worldwide direct-to-digital original film, MeriNimmo, in association with acclaimed director Aanand L Rai, to positive critical reception. From March 2017 to June 27, 2018, Eros Now had 33 exclusive digital premieres on the platform including Munna Michael, Mukkabaaz, BaarBaarDekho, Sarkar 3, amongst others. We also launched a short film named Toffee which was directed by TahiraKashyap and 25 August, directed by GautamParvi, starring RajatKapoor, ArjunMathur, Sayani Gupta, GauriBalaji,” informs Rishika.
Over the next year, Eros Now is planning to launch a slate of over 50 premieres planed for FY ’19 over Eros Now which will comprise feature films, made-for-digital original films and original episodic programs, all of which will be available exclusively on Eros Now to its paying subscribers.
“Three original series – Flip, Smoke and Side Hero, will be launched at the end of September 2018. We have built an in-house team of writers and are using advance technologies that offer a world-class consumer experience, along with exclusive and compelling content. We plan to launch high quality and versatile content; all our originals are given treatment like of a film. Our cinematic DNA of producing content to scale will continue to reflect in our original web series as well. This is going to a very exciting year, wait and watch,” says Rishika.
She believes that the millennial audience is drastically underserved, and more so the youth across Tier 2, 3 markets in the country which have limited to no exposure to qualitative entertainment that is relevant to them.
“On a side note our larger strategy is to stay at the top of the funnel with our peak programming and ensure we drive more reach and time spent. We will identify and develop that content consistency leading to a creating that viewer habit,” she says.
At a time when viewer attention span is diminishing and audiences are spoilt for choice, Eros Now makes it a point to analyse market trends regularly.
“We compile a lot of data, to test the potential of our content and how other shows are performing. Data is an intrinsic part of the decision making and we feed the meta (data) of our existing content and learn from viewership and time spent on our existing programming across our product. What we can do better, what our competitors have done well- we are constantly reviewing all of it. Our slate will release very soon, so that’s another process yet to begin,” the Eros Now CEO says.
Binge watching is highly beneficial to streaming platforms as it showcases significant affinity to the programming and highest time spent per user. But the challenge for OTT services is to deliver hit after hit to then deliver that kind of time spent.
“Eros Now is well positioned here with the large and popular movies being able to drive more organic viewer base to the platform than any other content type and our Originals and Originals Episodic Content being able to deliver that content consistency,” says Rishika.