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‘The Brand Must Come Before The Platform’

One of the few independent Indian players in the OTT space, Arré has its own platform and also works with other OTT platforms as a content provider. Sai Kumar, Founder, Arré talks to BW about the journey so far and what lies ahead.

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The OTT space in India has seen significant growth. Tell us about your own journey.
We had begun this journey with the ambition of being a full-play media company focused on creating a world-class product with revenues from advertising, syndication, branded content and subscription, and that has not changed. In the last two years, what has changed is the pace of growth of the delivery pipes, due to which audience interaction and nature of data has changed. This has had a direct impact on content and consumption.

The revenue mix from advertising, syndication, branded content and subscription is fast evolving and the next few years will see the proportions change dramatically. There has been a shift from the 30 sec to the very short format content to deep-rooted quality storytelling.

This is a great place and time to be building a media company as the quality filter has come into the industry rather early, which is always a positive sign from an audience and revenue point of view.

Our stated vision, hence, has evolved. And we are approaching this in two ways. We have been and will continue to increase shows on Arré. And we have launched Arré Studio, where we are working with different OTT players – the real large broadcast-digital networks as well as the global OTT players – to launch new shows. We have a whole slate of new shows in various stages of development even as we continue with the existing show franchises at Arré.
Has the OTT market delivered?
Over-delivered, on audiences, consumption and content for sure. As for the revenues, advertising is moving in the right direction albeit from a small base, while branded content and syndication continue to see a positive surge. As far as subscription goes, it is still early days. But tectonic moves by the large platforms and telcos and payment enablers could quickly change this. The tailwinds for a full-play media company are very much in place.

How are players like you going to survive?
Like it or not, we have to grow on the back of our originals. We have to see how we monetise them, whether on our own platforms or others’. We are both a content creator and a platform owner and the twain will continue to co-exist seamlessly. Our priority is building the Arré brand across our platform and a host of partner platforms. To that end our platform ambitions are subsumed within our brand ambitions.

Our growth will come from evolving a sustainable partnership economic model, and the first few partnerships are well in place and should see light of day within the next two quarters. This space in India will be about collaborations. To that end, we see the market and the opportunity as secular and inclusive.

The brand must come before the platform, with eyes on audience and monetisation. Once that is the target, the rest will follow.
What do you see as the sustainable revenue model at present and in the future?
At present, it is in order of branded content, advertising on site, advertising on other platforms and syndication while subscription seems to be coming up in the horizon. This mix of various revenue lines is bound to shift but suffice to say that the four streams of revenue for a full play media company will be all there within the next 2-3 years.

How do you see the growth of regional content in the OTT space?
Content is the least common denominator. We talk about many Indias and content via OTT could be that product, that business, that services, all these Indias in the quickest possible time — if the pace in the last two years of growth and penetration are any indication, this will come true sooner than we think. Our moves to service these many Indias has begun with our entry into regional and we should be drilling deeper as the opportunity explodes.

What are the possible risks that can derail growth targets or expectations?
Growing too fast could sometimes come with a penalty. As the more ‘experienced’ and ‘old’ people in the industry, and by that I mean the founding team at Arré, it is on us to rightly answer when opportunity ought to be exploited and when not to move too soon and yet manage growth along with market. And all the while staying focused on the larger goal of being a full-play media company.

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