Bodhi Tree Techniques co-founder and former Disney APAC chief Uday Shankar outlined how his new enterprise – together with Reliance’s JioCinema – is constructing an alternative choice to legacy media in one of many world’s fastest-growing markets, on the primary day of Media Companions Asia’s APOS convention in Bali, Indonesia.
Speaking to MPA government director Vivek Couto, Shankar recounted how Reliance Jio created a “fundamental digital revolution” in India with the introduction of low-cost knowledge plans in 2016.
“I was created by and love television, but its limitations have been exposed for a long time,” mentioned Shankar, who headed Star India earlier than serving as president of The Walt Disney Co APAC till 2020.
He’s now invested within the subsequent stage of India’s media evolution via his partnership with James Murdoch in Bodhi Tree Techniques – a part of a consortium of buyers which can be constructing out the JioCinema streaming service.
Over the previous few years, the platform has made a sequence of splashy content material offers together with the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket and programming from Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal. The service has additionally folded within the streaming channels of Viacom18 (collectively owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and Paramount International).
“We were able to see that opportunity very clearly. When you have a population of 1.4 billion, and leaving aside the top segment of the population, the rest have been completely bypassed – most of them have only looked at video on their mobile phones. The appetite has always been there but it’s been limited by access and affordability of the content,” Shankar mentioned.
“What we believe is that you can create an alternative to television, and I’m not talking about just one streaming service or channel, but delivering the whole range and diversity of content. We think the time is right in India to create an alternative through an app – and that is JioCinema.”
JioCinema delivers a number of channels, sourced from companies inside the Reliance Industries/Viacom18 steady, in addition to exterior companions, however Shankar swatted apart the time period “aggregation” as being related to legacy media.
He mentioned solely a broad, centralised service with a number of channels can ship content material to the large “social and linguistic diversity of India”. He referred to as out India’s SVOD phase for being too targeted on the highest finish of the market with programming that’s too costly to realistically recoup.
“We commission these $250,000 per episode shows – but I struggle to understand why those shows need to be made, unless you want to get invited to celebrity parties, because it does not get you traction,” Shankar mentioned.
“It may make sense for global platforms to make that content, because they have a global monetization model, but if your primary market is India and you’re limiting yourself to 5% of the population, why are you even doing that?”
He added that’s the reason JioCinema was “willing to pay top dollar” for the IPL, as that’s “super premium” content material that’s “relevant to a large majority” of the Indian inhabitants. Reliance has to this point invested greater than $4BN in IPL and different cricket rights for India, which Shankar mentioned could be a worthwhile funding. “It’s not a business if it’s not profitable,” he mentioned to laughs from the room.
Shankar additionally mentioned he’s bullish on AVOD, and respectful of India’s AVOD viewers, criticising “the kind of caste system” that doesn’t worth shoppers who don’t pay. “Anyone who is willing to consume the content is our customer and we just have to innovate in the ways in which we can reach them and create value – and that’s the model,” he mentioned.
Nevertheless, he added that JioCinema can also be offering content material for that “top 5% of the market” that’s eager about Hollywood films and premium content material: “We are looking at different consumer segments and creating a proposition for all of them.”