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Ekta Kapoor On Challenges For Streaming Peer Netflix, Direct OTT Release Controversy And Content Regulation

Ekta Kapoor speaks no holds barred on self-censorship, OTT releases and what's in store for future for Balaji Telefilms.

Jul 29, 2020 / 07:49 AM IST

Leading production house Balaji Telefilms saw its television vertical bearing the brunt of production curbs for more than three months as health and safety of staff assumed priority during the nationwide lockdown.

But on the other hand, its OTT platform ALTBalaji gobbled up subscribers at a rapid pace in tier-2 and tier 3 cities and rode the digital wave. The firm is on the prowl for strategic or financial partners who can add value to its business as it looks to break into the regional market and boost its overseas presence as well.

Ekta Kapoor, the creative force behind Balaji Telefilms and the firm’s Joint Managing Director, spoke to Moneycontrol on the imminent threat from global streaming giants like Netflix, gradually warming up to mass content.

She also weighed in on several key issues in the entertainment industry including the ongoing controversy between movie producers and theatre owners over direct releases on OTT platforms  and regulation of OTT content.  Here are some edited excerpts –

NETFLIX: KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKING ON BALAJI TELEFILMS DOOR?

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Ekta Kapoor: Netflix, to cater to tier 2-3, will not only have to make content but also be price sensitive and that’s going to be their biggest challenge more than content creation. We, of course, will be far more price sensitive going forward. Secondly, our aim is so specifically  tier-2, tier-3, that we have actually commissioned 57 shows in the next 18 months ,that is between us and our partner ZEE5. And the R&D is done. I know exactly what works on our apps and these are the communities we want to grow.

So of course there is going to be an overlap. But to cannibalize a market or to have monopolistic attitude cannot be possible. My game is mid-impact, small impact, my game is individualistic and my game is tier-2, tier-3 and there will be an overlap and I think at one point I will go regional too but at this point of time I have to keep the top line and bottom line well managed.

MULTIPLEXES CRYING FOUL OVER DIRECT OTT RELEASES: THE ROAD AHEAD

Ekta Kapoor: There is no option. One revenue stream has stopped, because going to the theatres  now with the pandemic is pretty much a risk. With the revenue stream stopping, producers have had  no option but to release movies on OTT. It is a stop-gap arrangement, definitely for big films, because big films would not want to lose out on that revenue stream. But for small films, it is now taking away the stigma.

I always believe a lot of films were meant for individual viewing. I mean, it never took away from the film but you charged for a Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan film 200 bucks and you charged for a small eclectic film , 200 bucks. Automatically the small film would lose out on a certain viewer, and would have probably pulled in only that many viewers. But today because some films can directly go on to OTT and print and advertising is so expensive, now you can actually directly make a film for an OTT platform without the stigma of it being a digital film.

There is a new opportunity today that I don't have to make all my films for theatrical release anymore. Of course it is ( commercial viable), because you always plan it that way. Small films now have a new avenue. And big films will go back to releasing in theatres. So I actually think there's going to be a lot of pros and very few cons for even the film industry.

REGULATING OTT CONTENT: A FINE BALANCING ACT?

Ekta Kapoor: I actually believe in self-censorship. And it's a very, very firm belief, I have.  Which means most of the content on OTT will have to carry disclaimers, will have to carry age profiles,  will have to carry strong footnotes that it contains sexual content, it contains disturbing content and then leaves the choice to the viewer. The  OTT platform, then shares some responsibility with the parents out there, who then have to do a child lock on content, which is clearly not for a certain age group, because of the disclaimers.

And we're going to see to it that most of the technology allows that. So with that, when you're above 18, then it is pure choice. Then you have a choice to say I want to watch this content. As a company, we try to not support misogyny. I would try not to support anything that hurts sentiments, but on a legal and an absolutely company-to-company issue we will definitely have self-censorship as the first and foremost need of the year.

Follow the link below to read the first part of the interview: 
Open to strategic or financial partner who can see value in business, says Ekta Kapoor
Ashwin Mohan
first published: Jul 29, 2020 07:49 am
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