Digital is the canvas that everyone wants to paint. 2016 is already the year of video and the format has just started to roll in multiple forms, from 360-degree videos to the mad proliferation of digital video series to the growing demand of video-on-demand. From brands to creative heads, everyone is hoping to find the pot of gold.
When Raghu Ram of MTV Roadies fame moved out of MTV, no one thought that he would also jump into the bandwagon of digital web shows. May be the success of AIB and The Viral Fever has set the platform, the man tweeted about his first web series – A.I.SHA #MyVirtualGirlfriend. The second episode has rolled out and has crossed 930K views so far across all platforms, and the first episode rolled out a month ago has fetched a million views across YouTube, Facebook and Arré.
The web series is the story of Sam, a 26-year-old app developer, a brilliant nerd but his boss (Raghu) is hellbent on making his life miserable. Meanwhile, Sam, a loner and a socially awkward genius has been creating his own perfect A.I app in stealth mode. Here is the thrilling first episode that will make you ask for more:
The web show is one of the offerings from Arré, an original content destination with a unique storytelling platform across genres and formats. Earlier this year, Arré, a content platform from UDigital Content Pvt. Ltd promoted by well known Ronnie Screwvala, media veteran and a serial entrepreneur and B. Saikumar, the former Group chief executive officer (CEO) of Network18 went live. Ajay Chacko, the former chief operating officer (COO) of Network18, is a co-founder.
But a lot has changed in the last few months for the heavily funded startup. B Saikumar, one of the co-founders has taken a controlling stake in the firm. The company did not share further details but a person directly privy to the transaction tipped Techcircle that Saikumar has bought the additional stake from Ronnie.
In April, the Enam Group acquired a significant minority stake in Arré, which also meant Ronnie’s exit from Arré. The founders Ajay, Saikumar and Sanjay Ray Chaudhuri along with the Enam Group have acquired the residual stake held in the company by Unilazer Ventures and Ronnie Screwvala.
While the dynamics of the startup was changing, the content didn’t see any deviation in terms of quality. In addition to the original web series, Arré also introduced ‘I Don’t Watch TV’ (IDWT), a disruptive spoof on the TV industry. The show is a tongue in cheek commentary on India’s decadent celebrity culture and everyone’s obsession with Bollywood. The show is produced by Nakuul Mehta, a TV actor himself.
The second episode #LaughterGames that went live a few days ago is bringing some of the popular faces of Indian television on the show. Not restricting itself to daily soaps, the show even has a humorous cameo by film critic Rajeev Masand.
“IDWT is a fully disruptive satirical sitcom on the idiosyncrasies of the TV industry and its protagonists and stars some of the biggest names in television – from Drashti Dhami to Karan Patel to Karan Wahi etc. – It’s a show about TV, off TV. It’s an interesting fit for Arré to produce this as part our launch slate given that our customers are the new-generation that are moving from TV to digital for its dose of entertainment,” informed Ajay Chacko Co-Founder and CEO at UDigital.
Arré is not limiting itself to just producing videos; in Ajay’s words the team is working to tell an interesting and compelling story through the medium that best lends itself to the content.
“Digital unlike TV is not bound by format…it offers the flexibility to use the power of each medium, whether audio, video or visual to tell an impactful story.”
From working on doodles to first person narratives to interviews to commentary, the team is exploring every form of content that would appeal to the audience. “Stories and doodles are what will give a reason to users to come to our site everyday, along with video and audio, which will be more series based. Our stories are entertaining yet very contextual reads across a range of categories – from politics to food to satire to sex to crime to relationships and more,” he added.
For the time being doodles that are contextual and replicates real life issues are getting traction. Here are some of the doodles that are witty and smart at the same time.
When Salman qualified to be the Goodwill Ambassador for the Olympics:
And this being the recent one – how to spot a Rocky Yadav:
“The doodles are really our visual take on the world and everything that’s wrong (or right) with it. These have found good traction on social media for us,” Ajay informed to Lighthouse Insights over an email.
In the space of original offerings, Arré is gearing up with its first ever-digital reality show, based on the Israeli format Re-Gender which explores the relationship between the sexes. The show is a daring social experiment that breaks down the rules of gender perception and challenges society-defined gender stereotypes. 6 people will change their sexual identity. The men will become women and the women, men. Through their assignments out in the real world as well as through dynamics with each other in the house, where they will live cut off from the world for a month, the contestants will discover certain not-so-obvious truths about the opposite sex.
The promo is already out and you can watch it here:
The second big project that Ajay has been excited about is the documentary series with Indian Express. The first one is on the most talked about topic currently – the tragic pollution conditions in Delhi. The documentary titled ‘Death by Breath’ was recently released with an interesting music video released earlier to create buzz. Going forward Arré is going to work on a range of documentaries with Indian Express.
Along with series, video documentaries, doodles, stories, Arré has not left audio. It has tied up with online streaming site Saavn that recently moved into creation of original programming series. Collaboration with Saavn has resulted into another original audio content titled ‘Trial by Error – The Aarushi Files’ narrated by journalist Nishita Jha. The program uncovers some of the myths, rumors and the investigation revolving around the 2008 Noida double murder case. With two episodes already launched, the third episode’s trailer is out right now:
In the age of videos will audio work? Podcasts or content consumed in audio formats have been a hit in the West but it has struggled to gain any viewership or brand support in India. An aware Ajay thinks that the reason podcasts have found success in the US and UK is due to innovative reinvention of formats and genres. “Our aim is to re-invent the traditionally understood and consumed ‘podcasts’ by creating highly engaging and dramatised audio series that tell an almost visual story without the visuals.”
The fate of audio/podcasts can only be ascertained with more shows coming up and the kind of backing it gets in brand sponsorship, like it has for the web series. Gillette Flexball is the lead sponsor of A.I SHA. Interestingly, Arré has also created smart videos titled Sid Success Sutra presented by Gillette Flexball. These videos are nothing but ads rolled in the form of video content.
I am informed that Arré so far has advertisers who are taking digital very well. Advertisers have been open to exploring different formats and seeking to engage with their customers in engaging but non-intrusive ways. “Our first show A.I.SHA has 3 sponsors – Gillette, Dell and Palo Alto Networks all of which are traditional advertisers, but engaged with us in a very non-TV like way for e.g. Palo Alto Networks has advised us on the script of the show for technical authenticity – so partnerships such as these are very integrated with the content of the show,” he informed.
Today Arré has positioned itself as a 360-degree multi-media property complete with doodles, videos, reading material and audio excerpts. Serving different genres of content in various formats has also got a boost with the growing mobile consumption. Almost 60% traffic comes from mobile and people are not just consuming short video but long format too. “We’re realizing that there isn’t really a ‘format’ of consumption on digital unlike TV – content is consumed on weekdays and weekends, mornings and evenings and it’s different for different users. It’s a fairly democratic user behaviour and hence, we need to cater to all kinds of consumer habits through our marketing and distribution strategy.”
This is why you will find Arré has content uploaded on YouTube, Facebook and on its portal too. The tie-ups with Saavn and Indian Express also mean that Arré content is visible in these platforms too.
“Our strategy is to be where the customer is. Hence, we are available on all platforms where we are able to generate sampling and build engagement with customers. Each platform has its own user experience and we’re leveraging the positives of all platforms.”
Going forward Arré wants to keep growing the vision of creating a 360 degree multimedia experience around content. So you find a series led by video or audio or text at Arré supported by all the other media. “We will not curate or aggregate or syndicate content like traditional media companies do. That’s not our game. We will be original, live and very contextual on a daily basis,” said Saikumar.
The only way you can be alive on digital and engage with your target audience.