In conversation with Ali Hussein, COO, Eros Digital

Agency Reporter got an opportunity to interact with Ali Hussein, COO at Eros Digital. He holds 15+ years of work experience in digital media and technology across organisations like Google, Viacom, Hungama and others.

1. Eros Digital is poised to become India’s largest Digital entertainment company. What are your comments on that? How are you capitalizing on the digital expansion strategy?

It is indeed a great time for the digital platforms to expand their base and constantly match the growing demand for content consumption on online platforms. Apart from being the largest film library with over 12,000 movie titles in 10+ languages, Eros Now has adapted different techniques to foster its growth. It has partnered with several leading brands across distribution and marketing partnerships, we have been a front runner in collaborating with many companies to reach out to consumers worldwide and entertain them with clutter-breaking content.

We have tie-ups across payment gateways worldwide which gives our consumers a seamless experience for payments and downloads. We have an expansive global presence across 135 countries and is the only Indian OTT platform to be present in China. We’ve been able to demonstrate a multi fold increase on all metric in the last 1 year itself and since Eros Now’s inception, the growth has been heart-warming. We have had a multi fold growth in both repeat viewers on a WOW basis and increased session time on the product with 276% YOY growth in paid subscribers.

2. How according to you is OTT a game changer for the entertainment industry? How will OTT drive innovation in 2019?

OTT platforms are definitely bringing the world closer. Today, people are exposed to different genres and patterns of content and their appetite for innovative and unique concepts is only increasing. We, at Eros Now have been launching various original series and short-format content under ‘Eros Now Quickie’ category to keep the audiences engrossed and further encourage the demand for online content consumption. OTT platforms bring with it the opportunity for many creative minds to showcase their innovative content that is being watched by consumers worldwide. Audiences are not just waiting for another Friday for the big release but are instead hooked on to their smart phones to binge-view the next original content on OTT platforms. This could be a fabulous time and opportunity for Indian platforms and content creators to get credited for quality content due to democratized distribution on OTT and Eros Now.

3. How is Eros Now changing the game in the OTT space?

The OTT eco-system seems to be growing at a rapid pace with newer players entering the market. The media and entertainment industry has seen a paradigm shift in the way viewers consume content. One of the reasons OTT platforms these days are delivering all sorts of content to audiences that can be consumed at a minimal subscription cost on their personalized devices as per their convenience. The practice of consuming content is changing which was witnessed this year and by next year it will only get bigger and change the OTT eco system further. Eros Now also garnered appreciation for launching a separate category for short format content – Eros Now Quickie that offers short, snackable content for viewers on the go! 2019 is going to be more exiting as there are many such innovations in the pipeline for audiences which is easily accessible to them from any part of the world. At Eros Now we are also expanding our consumer base in rural India and have partnered with BSNL, the largest telecom reach.

4. OTT vs Television- Is it a tug of war or an era of collaboration?

It is not a tug of war for sure. Both the industries cater to a wide set of audience. In fact, OTT platforms also play television content that further enhances audiences’ online streaming experience. It is the same for the movie business. Movie watching in a theatre is a different experience but by bringing films on OTT platforms we cater to the audience that do not have access to theatres. Digital consumption will grow, and monetization avenues will see great innovation to cater to the new Indian customer segments.  FICCI 2019 report estimates that approximately 2.5 million consumers in India are only digital and do not use the traditional media. OTT is a fast growing while film and TV business is the core and is here for some more years.

5. How will emerging technologies such as big data analytics, AI, etc. impact our industry in the next two years?

India is one of the largest drivers of innovation in the world with nearly 300 Million+ Online Video users in the country. The government’s Digital India Initiative and launch of Jio has helped in connecting to the most remote villages in the country. The Indian viewing consumption pattern has also seen a significant change – from TV to personalised screens. In the past one year, OTT has become popular in the smallest of towns and villages, as well. Therefore, it is imperative to innovate and offer quality user experience with best-in-class technology. Technological advancement is of utmost importance for OTT platforms to stay relevant and relatable. To uncover information that highlights customer preferences and market trends is an advantage for OTT platforms as it helps in carving new ways to entertain the audiences and reach out to them.

As a brand, Eros Now remains committed to continuously improve the user experience and add several new and innovative features to the consumer viewing experience. There is a significant difference in the cultural and behavioural pattern in each state and therefore OTT platforms need to offer content in local languages that will appeal to mass audience. Also upgrading the user-experience based on data science learning on customer journey and behaviour patterns is another key to propel the process of individualization of consuming content. With innovation in the OTT industry, the digital infrastructure also will improve drastically that is currently facing few challenges. Thus, in the coming years, with the growing number of smartphone users, upgrade in internet broadband services, India is likely to become one of top countries to consume maximum content generated around the globe.

6. Please take us through some content consumption trends as seen on your platform?

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. We have the largest market share of premium Indian OTT film content with over 70% of market share with digital rights to over 12,000 films.

Our most active customers on Eros Now complete watching a film in 2 sessions. Our library comprises content across 10 different languages. Studies also suggest that short-format content consumption is a growing trend and the insights from the study have helped us launch Eros Now Quickie which has been an immensely successful category for Eros Now. The wide range of original series on our platform has also received a lot of applause worldwide.

7. As a COO, what is more important: cost-reduction or time savings?

In a dynamic and constantly evolving business such as ours, it is very important to have a clear vision and focus on the priority of the business. Instead of focusing on cost reduction or time saving, we at Eros Now focus on delivering a quality that is better than the market and all our efforts are focussed in that direction. We strive to achieve customer joy across everything we do across content, technology and user experience and that has to be a balance of quality delivered in a timely fashion at efficient cost structures.