How Shemaroo is taking on Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, other OTT players

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When Shemaroo Entertainment launched its OTT platform, ShemarooMe, in 2019, it had to compete with biggies such as Disney+Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video among others. Instead of jumping into the race of creating and acquiring expensive shows, the 60-year-old Indian media company decided to entertain consumers with the exhaustive content it already owned in multiple languages. The strategy was to enable consumers to enjoy the content which they have loved consuming over several years (films, music, theatre and TV shows) again and again.

Apart from playing the content on ShemarooMe, it made it available on telcos as well as international video platforms that catered to the diaspora audience. It created content cohorts such as Bollywood, regional (Gujarati, Punjabi Marathi and Bengali) and devotional. Despite offering old content, the company made its offering subscription-based (Rs 999 per year for the all-access pack and Rs 499 per year for the regional packs).

Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment, claims that his strategy of not chasing expensive original content has worked well. “The important criteria for us to consider getting into a new business is to find out whether it is a scalable opportunity and if we have the right to win,” explains Gada. After being operational for two years, Gada has finally launched original content in Gujarati on ShemarooMe. “We are identifying other B2C cohorts, where we have the capability of producing original content,” he further explains. While Bollywood content currently is the mainstay, Gada’s strategy is to look beyond. The idea is to increasingly focus on regional and devotional.

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Shemaroo made its broadcast foray on May 1, last year, right in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic. It launched a Hindi GEC channel, Shemaroo TV and a Marathi movie channel, Shemaroo MarathiBana. This was the time when shoots were not being allowed and most television channels had run out of original content. Shemaroo had no choice but to play some of its old content as well as license content from other media companies.

The bigger question, however, is why did Shemaroo choose to enter an already cluttered broadcast industry. “The market is not so crowded,” says Gada. “The Hindi GEC segment has 14-15 channels and an ad revenue pie of Rs 7,000-8,000 crore. On the contrary, there are over 35 Hindi movie channels and the ad pie is just Rs 3,000 crore. India has just about 210 million television homes, therefore, is a lot of room for players like us,” he further adds.

Gada has chosen to operate in the free-to-air (FTA) channel space as he believes that is where the growth lies. “Most of the new users will come in FTA, as the bulk of the TV consumption, going forward, will happen in the rural markets. Even advertisers are wanting to advertise on FTA channels in order to reach out to rural and semi-urban consumers.” He agrees that GEC is a tough game, but if played well, there still is room for many players. 

The Rs 470 crore home-grown media company is expecting its broadcast business to contribute substantially in the near-term. “There is decent room available for growth. There are multiple cohorts available in broadcast too, as India is a huge country with diverse content preferences. If we can sharpen our consumer offerings, we can scale well. Digital is a story which is still being built, the real scale for digital will take time.”

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Despite the tough market conditions due to the second wave of the pandemic, Gada is confident that both his broadcast as well as his OTT business would be profitable much before the usual gestation period of five-six years.