StudioNEXT that co-produced Scam 1992, is aiming at winning the OTT content race with quality, purposeful content
StudioNEXT's next offering Whistleblower will launch on December 16
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StudioNEXT that co-produced Scam 1992, is aiming at winning the OTT content race with quality, purposeful content

StudioNEXT's next offering Whistleblower will launch on December 16
  • StudioNEXT that produced one of the most popular Indian web series last year, Scam 1992, is now getting ready to launch its next offering, Whistleblower.
  • We speak to Indranil Chakraborty, Head StudioNEXT who takes us behind the scenes of these shows and what have worked in their favour. He also tells us what we can expect from StudioNEXT in the next few months.
The Over-the-top (OTT) space had been growing at a healthy pace even before we were hit by the pandemic. But it was during the lockdown that the OTT industry had its watershed moment.

People discovered that the OTT platforms opened up the world for them, with content that went beyond boundaries. Great content from across the world kept us hooked, making the lockdown just a tad bit easier to bear.

It also put the responsibility on content production houses to create clutter-breaking content because differentiation is what will help platforms stand out in the space which is getting cluttered fast.

Last year, one of the biggest web series hits, Scam 1992, came from the stable of StudioNEXT, an independent business unit of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), and Applause Entertainment. It is also the content production house responsible for Kaun Banega Crorepati. When the division was set up around 2.5 years back, the aim was to function as a content creator for SPN media business as well as for other channels, networks and OTT players within India and globally. The goal was to produce new IPs whilst leveraging the existing ones under SPN media.

On the occasion of the launch of StudioNEXT’s latest series, Whistleblower, we caught up with Indranil Chakraborty, Head StudioNEXT, to take a look back at the production house’s journey and to understand a few factors that have helped the company create content that has worked for viewers.

The journey so far
When SPN had set up the division, the destination hadn’t been written in stone. The aim was to create a flexible division, shared Chakraborty. “Having said that, we’ve had a fantastic journey so far. We have produced over 15 shows in the last 2.5 years across various languages. We began with KBC, our first web series, Scam 1992 has now been voted as the best web series to be produced in India so far. However, when we began our journey, we were clear that we wanted to create entertainment shows with a purpose for both TV and Digital. Our motto was to create good entertainment content and something with a purpose. We realized that there's a gap between a production house or studio which focuses on such shows and content,” explained Chakraborty.

The company has also been especially focussed on collaboration, especially with content creators. On the TV side, it is experimenting with a few formats across languages. For a web series, it is collaborating with a whole lot of known as well as lesser known talents. “As of now we are working on around 10 shows. And from now till December next year, we have a mandate to deliver at least 6 shows. If we can do that, I believe we will be one of the biggest production houses for the digital ecosystem of the country. I can't think of many production houses which can deliver 6 shows in a year, and that too of such scale. Going forward, we want to do things that we are doing at a multiplied rate,” he added.

Earlier this year, StudioNEXT also announced it will be collaborating with Venture Catalysts as the startup ecosystem advisor for the very first edition of Shark Tank India which Chakraborty feels is one of the major highlights for the company, along with producing KBC in Kashmir and the reception that Scam 1992 received.

Indianizing successful international content
With the production of Shark Tank, is the content house considering Indianizing more such successful international IPs?

“We associated with Venture Catalyst because they had great domain knowledge and they are known in that space and this partnership helped us a lot. Talking about more such formats, we are exploring a few game formats along with a few other things, but right now, our focus is on making Shark Tank a success. We want to see how this does, if it goes into multiple seasons and has the potential to be done in multiple languages too. So right now, we are concentrating on growing deeper inside the shows we are already doing, rather than laterally expanding ourselves,” he shared.

The content India wants to consume
The last year has shown that Indians are hungry for good content. Series like Scam 1992 have won the internet and people are on the lookout for such content.

On what he feels works for an Indian audience, Chakraborty said, “While I don’t know the exact numbers, viewership has been on a steady rise. In fact, in the content industry, there is more demand today than supply. But I feel if a story is honest, sincere and has integrity, it will work for the consumers. We have realized that the audience likes to discover different people, places, nuances and cultures and that's an important element in our shows. People are wanting to learn something from watching a show, a discovery of sorts and that's something we are trying to give them with our content.”

With more and more platforms racing each other to produce and license better content, is it challenging to come up with clutter-breaking ideas? “I don’t believe the space is cluttered yet because there are too many stories to be told and we have just begun on this journey. There are many genres like romance, family drama etc that we are still exploring. I really feel it's a very exciting time for creators and writers,” he said.

Apart from Whistleblower which will launch tomorrow, StudioNEXT’s next few offerings include Faadu by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari and the second season of Scam by Hansal Mehta.