While media networks in the country are busy launching and promoting their own over-the-top or digital video streaming platforms, Disney India has decided on a different route to capture the digital audience.
Come April 28 and the network will launch its first-ever web-series, Girl in the City, on Facebook’s video platform.
The 13-episode series will follow the life of Meer Sehgal from Dehradun, who shifts to Mumbai to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
While each new episode of the series will premiere on Facebook’s video platform every Thursday, it will be followed by a re-run on the network’s youth entertainment channel, Bindaas, the next day, followed by a wider digital release on YouTube every Saturday.
“The idea of having a phased release serves two purposes.
It gives scope for the content to go viral on digital and, at the same time, does not isolate the TV audience that Bindaas has.
On Facebook, we have more than eight million engaged fans, who are the core target group of the channel.
So, engaging with them first helps release the content to the right set and has potential of sharing.
The TV-run caters the content to our viewers who might not be so active on Facebook and YouTube helps give the content reach,” says Nikhil Gandhi, vice-president and head of revenue, media channels, Disney India.
Bindaas reaches around 60 million homes in the country.
Using Facebook video or YouTube for content distribution is not new.
Arunabh Kumar’s The Viral Fever used YouTube to distribute its content all this while, until the launch of it’s TVF Play platform.
In fact, content producers feel the reach and viral-ity platforms like YouTube and Facebook offer makes putting out content on these much more lucrative.
Both of TVF’s web-series, TVF Pitchers and Permanent Roommates, made it to Amazon IMDb’s top 250 shows, and were initially released on YouTube.
Disney does have an OTT platform that it recently launched in the UK, Disney Live, which might come to India in the future.
As of now, the network will be releasing its content to the free platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
In the Indian content context, Disney also does not have the width of GEC (general entertainment channel) content that peers like STAR India, Zee, Sony and Viacom18 have.
It’s strength is currently in animation and live action content, and movies, not enough to fuel an independent OTT platform in a market where the other networks have launching second video-on- demand services and Netflix is trying to make inroads.
The network is still working on the time slot for the TV run but it will be in the 6 pm to 8 pm band, as 7 pm is considered the ‘sweet spot’ for youth GECs in terms of prime time viewership.
A digital release also means the show can take some bold decisions in terms of content, visual and verbal.
The television version will be in accordance with the content rules of the censor board, though.
In other words, each 15-minute episode will be customised for the digital and the television viewer.
The series has got on board brand partners in the form of automobile lubricant Castrol and e-commerce company eBay.
Both brands have been woven into the script and form part of the narrative, beyond only product or brand placement.
For example, the lead character gets a job working at eBay, as part of the storyline.
Gandhi says while brand integration is part of the revenue model for shows like this, the web-series is not an advertiser-funded programme.
Other brands which might come on board will use different avenues for digital advertising.
The network plans many such shows and will have a sustained slate over the next six to 12 months, primarily in the fiction space.
Image: A portion of the signage at the main gate of The Walt Disney Co. is pictured in Burbank, California. Photograph: Fred Prouser/Reuters