B Saikumar talks about Arre’s new endeavour, future of web content and more…

Arre has created an intriguing and colorful splash in the world of digital content. At an era of clickbaits, Arre with its alternate poignant quality articles and web shows, have successfully created a niche in the otherwise chaotic content miasma marring the digital universe.

Arre’s urge to tap trends creatively is commendable and the team is forever inventive in its quest to dole out differentiated content. In a similar quest, Arre has hit the road in an attempt to capture the imagination of travel lovers with its new initiative christened Arre Outdoors.

Its first offering is a Arunachal Pradesh based travel show hosted by travel show expert, Rannvijay Singha called The Real High. Indianwikimedia met up with Arre Founder B Sai Kumar, who is also former Network 18 Group CEO, at the launch press conference of the same for a quick chat.  Here are the excerpts…

What is The Real High all about?

It is a adventure reality show based on a journey set in Arunachal Pradesh for 10-12 days in which 6 city slickers (challengers) are put to test under harsh conditions. The show will bring out the challenger spirit in them so as to experience ‘The Real High’ that can be found only in nature. Rannvijay mentors and guides them all the way through the entire journey while challenging them to push themselves beyond their known limits.

 How do you perceive the digital travel content space?

Purely immersive and experimental. Here, we have people uploading their personal travel experiences (helped by our editors), accompanied by a blog, photo essay, audio and a deep reality show (like The Real High), only digital can offer such variety. Given the length and breadth of our vast country, this sector has vast potential of growth.

We might first offer A.I.S.H.A – My Virtual Girlfriend 3 only on subscription for first three days and then go on our above free to air platforms.  Since we also go for branded content, we need to reach critical thresholds numbers

Where do you see digital market today?

Like where TV was in late nineties, it is threatening to go mainstream and has faster growth than TV back then.  We have never seen much infrastructure support in terms of broadband, data or telco association. I see a lot for convergence; hence we not only have video, but also text and audio. There is also fiction and nonfiction (documentaries on pollution and Kashmir).  This combination actually is the leitmotif of digital, we are on the right path.’

Where is Arre in this big scheme of things?

People tune in to read our blogs (Life Lessons from Frank Underwood), listen to podcast (Pandeyji and Aamir Khan) or check out our very popular web series (Arré Ho Ja Re-Gender). Our growth has been majorly pushed by being present across platforms (Youtube,  Facebook and  Arre.co.in).  We plan to hop on more soon.  Also the fact that we plan tie ups with at least 35 brands this calendar year alone is an indicator of success.  Today brands are smart, they don’t look at just numbers, which meaningless as anyone can get them.  What is more important is engagement like time spend, comment per view …here A.I.SHA – My Virtual Girlfriend 1 and 2 have been game changers for us.   We have already commissioned season 3.  Having said that our most viewed show is the highly disruptive Official Chukyagiri.  It traces the trial and tribulations of 22 year old nerd with a drone.

When will pay market open?

If you take a look at TV which really came into its own in 2002, we were negative in carriage till 2007, but now everybody is making money as there is no carriage.  So if it took five years in broadcast and it will take lesser time in digital. We might first offer A.I.S.H.A – My Virtual Girlfriend 3 only on subscription for first three days and then go on our above free to air platforms.  Since we also go for branded content, we need to reach critical thresholds numbers.

Given the length and breadth of our vast country, travel digital content space has vast potential of growth

How do you look at content overall in different platforms?

When we did TV programme for Network 18 we had to craft shows which 4 people (of different age groups) could watch in room without killing themselves (smiles).  However, if you take a look at their mobile consumption patterns, it will be completely different.   And we at Arre want to target them individually.

What is the biggest challenge for digital content creators?

Stay in the race for a long time as the journey has just started.  Also we need to keep innovating albeit with budgets in mind, we believe in sustainability with scale.

Sai’s Profile:

Sai Kumar has been instrumental in taking Network18 from a single channel company to a USD 1 billion plus enterprise. As Group CEO of Network18, Sai oversaw the group’s wide range of interests from news and entertainment broadcast to distribution & digital content and commerce. Sai also served on the boards of Viacom18, Indiacast, A&E18 and bookmyshow.com among others. Prior to Network18,  Sai  had worked with the Times Group.

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