In conversation with Pinakin Thakkar, CEO of Nirvana Digital.

At a time when everybody is talking about the boom in producing and distributing web video content, there is a requirement for a new category of profession – Digital Rights Managers, who ensure that content makers and rights holders monetize their efforts.

Nirvana Digital is the leader in the digital and rights management space, not only in India but also in the subcontinent.

CEO Pinakin Thakkar says, “We sell several billion minutes of content. Our YouTube network reaches 150 million viewers every month (we recorded nearly 90% growth in views in the last one year). Our subscriber base has already touched 30 million. We manage the rights of hundreds of thousands of videos. This is a huge market for brands, not only in India but world-wide as well. We are also in touch with the rising numbers of OTT (Amazon and Netflix) platforms and help them source relevant content – either custom-match from scratch or aggregate existing content.”

“It would be interesting to see if the market starts to run purely on subscription (Netflix), or will ad revenue continue to hold the key to healthy bottom lines.”

“The biggest challenge for digital rights managers is to find out the real owners of a piece of content, for in India, there are many people who claim to have the rights to a film. YouTube also helps us a lot in this mountain of paperwork,” he adds.

“The other obstacle is to educate the public that just because you have a DVD copy of a film does not mean that you can break it on YouTube.”

Here Pinakin adds, “Rather than taking down unauthorized, third-party uploads of copyrighted content, it would be better if we talk with them and monetize the content for our clients. We have a new technology called finger printing, which is helping us find the content of our clients.”

When asked about what kind of content is popular, he says, “As opposed to popular notion, regional content has a huge demand as opposed to long-form, mainstream Bollywood stuff. Our society watchmen and liftmen use data-rich Jio plans to watch Bhojpuri film songs for free, and will not go for pay per view like Amazon and Netflix.”

“Apart from catch-up content (TV serials) music and films, youth are heavily tuning into original content that speaks their language and concerns.”

“Many web series makers design their content in tune with the ethos of the brand they hope to get on board as sponsors, failing which, they will have to depend purely on the revenue that YouTube gives, which will change the recovery period.”

“The best part of the content business is that there is an audience for virtually all types of content. Some like strawberries; others prefer oranges. The trick lies in finding the right platform, and that is where we come in.”

Coming to the lucrative film digital rights topic, Pinakin, who helped Netflix get the rights for the super-hit Amitabh Bachchan flick, Pink, says, “Today, digital rights have become an important part of the pie, and accordingly, films come online much quicker than before. OTT platforms are also ready to pay a premium for exciting content that allows them first use, bypassing the traditional satellite TV route. How this pans out depends on the growth of the medium’s budgets and decline of TV.”

Is net really that revenue-heavy? “Well, none of the OTT players reveal their subscriber bases. They only tell us what sells more. On the other hand, ad-supported platforms are transparent about their number of views. But it is a no-brainer that digital is the medium of the future.”

Are library owners jumping onto this new bandwagon? “We are talking to many Hindi and regional film, TV and independent content owners. They need to understand that they are refusing money on the table if they decline. The only obstacle for them would be the new deal violating existing contracts.”

In closing, he says, “Besides DRM, we are also contemplating entering the lucrative content-making business. Knowing what type of content sells well in which market, we are better positioned to churn out the right fit, culture wise. We already have a few concepts and are in talks with OTT platforms, to produce content which will cater to the global Indian and not just viewers back at home.”

Best of luck for all your ventures!!

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