Year 2017 has been ‘really terrific’ for the animation industry in India, just as it was outside. Going digital has been a major disruption and Amazon and Netflix are coming up in a big way, notes Ketan Mehta, Managing Director, Cosmos-Maya. A leading producer of original animated content locally, Cosmos-Maya is behind popular shows such as Motu Patlu, Kisna, and VIR-The Robot Boy, among others.
Digital as a revenue stream is a new concept, says Mehta. Subscription video on demand (SVOD) has given a boost to sales revenue. Cosmos-Maya also runs a successful bouquet of digital channels under the umbrella brand WowKidz. It had six million subscribers and in excess of six billion views as of April 2018.
The linear broadcast market is also growing and India is a peculiar market where both digital and Pay TV are thriving. “We recently signed a historic deal with Viacom - a five-year production contract for Motu Patlu and Shiva. We have already finished 20 per cent delivery,” Mehta tells BusinessLine in an interview. Cosmos-Maya recently signed co-production deals with Studio Campedelli, Rai Ragazzi and GruppoAlcuni for modern animation content.
Give us an update on new IP that Cosmos-Maya is currently working on?
‘Selfie with Bajrangi’ has been the latest success for us. It did exceedingly well on Amazon and was launched on Disney Hungama recently. Inspector Chingum, the first spin-off series of Motu Patlu , was recently launched on Amazon Prime Video and will be available on Pay TV come Diwali.
Two international co-productions are also in the picture - Leo Da Vinci (just announced) and the other one is going to be announced very soon. The latter has multiple European broadcasters attached to it. We are also developing two concepts for Indian broadcasters and two for international broadcasters (which we will be declaring soon). We are aiming to launch one international production around MIPCOM, the global market for entertainment content. It is too early to talk about the others at this time.
Do we have enough talent to handle work on off-shored content and in-house projects?
Cosmos-Maya has developed an integrated pipeline that is three-pronged and works in tandem for the studio’s functionality. The first is the production pipeline which takes care of delivery. The second is the contractual pipeline to ensure that there is enough work to hire workforce and the third is the revenue pipeline.
Whatever content we produce has to produce enough revenue. How we have managed to integrate these three pipelines – production, contractual and revenue, is where the success lies. We are about to touch 1,000 employees very soon and the plan is to grow even further. There are multiple new projects. We have enough and more talent to handle the in-house projects.
We don’t do offshore content. We work on our own IPs only. We, as a matter of fact, outsource some of our work to multiple studios in addition to in-house employees. That is the way we balance the volume of work.
What do mega deals such as Walt Disney buying 21st Century Fox mean for us?
Consolidation is the hallmark of a company’s ‘mature stage’ in an industry. A global giant, which primarily has a kids’ content focus, has now acquired the biggest network in India. It is definitely a welcome trend. The growth trajectory of the industry and, specifically, Cosmos-Maya has been northward in a consistent manner and hence we’ve managed to get KKR-backed Emerald Media on board.
Mergers and acquisitions will keep happening. We’ve created value digitally with the content bank that is international – it is a 360-degree approach that we’ve taken up now. Working with big players in the business makes us one of the prime contenders for such transactions when the time is right for us.
The emerging trend is to have own OTT (over-the-top) services for delivery. What are the implications?
Delivery definitely matters as much as good content. Reaching the audience at the right time is imperative to have the full impact. We have created a mammoth pipeline and we create 26 half-hours a month, meeting massive delivery targets.
OTT is definitely here to stay, what with Netflix and Amazon on the SVOD front and YouTube on the AVOD (advertising video on demand) front. For us, WowKidz on YouTube has been a good pilot test and we are watching trends in this space.
The freedom an individual consumer gets with OTT is phenomenal. That makes things a lot more challenging creatively because one has to balance the commercial, technical as well as creative constraints while appeasing consumers, who are so flippant and discerning. It is a challenge that a creatively driven studio like ours would love to take up.