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Ekam Kannada web series: Showrunner Sandeep PS says most OTT platforms rejected the show without watching it - 'That was completely...'

Sandeep PS of Journeyman Productions, the showrunner of Ekam, the upcoming Kannada web series produced by Rakshit Shetty, talks about its release on their platform.

Ekam Kannada web series: Showrunner Sandeep PS says most OTT platforms rejected the show without watching it - 'That was completely...'
Sandeep PS (left); the release date poster of Ekam

Last Updated: 09.33 AM, Jul 09, 2024


When actor-filmmaker Rakshit Shetty announced that he was backing a Kannada web series, with a stellar star cast including Raj B Shetty, Prakash Raj, Shine Shetty, Manasi Sudhir, Prakash Thumminad, Shanil Guru, among many others, audiences were, no doubt, excited. But 4 years hence, he is forced to bring it to audiences on a platform created specifically for Ekam, as Rakshit and the creative team behind Ekam was unable to get any major OTT streamer interested in a ‘Kannada show’. The 7-episode Ekam Season 1- Karavali, is releasing on July 13, ahead of which OTTplay spoke to Sandeep PS of Journeyman Productions, who, along with Sumanth Bhat, created the show. Ekam is coming to audiences as TVOD (transactional video on demand) at Rs 149.


OTTs have no mandate for Kannada audience

When we made Ekam, we assumed that it was the perfect time to get it on a major OTT platform, considering how aggressively many are producing/acquiring content. But unfortunately, things were not as we assumed. Looking back, a couple of things that we, perhaps, went wrong with was that we began the production before the pandemic, when the mandate for OTT was very different. They were a lot more aggressive in how they were acquiring content and the formats. I think they burnt their hands with how much content they acquired and the anthology format, because the latter was easy for them to produce during the pandemic, but that did not work for them.

Now, they stick to a format that’s worked, otherwise the word is taboo. This is what we were told when we approached them. More importantly, we are way too early in the market. From what I understand, they come, procure films, make their own and only then venture into the web series space. Even then, they would prefer making originals first before acquiring. We were stuck in a no man’s land as far as OTTs were concerned, because they don’t have a mandate to acquire web series, and even if they do, it is much later in their calendar of things.

What is weird is that almost all the rejections we faced were without the show being watched. That was completely unexpected. Honestly, we thought it was going to be a breeze and that somebody would pick it up, because there is a market for it. We were in for a big surprise; over two years we knocked on every door, and even though we had some connections at a few platforms, we realized that it is a policy-level issue – they just don’t have a mandate for Kannada content.

Deciding against local Kannada platforms

What’s happened is that Ekam is not only backed by Rakshit and his Paramvah Studios and because of the pandemic, we had to raise investment from a bunch of individuals. So, the reality was that although Paramvah Studios greenlit it in January 2020, then the pandemic happened and 777 Charlie was still stuck in production. They had their funds tied up in the film and Ekam would have had to wait for a long time. That is when we decided to onboard other investors. As a result, we had to make sure to give them an opportunity to recover their money. Going with a smaller platform means that the chance for recovery is a risk for us. Do they have a large enough native audience to come and buy it was a big question and hence we could not look at these platforms as an option.

Will there be takers for TVOD?

Audiences, not only in Karnataka, but across the country, are still averse to rent content. Right now, most of the Kannada films on, say, Prime Video, are on revenue sharing basis and the numbers required for recovery are insane. Unless you have an A-list star in it, your chances are really bleak. The reason we’ve still gone ahead and decided TVOD is that we are trying a new distribution model. We don’t know how much it will work, but we are excited to try it out. It’s not that we are putting our content out there and hoping that audiences will pick it up, we are also onboarding several content creators as distributors to see if that helps. The aim is to reach out to people who are celebrating and dissecting cinema in the right way and are not bound by regions. We are onboarding them like theatrical distributors; our tech team will give them a unique link and any audience that comes through them will ensure they get a share of the revenue. The idea is to convert 1-2% of their reach. Of course, we’ve got all of them to watch the show.

Combating piracy

We spent a lot of time thinking about the chances of piracy; films and shows are being pirated even from the big platforms. We identified the tech to be able to do some amount of protection, but the thing is that it increases our cost manifold. Right now, at the Rs 149 we are charging, a large chunk goes towards the server to ensure the bandwidth for people to have a seamless, uninterrupted viewing experience. If I include anti-piracy technology, my cost will potentially triple. Even then, this is at an enterprise level that, say, a Prime Video is using. We almost contemplated investing in this, but then I checked how long it takes for any show or movie on Netflix or Prime to drop on piracy sites and realized they upload within 15-20 minutes.

The reality for us and our investors is that if these platforms with their millions of dollars are unable to stop this, I am not even going to spend one rupee on this. The logic behind this being that the guy who is going to pirate, is never going to pay and watch my show. I think there is a certain amount of audience that has matured and moved on to subscribing to at least 1 or 2 OTTs and even within that, there is only a small portion that will purchase our show and they will not be dissuaded because it is out there. This niche audience is my only bank and that is all I can hope for. No one else is going to buy unless it becomes a narrative that he’s really interested; not just from a series point of view but also about why we are doing it. Unless you are that curious, no one is going to watch it.

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