FilMart Interview Teaser: Eros Now CEO Ali Hussein Talks Originals and English Language Strategy

Eros Now, the streaming service operated by Eros STX Global, competes in a crowded and fast-evolving Indian OTT market. Ali Hussein, the company’s CEO will be in conversation with Variety’s Asia editor Patrick Frater, on the first day of Hong Kong FilMart. Before that, Hussein gives a taste of things to come.

How would you sketch out the company for non-India users?

Eros Now has established a leading position in the global OTT market with over 211.5 million registered users and 36.2 million paying subscribers. The premium platform offers a wide range of entertainment content across format and genres in 10 different languages. It is primarily an SVOD service with subscribers from across 150 countries and among the only Indian entity to have distribution partnerships with the likes of Apple Plus, IQIYI amongst others. The legacy and strong hold of the service is with Indian films from over the years and with original series launched on the platform since 2018.

When can we expect a greater volume of STX product on the service? Right now, it’s only a trickle.

The merger between Eros and STX makes for a unique and unprecedented proposition in the global entertainment landscape. Eros Now is slated to launch its English entertainment service as a top-up on the Indian content programming. The STX titles will be a formidable subscriber driver for this service. The plan is to launch the same in South Asia first and then expand to other markets. The ErosSTX business also allows for us to leverage the current climate and provide an opportunity to launch movies like “Greenland” directly on PVOD in India. We plan to also scale this service and our distribution with differential programming over time.

What exactly is the originals strategy: is Eros Now competing with big-budget offerings from Netflix/Amazon/Disney, or the mass market offerings of AltBalaji and Zee5?

Popular content still makes for a large percentage of OTT viewing and at Eros Now we are blessed to have the backing of a studio with best catalogue of films across key Indian languages. The content strategy is still more skewed to family viewing and with originals we are also testing waters with adjacent strategies. The original strategy has also been very clear to adopt multiple genres from cringe comedies like “Side Hero,” to action thrillers like “Smoke,” from cliched laughter riots like “Metro Park,” to anthologies like “Flip.” “Flesh,” one of our flagship shows directed by Siddharth Anand has been the most watched shows on the platform to date and the core thinking is to focus on genres and stories that drive affinity not only in South Asia, but for south Asians globally.

Eros Now recently expanded in the Middle East. What are other global expansion plans?

Strategic partnerships with leading brands across countries have enabled Eros Now to consistently enter and eventually expand in global markets. While the Middle East has been a crucial market for Eros Now’s exponential growth, the platform also has a massive audience base in countries such as U.K., U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China, to name a few that enjoy Indian entertainment.

What are all these technology deals about – first Microsoft, now Google – do users care?

Absolutely. An excellent interface leads to a satisfying user experience, and we strongly believe in delivering the best content seamlessly. We aim to build the next-generation online platform that seamlessly delivers content to the internet generation captive consumers. Further, interactive voice offerings, personalized recommendation engine, and AI-use to generate automated sub-titles are technological advances that help us build a deeper connection with the audience and provide an enriching experience on the platform.

 

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