Streaming services boost ancillary content in thriving creator economy

International shows like Money Heist and Squid Game along with local offerings such as Minnal Murali and Pushpa have inspired copious user-generated content in the past few months. While OTT services themselves reach out to influencers through content marketing teams, a lot of work also happens voluntarily by small-town users looking to establish fan bases.

Streaming has already democratized movie viewing and the covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend of ancillary content, especially in vernacular languages, according to media experts. Paid partnerships, brand integrations and advertising are typically used to monetise such content.

“The creativity and imagination of the (YouTube creator) ecosystem increases the shelf-life of a single piece of content as it turns into new formats like reaction videos, memes, analysis, dance trends, dialogue trends, reviews and parodies. It also allows content to cross regional and reach new audiences, for example, a reaction video in English for a Tamil show, or a movie review in Hindi for a new Malayalam movie,” said Satya Raghavan, director, YouTube content partnerships, India .

Platforms like theirs are a reflection of what is fascinating, engaging and occupying the minds of people, making them a powerful tool in the arsenal of movie marketers and an essential way for shows and web-series to seep into popular culture, Raghavan said. While popular YouTube content creators like Ramyoga channel, Nataraj Nila and Suresh Artist create content around trending songs, Netflix itself has engaged with YouTubers like Tanmay Bhat to react to popular shows, movies and generate memes based on popular dialogues from their shows.

Digital streaming of Shark Tank India and Bigg Boss has led to a slew of uploads ranging from reaction videos, memes, biographies of the judges to livestreams by comedians and creators. Allu Arjun’s Pushpa that has been streaming on Amazon Prime Video has also seen numerous performances of hook steps, dialogues and sketch comedies.

“The emergence of OTT and its popularity has disrupted the entire entertainment industry. It has made movie watching very easy and convenient, besides helping generate and create ancillary content, which is benefiting from this. Short video apps are looking for surround content, which in turn, is aided by the growing influencer community,” said Gopa Menon, digital head at media agency Mindshare, south Asia. Vernacular content also gaining prominence will help strengthen the trend and bring more creators and storytellers from heartland, Menon added.

Shoulder content was considered a plus even pre-pandemic, but it is now a part of the central strategy, said Shrenik Gandhi, CEO and co-founder of digital agency White Rivers Media. “When there is more content, there are more eyeballs, which results in better engagement that in turn, offers better scope for advertising. At times, ancillary content has become as good as the main film or may even travel more than the main film,” Gandhi said.

Manish Chopra, director and head of partnerships, Facebook India, said media across formats plays a key role in defining the culture and trends that platforms like Instagram represent —- be it in new songs, dialogues from movies, key characters from TV or OTT shows or even nostalgia driven content like 90s and 2000s sitcoms.

“Since the pandemic, a lot of the silos between film, TV and OTT have also blurred and the traditional promotion and release cycles have had to be reinvented. Leveraging the inherent pop culture opportunity and the fandom that exists on the platform, is a huge opportunity to break through. This is true not just for the shows, but also for talent to connect with audiences, jump on trends for promotions, share BTS (behind-the-scenes) from months before,” Chopra said.

Content marketing and building teams for the same are a huge part of the strategy and budget of OTT platforms, said Soumya Mukherjee, vice-president, revenue and strategy at Bengali language service Hoichoi. “The idea is to create content out of existing content instead of marketing aggressively, which is also not as expensive as outdoor or other advertising. This has been a trend since 2019 but the volume has definitely gone up over the pandemic,” Mukherjee said.

Often, film buffs or content creators put out videos and memes not commissioned by the streaming services, but these also help grow the platform or show’s fan community. Netflix and Amazon Prime declined to comment on the queries related to ancillary content while Disney+ Hotstar did not respond.

In the recent past, international shows like Money Heist, Wanda Vision, Emily In Paris and Squid Game have trended on Instagram, with the last becoming popular on Reels with AR (artificial reality) effects like “Red Light Green Light” and Squid Game cookie recipe content.

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