In Conversation with Girish Dwibhashyam, VP, Strategy, DocuBay
Rhea Srivastava -
‘DocuBay,’ Leading Factual Content Streamer on Bringing Documentaries to the Fore & A Catalogue Which Has Something for Everyone
With more fiction entertainment at our fingertips, as consumers, we often forget that we have a fascination for all things culture, sports, science, technology, civilization and the human spirit on a daily basis as well. Whether you are watching a short Youtube video or passing on an interesting Whatsapp forward, you are a part of the nonfiction market as much as you enjoy streaming the odd web series.
This is where DocuBay comes in. DocuBay is a part of IN10 Media Network, a media company led by Aditya Pittie. A niche global membership video-on-demand service exclusively designed for documentaries, DocuBay features engaging, relevant, factual and insightful stories from leading filmmakers across the world, some of which is rarely available elsewhere. Some of the titles available include CGTN’s ‘Epicenter - 24 Hours in Wuhan,’ and ‘The Next Great Extinction Event’ which features prominent scientists as they trace the possibility of the 6th greatest mass extinction. Channel 4’s ‘Australia On Fire,’ and a look at the Somali practise of chewing on the Khat leaf (a natural amphetamine) in ‘The Green Gold of Africa’ are some of the newer additions to the catalogue. They will soon be launching a 'music' category on World Music Day - June 21.
DocuBay is important because it isn’t trying to be ‘another streaming service’ and is trying to fill a gap which is already existing for consumers. In a conversation with Girish Dwibhashyam, VP - Strategy, LetsOTT learned more about the service and what we can expect as users who are ready to sign up!
A global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has created a streaming war, of sorts. Many platforms are diving head-first into competition with aggressive strategies for eyeballs and subscriptions. As a smaller player, is DocuBay doing anything to leverage the situation?
A. I agree that OTT consumption has grown over the last few months, and even DocuBay has seen exponential growth due to current circumstances as well as in a general sense. Our strategy, however, has always been long-term. The networks we had thought of creating between our content, marketing and distribution channels are already in place and doing their job. The pandemic hasn't induced a significant deviation from what we have been planning, especially since our organic user-growth has been consistent just by the basis of that content. Why utilize this transitory phase at all?
DocuBay focuses on bringing the best of the world's documentaries onto one platform? How do you go beyond your target demographic (people who are already interested in this niche form) and get those people to sign up who wouldn't otherwise?
A. DocuBay is a vertical OTT, where we have chosen 'factual entertainment' as our niche. Our research showed us that was the genre which was under-served. We are attempting to fill in a gap in the market.
Factual entertainment is a broad space, but it is still something that people watch on a regular basis in some form of the other - news, Youtube videos, clips on social media, WhatsApp forwards, etc. I don't believe that it's as niche as people believe because documentary is just a format or medium to bring factual entertainment to the fore. Our focus is less on how we get people to watch documentaries, and more on how we are able to put the best of such content on our platform for easy access. We already have a high number of users who are interested in consuming such entertainment so our responsibility, at the moment, is to them. What we have learned is that users hardly have apprehensions about the form in which they consume something they are interested in, as long as it's interesting and well-made. We do want to introduce our audience to new stories but from the viewpoint of driving a consumer-base, content is the only focus.
What is the curatorial strategy of DocuBay?
A. For DocuBay, content curation is the most critical part of our business. We pride ourselves in the fact that we have partnered with esteemed companies around the world, and our content acquisition and curatorial teams go through vast catalogues with hundreds of titles to pick the best of the best.
What are the parameters of bringing a certain title on-board? Is there anything specific that the curators are looking at? And has this been adapted to suit different local markets?
A. At the moment, the parameters are in the appeal. Titles are chosen on the basis of resonance to a nationality, and quality of production, relevance or topical themes, anything or anyone who is interesting or unique. These are broad, of course.
When it comes to adding local content, DocuBay is a global streaming service and our content comes from over 100 different countries. The sheer scale in terms of geography that our content encompasses is so vast, that we prefer to keep that as our strategy. We want someone from Mumbai to know what is trending in Mexico, or someone in Singapore to watch something from Amsterdam. We want that kind of mass appeal.
Having said that, there are always exceptions and some titles may have more local resonance than others. There are specific titles which have obviously done better with the Indian audience, like Himalayan Gold Rush (2011) which is by a French filmmaker but set in India/Nepal. But it still has an international appeal so even our global users have rushed to watch it. It is one of our more successful titles.
In spite of choosing a specific vertical, DocuBay has joined a rather dynamic media sphere in the modern world. Where do you see the company fitting into the competition?
I agree. It’s really in the last half-a-decade or so that all major streaming services have created the streaming boom. Certainly, this ecosystem exists already which makes for a larger market. The key is to find the gap, as I had mentioned. Because there are plentiful services that give you general fiction and non-fiction entertainment. We have identified that gap and really taken curation as the key element to separate us from a general OTT platform which may also have ‘some’ documentaries. Second is exclusivity. Many titles that are there on DocuBay are unavailable on any other service available, at least in India. We see ourselves fitting into that space where people would log on to DocuBay because they know that if there is something in factual entertainment that they want to watch, we would have it.
A lot of OTT players are going the “originals” way. Will DocuBay also be producing original documentaries?
There are many such plans which we would be more comfortable in revealing in the future. At the moment, however, we have a lot on our plate just getting the best of existing content onto the platform. Content owners approach us all the time and their work is just waiting to be discovered. Giving them the right platform would be our priority.
Do independent content creators / documentarians / filmmakers stand a chance to be featured on DocuBay?
To be honest, everyone is accessible these days and so are we. Independent or non-independent, anyone can connect with us via our social media channels or email us directly. We’re always open to partnership opportunities or to showcase upcoming talent, as long as they fit the parameters for quality.