How and Why I Started My Own OTT Platform: Arunkanth

Independent creator and producer Arunkanth on his new platform and why his quirky model will help indie filmmakers.
How and Why I Started My Own OTT Platform: Arunkanth

As an independent music composer, I had to go to a lot of radio stations to showcase my song for playback. None of them even listened to indie music and they rejected it right away. They needed a video and a star to play a song on radio. When did ears get eyes? This was the trigger to make my first indie feature film Goko Mako. Later, when I approached radio stations after making a movie and video songs, with a reputed record label, they wouldn't play my songs; they now needed a star cast or a star composer. That's when I decided to start my own Internet radio to play my own songs and songs of indie music composers. TV channels posed a similar problem. So, I started my own live TV channel to play independent content. Even feature films made without a star in the cast are not supported by theatres or OTTs.

The next thing I did was set up my own website, with Live TV, Internet Radio, magazine. etc. I also sold tickets to my movies three months prior to release, without any convenience fee. This helped me show cinema theatres that I have an audience and I managed to get prime time shows. The PVR group was a great support, as was Zee Music. The latter bought my songs outright at a good price because the songs were unique and my approach was genuine. 

OTT platforms are no different from cinema theatres except for the size of the screen and sound quality. Most OTT platforms expect the same star cast and most of them don't even care to view the full movie before judging the content. 

As an entrepreneur, or a solopreneur, I have always wanted to create a self-sustaining system. Even a seller of kitchen appliances acquires a customer database so they can be alerted when a new model is launched. For decades, the cinema industry has operated without a customer database, and that is the reason why crores of rupees are wasted in the name of promotions, for every single movie. This customer database is the biggest asset, and money saved is money earned. I wish to cut the publicity and promotion cost to almost zero. 

Usually, upcoming filmmakers and newcomers have to go through the revenue share model. But the filmmakers have to spend on promos and the platforms do not even put out a single tweet. Eventually, filmmakers realise that they have ended up promoting the platform, not their content. They compete with the promotions of big players, trying in futility to reach the top position of the content library, and get tired in the process. 

It is time to have independent platforms. I promoted the concept of Pay and Watch platforms through my awareness videos in early 2020. Now, you see some platforms based on this concept. 

I created my own OTT platform AK Online, in mid-2019 with my Live TV channel and Radio. It's been over a year, and I was waiting for this Independence Day to create a self-sustaining system for indie filmmakers. It launches on  August 15. I strongly feel my app will kickstart a change in the current system, especially with regard to the business for indie content. 

AK Online will support all who bring with them unique offbeat content, across languages. Newcomers with such content are especially welcome. They can decide the price for their movie and the duration it runs, and also run any offers alongside. All content will be promoted equally. We will initially publish one feature film, three short films, three music videos and a few trailers on our app every month and promote them well. Content creators will be given their customer database (it is mentioned in the terms of use of the app and privacy policy). Payments will be settled to content creators every 24 to 48 hours. The percentage sharing is 80% to the content provider, after taxes and generic fees. 

This platform will follow the TVOD concept (Transaction-based Video On Demand). This is the most genuine method of doing business. Do you remember how people paid for a CD for a particular movie a few years ago? They might have been pirated, but people had the habit of paying for content. We want to bring that habit back. We also plan to produce original documentaries soon.

The platform has some rules too: It will not feature psycho killer and horror genres. Too much negativity and use of addictive substances is not encouraged too. We judge only the making quality and presentation quality, to ensure it meets the minimum standards of current playback. We do not sit in judgement of any story. 

Payment is based on a points system. Load your account with points; 1 Point is 1 Rupee. Movies are priced upwards of 5 points. The platform will not acquire any rights or the intellectual property of the content creator. It only asks for playback rights and the same can be revoked with a simple email and the movie can be removed within 48 hours.

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