The Pocket Aces Series (Part 1)
“A video platform within a social network is the ideal distribution mechanism for a digital media company, especially one that has a strong short-form content focus… At Pocket Aces, we took an early bet on Facebook as a video platform and that paid off tremendously for us.”
Photo Credit : Screenshot via Facebook.com, Screenshot via Facebook.com,
The digital media production company reaches 25 to 30 million unique viewers each week. Pocket Aces Pictures calls Ashwin Suresh, Anirudh Pandita and Aditi Shrivastava its cofounders. We speak to Ashwin in this series.
If a digital media company had to pick between being on a social video platform and a social network, what is the best platform for them?
A video platform within a social network is the ideal distribution mechanism for a digital media company, especially one that has a strong short-form content focus. This is because audiences on social networks have the ability to become advocates of good content and help spread it across large networks of people. This brings down the cost of distribution, a fundamental advantage over traditional media, where distribution has always been an expensive proposition - a service controlled by a few large platforms.
At Pocket Aces, we took an early bet on Facebook as a video platform and that paid off tremendously for us. On the short-form content side, it has helped us grow very quickly into one of the biggest and most popular digital content brands in the country and the key reasons that was possible are (1) consistent, high-quality content output on our part, and (2) social proof from our core fans helping this content find newer audiences - essentially, word-of-mouth at scale or a network effect. The latter can only be achieved on a social or messaging network.
That said, the media company of the future has to be socially distributed and while we look at Facebook as a key distribution medium, we continue to grow our presence on several other social and messaging platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram, among others. In addition to social and messaging platforms, we’re also syndicating our content to OTT platforms and, in certain cases, to traditional media platforms.
How many hit shows do you have? When did you know these were a hit?
We have had several successful properties across both long-form as well as short-form video. On the short-form side, our first video on Dice Media, a satire called Ban Ban was India’s largest viral video on Facebook in 2015, clocking nearly 8 million views on the back of close to 200k shares.
We’ve since had several short-form successes on both our channels, Dice Media as well as FilterCopy - Confusing Things Girlfriends Say, Annoying Things Boyfriends Do, Every Patient Ever, Things Brothers And Sisters Do, Stuff Women Are Tired Of Hearing, Offline, and several others, each of which have been viewed by tens of millions of people.
It’s easy to tell when a short-form video is likely to succeed because this success is dependent on social sharing. Unlike a lot of other creators, we’ve had neither the budgets nor the desire to spend a lot of marketing dollars boosting our content, so we’ve had to rely on our audiences to spread the word organically. We monitor our share and view velocity as soon as the video is released, we look at watchtime and audience retention metrics, and we know the end result pretty quickly after release.
On the long-form side, our first show on Dice Media, called Not Fit, was an experiment to push content boundaries in India. It was a mockumentary comedy to begin with, a format that was unfamiliar to Indian audiences.
Secondly, we introduced the concept of windowing to digital content, by exclusively licensing the show (for a 2 week period) to TVFPlay, an OTT platform launched by The Viral Fever. It then went on our Facebook and YouTube properties and was once again licensed earlier this year, this time by a TV channel, NDTV Prime. It airs at 10pm every Wednesday night and it’s is the first time digital content has gone traditional in India - it has always been the other way around before this. So I think I’d consider that to be a success, but the metrics are harder to track across so many platforms.
Our most recent web-series, Little Things, has become one of the most successful web-series in India every which way you cut the stats. The show has garnered over 13 million views, much more than recent shows by many of our larger competitors. Made on a tiny budget, it has a staggering amount of watchtime and engagement, and it has transformed the lives of the principal cast, Mithila Palkar and Dhruv Sehgal, by making them household names for a large, young audience across the country.
So while we look at quantitative metrics to judge success wherever possible, we also factor a lot of the qualitative aspects of these shows to understand how to define a real hit.
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