IMDb founder and CEO Col Needham talks about changing entertainment consumption patterns in India

Devansh Sharma

Dec 14, 2018 12:03:44 IST

Col Needham, Founder and CEO of IMDb, one of the primary online entertainment databases, was in India earlier this week to announce the top 10 Indian films of 2018, on the basis of fan ratings on the platform. On the sidelines of his maiden visit to India, Firstpost caught up with him for an exclusive interview, on the role of India in global entertainment, changing entertainment consumption patterns of the movie-going audience here, and the role digital space will play in the way content is consumed in the years ahead.

How much has the participation of India's movie-going audience on IMDb grown over the years?

We've seen a huge growth in terms of users in India. It is now our second biggest country in terms of users. The trend has moved from global cinema to Indian cinema and now, Indian shows. We've also seen mobile really grow here. Due to penetration of mobile into the market and cheaper data packs, Indians are now increasingly rating the Indian TV shows as much as the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

What fascinates you about Indian cinema personally?

I like the involvement of music and dance in the film. Even in a sad song, the music plays a crucial role in the background. I just saw Kedarnath here. There was a sequence where everyone was dancing, and I was like, 'Do you know there's a flood coming down there?'. Another fascinating aspect is the length. People remain engaged throughout the duration of the film. Now, when I watch a Western film, it feels like a short.

Based on the top 10 Indian films of 2018 as per IMDb, what changing trends have you seen here?

So these top 10 films are based on fan ratings, from a scale of 1 to 10. What's interesting is that there are four regional titles in the list (Ratsasan, 96, Mahanati and Rangasthalam). Also, it's not necessary that all these films have the highest budget or the biggest star. That says a lot about the kind of content Indian audience is consuming these days.

 IMDb founder and CEO Col Needham talks about changing entertainment consumption patterns in India

Ayushmann Khurrana and Tabu-starrer AndhaDhun is the number one film on the top 10 Indian films of 2018, as per fan ratings on IMDb. Image from YouTube

Sanju, which is on the last spot of this top 10 Indian films list, is actually the highest grossing Hindi film this year. On the other hand, AndhaDhun is on number one. Why do you think there is a deviation in fan ratings and box office collections?

I think it's to do with the all the different opportunities people have to watch films. It's an exciting time for media worldwide. It's easier than ever to tell stories on film and television and it's easier for people to be able to consume them. In the past, there was much more emphasis on how box office was related to how well the film was marketed. But now with much accessibility, the dynamic has changed. A film with a fundamentally good story will find its audience. IMDb has also helped democraticise the film and TV industry, and levelled the field so to say. If anyone wants to see the fan rating, or read a critical opinion or just a fan's take, we provide all of that, and leave the audience to decide which criteria they want to judge the film by.

In the top 10 Hollywood films of 2018 by IMDb, however, the first three spots are Marvel films (Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther and Deadpool 2). So their box office collection corresponds to their ranks. Why is it different there? And what is your take on the Marvel explosion?

This list has a different criterion. It is based on the highest traffic. Whatever people want to read more about has been ranked number one. That's why they're more aligned with the box office. What they've been able to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is build engagement in different sections of the audience. It's like a long running TV show. And as you saw with Avengers: Infinity War, they're not afraid to tear things apart. That has also resonated with the audience. We're also trying to build similar engagement with our users. We're trying to go behind the scenes, interview the directors. We're also starting a series called No Small Parts, where you can trace the growth of an actor who was recently seen in a popular film. And then you'll be like, 'Oh wow! I've seen this one before."

Besides Marvel, streaming services have also exploded in India, like the rest of the world. What scope do you think the Indian digital space has in providing entertainment globally in the future?

Three TVF shows (Tripling, Pitchers and Permanent Roommates) and Netflix's Sacred Games were among the top 50 web shows of all time, and on a global basis. Digital space is helping elevate entertainment within India onto the global stage. Since we listen to the needs of our customers, IMDb will keep changing with the times to incorporate more avenues of entertainment. Our aim is simple: Wherever you're in the world, IMDb will help you make sense of the entertainment world.

Updated Date: Dec 14, 2018 12:03:44 IST