GagaOOLala…the name is so cool, to begin with, right? So is the concept and the unique selling point of this platform. This is a Taipei-based subscription video-on-demand service, which specialises in LGBT content. In fact, it is the first LGBT-focused OTT platform in Asia. As of January 2020, the platform hosts more than 1000 LGBT titles, which include feature films, shorts, documentaries and series that focus on queer cinema.
GagaOOLala has more than 600 queer titles for the Indian market (probably more than all the other OTTs combined), and is expected to reach the 1000-title milestone within 2020. While GagaOOLala’s launch in India last year garnered major interest in the community, the fact of the matter remains that the Indian market is quite saturated with local OTT platforms, which have an advantage over small international ones with no physical presence in the country, in terms of pricing or the adoption of local payment methods. “India is one of our key markets for 2020. After our soft launch last May in collaboration with KASHISH Film Festival. We are planning to redouble our efforts this year. Firstly, we will be announcing more collaborations with local film festivals and NGOs, with the hope of organising more on-site events and screenings for our films, as well as to find local talent to produce original content through our production platform GOL STUDIOS. We launched our production and funding arm less than a year ago and we have funded and produced more than 15 titles from Asia, Europe, and America but, unfortunately, none from India. Consider this our shout out for queer Indian film-makers looking for funding,” says GagaOOLala’s CEO, Jay Lin.
But is this platform looking at competing with the existing homegrown OTT platforms in India, I wonder. There’s already so much happening even with India’s original content. “As a niche platform, we are not looking to compete head-to-head with the mainstream players, either international like Netflix and Amazon, or local like Hotstar or Viu. We hope that through the stories on GagaOOLala, we can help normalise the lives of the LGBT community in every country where we are present,” says Lin. I ask him how he is going to battle the comparatively conservative mindset in India when and if he sets out to do original content based here, and Lin says he doesn’t think the Indian mindset is particularly conservative compared to the other 20 countries where they are present. “For instance, we launched our first original series from Singapore — the lesbian comedy Handsome Stewardess — in November,. Even though Singapore has not abolished Section 377 as India has, the reception of the show by our subscribers and the media was great, and the backlash was minimal. Even in Malaysia and Indonesia, our numbers spiked after releasing Handsome Stewardess,” he says.
For now, Lin is excited to see what the future holds and has already commissioned a new season of the series, Queer Asia which will travel to India. Queer Asia is a docuseries that explores the lives and culture of the LGBT community in different countries in Asia. Lin and team started with their home, Taiwan, and then shot episodes in Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan and Vietnam. The new season will explore four new territories with three episodes per country, which will be in Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea and India.