Bhutan’s first OTT platform to be launched this year

Samuh will make Bhutanese films and series available through mobile Apps and web platforms

The two-decade old film industry of Bhutan may get a real shot in the arm with the launch of the country’s first OTT platform this year. Samuh Mediatech, a technology based media startup in the country, is all set to launch Bhutan’s own ‘Netflix’ equivalent platform in June this year.

The startup’s OTT platform – SAMUH (meaning cloud in Dzongkha) – will be available through mobile and smart TV Apps and a web platform for laptop and PC users in Bhutan and around the world.

A former broadcast journalist and communications specialist, Nyema Zam, founded Samuh Mediatech in 2020. Samuh will offer exclusive original Bhutanese films, series, children’s animations, music videos and other local programs.

“We will also be offering curated and licensed Bhutanese content produced by various agencies and production companies,” said Nyema Zam, the CEO of the startup.

She said the idea to start Samuh was inspired by His Majesty’s recurring emphasis on the need to adopt technology to create new opportunities, the tremendous growth in mobile internet users in the country, the demand for Bhutanese content and the rising consumption of foreign content especially among Bhutanese children and youth.

“With a platform like Samuh, we can not only make local content available anytime and anywhere but also develop the film and creative industry in the country, whose growth has been affected due to the lack of adequate screening platforms and most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nyema Zam. “We can also fill in the gap especially in quality local children’s content.”

People in the Bhutanese film sector and the creative industry have welcomed the online platform, which they believe will have many benefits.

Award winning independent filmmaker, Dechen Roder, said that Samuh is an exciting and timely initiative and the first of its kind in Bhutan. “From what I know it also seems to have a very professional and creative approach and vision, and will greatly advance filmmaking in Bhutan by creating new opportunities and platforms not just for Bhutanese audiences but for Bhutanese filmmakers,” said Dechen Roder.

Film Director and Actor Choten Wangchuk said, “Samuh has provided new opportunities for filmmakers and artists like us. The online platform offer new possibilities for filmmaking in Bhutan.”

Currently, Choten Wangchuk is filming a feature film for Samuh in Thimphu and Laya, Gasa with a 25-member crew.

Another popular Film Director, Karma Jerry, is also filming a feature film for Samuh.  “Through the Samuh App, Bhutanese content can transcend borders and can be accessed from anywhere. And especially for the film sector that has been affected by the pandemic, Samuh provides a lot of benefits,” he said.

According to Singer, Actor and Music Director Dorji Jigme Norbu who also runs a music studio in Thimphu, Samuh is providing the much-needed platform and support for young and talented artists through production of songs and music videos. “It gives an alternative platform for filmmakers who currently have to wait for more than a year to screen films within the country. Likewise viewers outside the country can easily use the platform to watch Bhutanese films and series.”

Samuh is currently working with a number of talents and production firms that include screenplay writers, directors, music studios, animators, singers, and actors, among others. So far, Samuh has signed production contracts with 18 production houses and 12 music artists in the country.

According to Nyema Zam, to start with, Samuh is looking at producing 10 to 12 original feature films, 10 web series, four animation series for children, and several short films in 2021. “We have currently engaged 96 people in the creative industry in our original productions, and the numbers are expected to reach 500 by December,” she added.

Staff Reporter from Thimphu