START CEO Julia Mindubaeva on Company’s Slate of Original Content, Russian VOD Boom (EXCLUSIVE) – What's new drama?

START CEO Julia Mindubaeva on Company’s Slate of Original Content, Russian VOD Boom (EXCLUSIVE)


The past few years have seen a host of Russian streaming services enter the market, and as in other countries around the globe, the pandemic was a boon to the industry, which grew by 66% in 2020 to reach a value of 27.8 billion rubles ($384 million), according to TMT Consulting.

No company has benefited as much as fast-growing VOD platform START, which experienced the highest growth in the industry, with a 172% increase in streaming revenue last year.

Founded in 2017 by the producers and owners of Yellow Black and White, the studio behind such hits as the Netflix sci-fi series “Better Than Us” and the comedy box office sensation “Son of a Rich,” START was among the first streaming players to produce original content in Russia.

“We are conscious that to attract and retain viewers in this day and age…it’s vital to create events and attractions,” said START CEO Julia Mindubaeva. “And so our main task is to offer users the widest possible range of emotions and genres.”

START will be presenting its four flagship series at the Key Buyers Event, which takes place online from June 8-10. The mystery and detective drama “The Vampires of Midland” centers on a family of bloodsuckers living an unremarkable and ordinary life, until a mysterious discovery puts them all at risk. “Container” (pictured), a 2021 MipDrama selection, is a bold, unflinching drama highlighting the challenges and choices of contemporary surrogacy. The psychological thriller “Mediator” turns on a professional negotiator who can convince anyone of anything, anytime and anywhere, but seems to have a hard time accepting himself. And “Passengers” is an episodic mystery drama, about regrets, atonement and absolution.

The slate reflects a concerted effort by the streaming service to ramp up production of original content, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—a strategy that has had a clear upside for its subscribers.

“Because we focus on local and in-house production, we did not suffer from a shortage of content to the same extent [as other streamers],” said Mindubaeva. “Even when we completely shut down filming in spring 2020, we worked hard to come up with new formats, to experiment. For example, we released ‘Games People Play,’ an extremely successful screenlife series from one of Russia’s most sought-after directors, Konstantin Bogomolov. Naturally, this was also a time for writing new screenplays.”