‘Need to create content that is screen-agnostic’
Bigg Boss, Viacom18’s reality TV show, will premiere on its OTT platform Voot before making its way on Colors this year. Filmmaker Karan Johar, not Salman Khan, will host the web version of the show. Nina Elavia Jaipuria talks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about the network’s digital-led content strategy, recovery of TV ad revenues and viewership trends.
You have created an OTT special for Bigg Boss. Isn’t putting the show up on Voot detrimental to its TV viewership?
Bigg Boss has a strong digital fan base. We have seen very high consumption of the show, particularly on digital, over the past few seasons, and that prompted us to do an exclusive, limited edition for Voot, six weeks ahead of the TV broadcast. Aside from a one-hour episode, viewers will get to watch curated clips, a live and fully interactive, 24-hour feed, and influence decisions inside the house.
Entertainment is now served across screens and pipes. I believe that India is an ‘and’ market — one where the future of television is television, and it will continue to be so for at least three to five years, if not more. I do not foresee any situation where there will be cannibalisation of viewership. In the interest of the viewer, as content creators, we need to create content that is screen-agnostic and pipe-agnostic.
Will this hybrid content creation and distribution model be applied to other shows too?
The mantra is to be digital-first. We want to create content that will blur the lines between TV and digital, and deliver entertainment wherever and whenever the viewer wants it. The soon-to-be launched The Big Picture, hosted by actor Ranveer Singh, has a new-age quiz show format meant for a generation of audiences that is drawn to visuals. The show lends itself to TV, social media, and our OTT platform. In the case of Rising Star, audiences vote live on the Voot app as the show progresses.
There are various ways to do integrations. The latest Motu Patlu movie premiered on Voot before it was broadcast on TV; even the new episodes of Rudra and Shiva premiered on the OTT platform. The other type of integration is spin-offs of shows only for OTT. For instance, there was a spin-off of the MTV show Splitsvilla, called Wildvilla, made only for Voot.
Has the viewership of kids channels settled to pre-pandemic levels after the surge last year?
The increase in viewership has sustained until now. In fact, the category has expanded in the last 15 months because not only the kids, but parents too are watching. We have seen growth in co-viewing. Despite all the lockdowns, we have continued to deliver fresh episodes and movies through the last 15 months for the kids channels. The co-viewing on kids channels has helped earn better ad revenues. About 10% of the revenue earned in this category comes from non-FCT deals. This is expected to expand from here aided by digital integrations.
Ad volumes dipped in Q1 FY22 because of the second wave of the pandemic. Do you see the festive season bringing respite?
During the second lockdown, all the stakeholders — content creators, platform owners and advertisers — were more prepared. The fact that GECs did not stop putting out original content even for a day, helped. We had moved our shoots out of Maharashtra to keep creating fresh content. Therefore, the first quarter of this fiscal has been far better than Q1 FY21. We are seeing a strong recovery in July, which is in tune with how the markets are recovering.
We are planning for a big festive season because we believe that the market would have recovered by then. We have kicked it off with Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi in July, and The Big Picture will begin in the middle of the festive season. We have two new IPs planned for the kids genre towards the end of the year. Just like last year, we will have a whole lot of advertiser support. We had about 15 advertisers on board for Bigg Boss last year. This year, we have Maruti Suzuki, Colgate, and Cadbury Dairy Milk for Fear Factor. I am certain that we will have a far better festive season than we had last year.