Why Viacom18 has a tough road ahead with Voot Select

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Updated: Mar 20, 2020 8:38 AM

The SVoD platform plans to launch 30 shows in a calendar year

Gourav Rakshit, COO at Viacom18 Digital Ventures.From a competition standpoint, ours is a significantly underpenetrated market in the SVoD segment.

With Voot Select, Viacom18 became the latest TV network to enter the premium subscription video on demand (SVoD) space. However, it now has the tough task of carving a niche for itself in a market that is buzzing with Indian and international players who have strong original content libraries. Gourav Rakshit speaks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about Voot Select’s content and pricing strategy, distribution challenges, and more.

Voot’s subscription service was long awaited. What took you so long? And is India ready for SVoD?

The focus was to first stabilise our AVoD offering and make it profitable, so that we were not exposing multiple fronts. We also launched Voot Kids, which is a premium service. Initiatives like these need some amount of nurturing before they are released in the market. We are looking to launch about 30 shows in a calendar year. We will operate at this run rate until we learn about the market. For now, we are only launching Hindi shows. We plan to begin streaming Bengali and Tamil content in the next couple of months and watch how our consumers respond.

Now that you are the last leading Indian broadcaster to go premium, what are the headwinds you have to tackle?

From a competition standpoint, ours is a significantly underpenetrated market in the SVoD segment. So, we see a big opportunity ahead of us; we won’t be playing the market share game at least for the next three to four years. We see this ecosystem growing very comfortably for the next decade at least without any headwinds. By watching others who have entered the market before us, we have been able to get some learnings with regard to content and pricing.

How did you arrive at your pricing strategy?

We have approached pricing from a mobile-friendly perspective. We did not want to make the pricing very complex by having a multi-tier structure. We wanted a pricing model that could be easily understood, encouraging people to try us out. We want to be a prominent player in this market for the next decade and definitely want to have a large consumer base. A higher and more aggressive pricing could be discriminatory. This price point of Rs 99/month affords us the opportunity to reach out to a fairly broad audience.

What is the strategy behind streaming some shows ahead of their broadcast schedule?

There is a specific audience set which is extremely loyal to our network shows. We want to over-serve that small segment of consumers. I don’t think every loyal viewer would want to watch a show in advance. All of our fiction shows will be streamed online 24 hours in advance. The unscripted shows, by the nature of the offering, will be streamed online as early as we can possibly deliver.

Distribution remains a challenge for OTT platforms in India. How are you addressing it?

We are forging partnerships with telecom operators and e-commerce platforms very aggressively. Such tie-ups offer us reach, because a lot of these partners have access to a wide range of consumers. In an evolving ecosystem, the fact that some of these players have billing-mechanisms for their customers, is a feature we can benefit from.

What kind of innovation have you brought into your ad formats?

There is a market and appetite for the inventory-driven model, but the opportunity is in creating deep consumer experiences with brands. We have a team that focusses completely on brand solutions that address a brand’s needs in creative ways, instead of offering a limited array of options. We completely re-engineered our technology stack and brought it in-house last year. This took a significant investment from our end, but it has also unlocked a lot of value for us. The speed at which we can operate now is significantly faster than earlier.

Will unified digital video measurement remain a pipe dream?

In the television space, viewership measurement is available only through a third-party measurement system. For the digital ecosystem, fortunately or not, every platform knows its exact consumption data. It is much harder to build a credible measurement system, because it will need to back up the absolute data known to us.

Read Also: Sameer Makani of Makani Creatives on life beyond work

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