Face Off: We are reducing dependency on Colors, says Sudhanshu Vats Group CEO, Viacom18

By: | Published: July 12, 2016 5:48 AM

Being the youngest network among the big four, Viacom18 has seen its businesses grow quickly and take the leadership slots across genres in its over seven-year journey.

Being the youngest network among the big four, Viacom18 has seen its businesses grow quickly and take the leadership slots across genres in its over seven-year journey. As the network gears up for the launch of its first homegrown regional GEC, Colors Super in the Kannada market on July 24, Sudhanshu Vats of

Viacom18 talks to BrandWagon’s Chandni Mathur about plans for the network and why sports is not in his scheme of things. Excerpts:

How has Viacom18’s year-on-year growth been? Besides Colors, are other businesses performing up to the mark?

If you look at the last three years, we have grown in very strong double digits, well ahead of the market. Last year, our CAGR growth was more than 20%. We look at our business in four distinct segments. The first is television, which is our largest business performing very well. Thereafter is films, where we have turned around the studio into a profitable one and are making films that are not only high on content but also profitable from the commercial aspect.

Digital is our newest venture, but we are very excited about what is happening on Voot. For about two years, we have also been building two other businesses — consumer products and live entertainment.

Which genres does the network need to focus more on?

If you look at each of our genres in television, we are the leaders in general entertainment with Colors; in the youth segment, with MTV; in kids, with Nick; in the regional entertainment portfolio we have Colors Kannada – a leader – and Colors Marathi, a strong number two.

Colors Super will address the existing gap in the market for the viewer and increase the available ad inventory for the advertiser. Colors Bangla is something we need to work on as we are a distant number three. We are building a diverse portfolio and therefore reducing our dependency on Colors.

For the newly launched Rishtey Cineplex, what potential did you see in having an FTA (free-to-air) model?

We keep looking at the gaps that exist. The Hindi movie viewership is around 15% in the HSM space. Therefore it was obvious to plug in, which we have done through Rishtey Cineplex.

The FTA market is growing quite rapidly. There are around 180 million TV homes and close to 25-30 million terrestrial TV homes are FTA already — a majority of them are on DD Freedish. As the poorest of the poor convert to TV homes, chances are higher that they will convert to an FTA ecosystem. So my sense is that the pay TV and FTA ecosystem ratio would be almost 70:30. It is important that we have key FTA offerings as well. There are mainly three to four genres in FTA — movies, GECs, vernacular news and music. We play the FTA game in all these genres.

Sports is still missing from Viacom18’s bouquet. Any plans to enter the ring?

Sports is an area where we do not have a play at least in the short-to medium-term. There is lots to be done in the media and entertainment space and we would like to stay focussed there. Secondly, the rights for sports in India are far too expensive to be able to recover the cost incurred.

It is a futuristic, long-term, long gestation, high investment game. We have other avenues to explore before we start looking at sports.

Colors has cemented its leadership in fiction while maintaining a stronghold in non-fiction. Do you see more room to grow?

There is always more room to grow. While the channel is doing well and we are number one in fiction, we can continue to do more by developing other sub-genres within our general entertainment network.

Colors has done a very good job with comedy, historical and mythological shows but maybe there is more room for assessment there. We should also explore the crime sub-genre much more as a network. We are attempting some new shows as well and our base on social issues will get stronger. My view is that the audiences’ tastes will continue to evolve. On television, at one level you need more realistic stories, while at another you need stories where there is some room for escaping and that is why supernatural elements in stories are working. It is that mix we need to look at.

How do you see the VoD platform Voot helping the network?

Voot is a very interesting play for us. Within about a month of our launch, we have got over a million daily active users and an average time spent of about 33 minutes. It is a very strong start and is clearly ahead of our plans. Voot is our big bet as we move into the future. This is a business which brings in considerable synergies for us. Moving forward, we have to develop B2C business models as well, because the business models in media especially for television-based companies tends to be B2B. Digital also allows us in certain genres to aggregate content which need not be only ours.

With Colors being the flagship channel of the group, are the revenues skewed? How are the other businesses contributing?

Our endeavour is to continue to balance the portfolio and as we go forward, television will continue to be the mainstay. However, we want to dial up our other businesses including digital, live and merchandising to contribute 15-20% to our revenues.

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