Live video is the next big inflection point in mobile video: Puneet Johar
The digital video scene is expanding; horizontally and vertically. It's not only about business but how to create a long lasting relationship with the consumer. #fame is one among a multitude of Indian companies trying to crack the code to success.
We caught up with Puneet Johar, Co-founder and CEO of TO THE NEW (TTN) Ventures and Saket Saurabh, CEO of #fame; the digital content initiative of TTN to understand how they are trying to navigate the brave new world of digital video. Excerpts.
What’s the idea behind the Live video app?
Puneet Johar: The online video space has been growing rapidly. It is already the fastest growing segment in the region (South East Asia) and even globally. We have been in this space for the past 8 months since we launched in September. We feel that live video is the next big inflection point in mobile video and we wanted to pioneer that in India, which is why we launched this app, which is India’s first live video app. Even globally, in March, Twitter launched Periscope, then we had Meerkat.
We feel that this will be the next big move for video on the mobile and we want to innovate and lead it.
As opposed to what we currently see, which is video on-demand, what do you think this offers to the audience and the performer?
Puneet Johar: As a performer, you either have artists who produce content or you have performers who are great at live performances. There are people who like to feed off other people’s energy and then there are people who like to create their music in isolation. There is an equal case for both. What this does is that it replicates a live scenario. You can even interact with the audience live. It democratizes the internet and brings your talent to the forefront.
How are you looking at monetising the Live App?
Puneet Johar: Currently, we have 15 advertisers as a network and we should have around 50 advertisers by the end of the year.
Saket Saurabh: There are two broad areas—one is brand-led revenues and the other is gamification. Over the next few months we will gamify the platform and that will create a monetisation opportunity for us. Then there is obviously brand partnerships and branded content.
Since you spoke about gamification, can you give me some examples of the things that are in the pipeline? You mentioned virtual goods.
Saket Saurabh: It is something like the freemium model you see with games like Farmville, where you have in-app purchases.
#fame has been expanding aggressively over the last one year. What is driving this growth?
Puneet Johar: As I said, online video, whether it is consumer interest or advertiser interest, both are growing rapidly. We believe that is the reason for us to focus on this space, not only in India but also expand in other South East Asian markets.
There are a number of digital video content creators setting up shop. What differentiates you from the others?
Puneet Johar: We are not just a content company; we are first and foremost a technology company and we use content as a differentiator on top of the technology. We perceive ourselves as a tech company first. A significant part of our funding has gone into developing our tech platform. So that is how we think about it; it is an intelligent platform from day one.
Could you give us an idea of what the growth strategy for the company will be for the coming months? Which will be the focus areas?
Puneet Johar: There are three things—there is the talent side; ensuring that there is enough talent on the network. Secondly, the gamification is a big, big focus area for us. The third thing is localization. We want to launch in different languages like Tamil, Telugu, Indonesian, etc. I would rate these three things as the key drivers of the platform.
Saket Saurabh: When we say localization, we mean it for each of the regional markets that we will launch in, both within India and South East Asia.
What is the content strategy for #fame? What is the kind of content which is actually getting consumed in India as compared to the West?
Puneet Johar: We now need content that is specially created for the mobile screen. You cannot repurpose TV content. This is a big trend. Content has to be made for mobile.
Saket Saurabh: There are two big trends that we are seeing. Firstly, mobile consumption is going through the roof. We are already seeing that 50-60 per cent of our traffic is coming through the mobile and with the launch of this app we expect this to reach 80-90 per cent. In terms of genre, content is response to popular culture. Bollywood and Cricket are two genres that see great response in India. Other genres that see good response are Comedy, Fashion, Music, News, Opinions, etc. These are the big content genres that we see a lot of traction in; at #fame and even otherwise. These are the genres that we feel will have a lot of prevalence on the app. Having said this, because it is live video tech, you will also have many other use cases like citizen journalism and live events. Live video allows people a whole tapestry of content contexts to be reflected.
You mentioned earlier that you are a technology first company. How do you ensure that this technology under layer is present in every product offering from #fame?
Puneet Johar: You have to consolidate your technology. You cannot allow it to be splintered. Consolidating the technology means that you will have one platform, which is the app, and then all the technology initiatives are under the app, whether it is machine learning, data learning about the consumers, throwing up data for advertisers, etc. All the technology that is built is built around the central app. Obviously, when you dig deeper into the app, you will see multiple layers to the technology. Whether it is recommendation engine, predictive content, usage data, viewership data, etc. are all built within the app. Even the tech for the gamification layer will be built into the app. So you will see 7-8 layers of technology but they will all be built inside the app.
What is the advertiser outlook towards digital video content? How they approaching it and what are the challenges and opportunities?
Saket Saurabh: About five years back, digital would be the last entry in any digital plan. And even when you did digital, it would basically be repurposing the TV ad. I think we have come a long way from those times. Today, there are strong and mature advertisers in India who understand that television can serve a huge reach and visibility need, which is important, but TV or any other media cannot serve the engagement need that mobile or digital content can. They have understood the power of content marketing. What has social media done? It has made brands into creators. Brands are now directly creating and managing communities. So the wall between the media owner and the advertiser has completely diminished. The new model of advertisers will be companies who facilitate this process. They will not be companies that serve ads between content; this will still have its play but content marketing and creating organic properties is the way ahead. This is where the premium will come from.
More people are consuming content outside of the source of the content. So the direction is very clear. Of course there is still a huge set of brands that are still waking up but we also have a number of brands who understand the importance of content marketing.
Our typical marketing budget is usually 10 per cent of the topline spend