“What we are doing is creating original ‘digital’ content,” stresses Vishal Maheshwari, Country Head (India) of Vuclip. He takes pains to point out that this is very different from the often bandied about terms these days, viz. webseries. “Original digital content is content that is high quality; which has been specifically created for the digital medium. It is content that comes very close to cinema quality and is very different from typical webseries quality,” he explains.
Vuclip launched their OTT platform Viu in India in March last year and Maheshwari says that they have spent time fine tuning the product and the content mix. In terms of numbers, Vuclip had around 4.5 million active users across all platforms with a return ratio of 9-12 per cent range and about 100 million users per month.
Over the last three months, Vuclip has launched eight original content properties, including four in Telugu and four in Hindi (two of which have been directed by Vikram Bhatt) on Viu. The company has also signed up eight new content series, though he would not divulge details about them right now.
“The people who are creating these series are the ones who are making stuff for the big screen. They are the ones who are producing content with pretty much India’s A-listers. So, our belief is that original content for digital has to be significantly a notch above the ordinary webseries that usually pass off for YouTube videos,” said Maheshwari.
Another thing that Vuclip follows with original content is to go very local. As Maheshwari says, “We are not creating global content.”
“We are a value-focused, premium monetization model”
At a time when most OTT players are trying to figure out the subscription game, Maheshwari says Vuclip is very focused on an advertiser-led model, at least in the beginning.
“You will always get the 100,000-200,000 people who subscribe but we believe that if you need millions of subscribers then you need to create the value equation with the consumer. In the initial stages of the OTT phenomenon, an AVOD model makes more sense. So, we will continue with the AVOD model to start with until the consumer starts coming back and subscribing of his own volition,” he says.
Vuclip currently works on a fremium model with paid subscription available at Rs 99/month. Speaking about their advertising strategy, Maheshwari said that the company believes branded content is very significant. Giving an example, he pointed out to the second season of their original property “What The Duck” has been sponsored by Hike and DBS.
“We believe that this is the kind of advertising brands want and which is also non-obtrusive for the consumer,” he told us.
“OTT market is made of three layers”
The Indian Video on Demand (VoD) space is currently seeing intense interest from not only major global players like Amazon and Netflix, but also smaller OTT players as well as major broadcasters who have entered the space with their own offerings. But the competition does not faze Maheshwari who believes that there is plenty of room for everyone.
“What we need to understand here is that the OTT market is not a homogenous market. That is a mistake that everyone makes; that they look at the OTT space as one, large space. I think the market is broken up into three very distinct types,” he opined.
These three tiers of the OTT pyramid, he says, are feature phones, which form the lowers layer and where the focus is on shorter, less premium content and mobile browser-based videos. The mid-tier sees the emergence of the mid-tier of the market which is more app-based and where we see more premium content, which could be movies, original content, etc. The top most layer of the pyramid comprises content which is mostly subscription-led.
“Each of these layers is catered to by different players who have different content for each category. If you start looking at the market from that lens then it is a very heterogeneous market where there is plenty of space for players to come in and specialize and make a difference with the types of content, the devices and the pricing model,” he told us.
Consolidation is imminent
Having said that, he does believe that there will be some consolidation in the market in the coming 1-2 years.
“The OTT market is an easy market to get into. However, most people are realizing that staying in the market is very difficult. It is a market that is going to take time to develop, it requires deep pockets to ensure cash flows in terms of content, consumer acquisition and to develop the brand. I think this will lead to a lot of consolidation in the coming 1-2 years where the number of players in the market will definitely come down,” opined Maheshwari.
He considers technology, content and monetization as the pillars for a successful OTT player and the three things that an OTT player needs to have an understanding and control over.
“Let’s face it, this is a technology business. The place where most people start going wrong is when they start using third-party technologies. If you do not have all three firmly under your control then your chances of failing are significantly high,” he opined.