Affordability, accessibility & availability key aspects of digital age: Sudhanshu Vats

Vats, Group CEO & MD, Viacom 18, says their strategy is to be screen, platform and pipe agnostic storytellers 

by Moumita Bhattacharjee
Published - Apr 9, 2019 8:31 AM Updated: Apr 9, 2019 8:31 AM
Sudhanshu Vats

Marking the third anniversary of VOOT, Viacom 18 has made a series of announcements. Apart from setting a target of 100mn MAU (Monthly Active Users), the company has also rolled out plans with regards to the existing AVOD model along with a Freemium model for VOOT Kids and VOOT International. 

Elaborating on VOOT’s plans for the year, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO and MD, Viacom 18 stressed on affordability, accessibility and availability being the three aspects of the digital age.

“There has been an outstanding growth in the OTT watch time. The Jio revolution, the way the data prices have come down have made India the cheapest data market in the world. This allows more and more Indians to access, afford and use this. Our strategy at Viacom 18 is that we want to be  screen agnostic, platform agnostic, pipe agnostic storytellers today. US content players now want to have their own OTT platforms, but in India, content players already have their OTT players,” Vats pointed out.

On the kind of investments put in and the timelines, Vats said, “We are spending a substantial number. As for timelines for VOOT originals, you will see action once or twice a month. It may not be systematic. We are also looking at language originals, webseries and web films. About VOOT Kids, I think we are looking at a timeline in months from now.” As for VOOT International, he mentioned how they have partnered with Virgin Media in the UK and have plans for the US as well, along with other markets.

The other significant announcement has been about VOOT Studios, a business performance-oriented content tech solution for advertisers looking to connect with digital audiences with branded shows, sponsorships, interactive formats in addition to other bespoke solutions. 

Throwing light on VOOT Studios, Akash Banerji, Head - AVOD Business, Voot, said: “It’s new and big. Brands and advertisers can come to us; we help them create stories, produce stories because we have a rich roster of story tellers. We are doing so many interactive formats like voting; you can choose what your star will wear, and if a fashion brand wants to be integrated we are willing to do so. We are looking to start optimising stories with a clear idea on how to drive retention on our platform. We can start bespoke solutions which are clearly customised with the objectives and need of the category and organisation.”

While speaking to exchange4media, Banerji explained how VOOT and VOOT Kids would function as two apps with two different models. “VOOT and VOOT Kids will be two different products and businesses, two different apps as well. VOOT Kids is a new product and is currently in beta. That is behind the pay-wall. Within VOOT, we will be opening up the subscription play in the next few months that is where both the content that is free and content that is behind the paywall is going to be available for consumers.” 

“It cannot be an ‘Or’ strategy. It has to be an ‘And’ strategy because there is enough value for business to be made on the back of each of the two different business models. Even from a consumer point of view, there will be consumers who may not want to pay to watch a certain piece of content on digital. And the opposite is true as well, where consumers are okay to pay for the content. Most importantly, I think in this ecosystem you can try and win if you constantly experiment. That’s precisely what we are going to do with our experimentation on different business models,” Banerji added.

He said he hopes to achieve the 100mn MAU by the next fiscal year but believes he can do so sooner than later.
Speaking about ‘Kaisi Hai Yaariyan Season 3’, which has been launched on VOOT, Vats said: “Most of our Originals have done exceedingly well in terms of delivering eyeballs. ‘Kaisi Hain Yaariyan’ became one of the top 5 OTT originals in the Indian space. All of this helped us become the second biggest OTT platform in the country. We are celebrating 100bn minutes of watchtime on VOOT. We are institutionalising brand content tech at a great scale. It includes all these pieces - sponsorships, interactivity and bespoke solutions. It allows a brand to say a story in a compelling fashion.”

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