The ability to choose one’s language is a very powerful driver: Gourav Rakshit

The COO of Viacom18 Digital Ventures talks about the launch of Colors Telugu on Voot in a digital-first approach

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Sep 19, 2019 9:12 AM

Looking to leverage the 80 million plus Telugu speaking audience, Viacom 18 has announced the launch of Colors Telugu on Voot in a digital-first approach.

Voot, the video-on-demand streaming service of Viacom 18, now boasts of 55 million monthly active users and is clocking an impressive 50 mins average TSV per day. The consumption of regional content on the platform, according to the broadcaster, too has been on the rise, increasing from 16 per cent in April-August 2018 to 24 per cent in April-August 2019.

Speaking to exchange4media, Gourav Rakshit, COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, shared why their new user acquisitions were tilted towards regional, the digital-first approach for the launch, the advertiser interest in it and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

Why a digital-first strategy for launching Colors Telugu on Voot?

Digital-first is an outcome. We wanted to do digital. We're okay going digital first because then we're not constrained to wait for TV. And Telugu because we found a large percentage of our audience coming through Andhra. And mathematically, they would have to be native Telugu speakers. So we realised that we don't have to create an audience. And it's better to be able to give them what they're looking for in the language of their choosing, because they were still coming in and consuming us in in Hindi. So that was the trigger for us to say why not do Telugu? And Colors Telugu because that's our brand architecture. We have Colors in our regional channels. And we like the Colors brand. It’s a very strong national brand. We have regional flavours of all Colors brands, and Colors Telugu is a natural extension in that sense. That was the only thinking. It was definitely bold because it's not been done before.

What has been the advertising interest for your product?

We have seen a lot of interest. Andhra itself has traditionally been a very favoured market by a lot of advertisers, FMCG in particular. They (advertisers) were asking us about our Telugu strategy. And so as we indicated that we're going there, a lot of people have shown interest. We already have sponsors for our show called ‘Feet up with the Stars’ in Telugu. So, the take rate is fairly high on Colors Telugu in terms of advertiser interest. The question is going to be what kind of brand solutions we’re able to craft for them. This is how we operate with a lot of advertisers in other markets. We craft custom solutions that go beyond just the plain inventory model to be able to use that affinity to the language.

What is the monetisation potential from the Telugu market?

The Telugu market, from what we're seeing, is estimated to be between Rs 170 and Rs 200 crore roughly in terms of the current size. And the projections are that in the next two-three years, it will be a Rs 500-crore market. So the Telugu market itself is an extremely attractive advertising market, which is not the Andhra market but the Telugu speaking market. The Andhra market will be bigger than that. That is a very attractive business opportunity. We're looking to do extremely well in that space.

What is your marketing mix for promoting the product?

We will definitely use the traditional media channel of television. We will use both, our own network to some extent if we're able to geo block them, and other channels as well. We will use outdoors extensively. Digital off course, because on Voot, by definition, we are able to sort of see people who are from the Andhra and Telengana IPs.

Most OTT platforms in the country are aggressively moving towards regional content, why do you think that is happening?

The ability to choose is a very powerful driver. The reality is that people are more comfortable speaking in regional languages. Sometimes you're forced to operate on a national level, but one is seeing this regional trend across all forms of media, not just OTT. And if you look at growth, even in the broadcast space, it's all coming from regional. So I think that there is an audience that has been unlocked, that is now finding voice, because the markets are large enough for people to actually support original content. Earlier, perhaps the market was sub scale, and therefore, the cost of putting together regional content was not commensurate with the revenue that one could earn there. But right now, the markets are very much at scale.

International players, like Apple TV+, are entering the OTT market. Do you see this as a threat to the players in India?

Right now I feel that we are just building the market. I feel like the OTT space is on Day Zero of the market. It’s very low on subscription volumes. And so I think we're all just building a habit right now and creating content consumption opportunities. Different forms of content bring more people to the OTT space, especially the paid, which is the subscription OTT side. I think the free side will mature because that content is close to people's hearts. The data revolution has enabled that. So it's going to take a little longer for the subscription market to settle in this country.

Talking about subscription, when do you plan to launch SVOD model?

We are targeting this calendar year. We don't have exact dates.

Has there been an impact of the economic slowdown on advertising?

It's there, very much. I think that there is an overall reduction in advertising spends vis-a-vis what one had expected as a marketer. The market rate of growth is not what it would have been. Having said that, digital keeps growing because it attracts a higher share of the spends every year. So, fundamentally those pressures, I'm sure, are being faced more in the broadcast world than digital. 

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