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Gourav Rakshit on Voot’s regional play, digital-first approach

Voot, the advertising-led Video on Demand platform from Viacom18, yesterday (September 18, 2019) announced its foray into the Telugu market with the launch of Colors Telugu on its platform. 

Leveraging the 80 million-plus Telugu speaking audience opportunity, Colors Telugu on Voot marks Viacom18’s continued focus on its strategic “digital first” approach. The platform’s new language play will introduce the discerning Telugu audiences from AP/ Telangana and rest of India to 1,200 + hours of limitless Telugu entertainment. The diverse content line-up will include Voot Originals, popular Hindi and regional Viacom18 IPs and a massive library of 150+ Telugu movies for its viewers to begin with. 

Colors Telugu on Voot is set to go live from September 23, 2019. 

Adgully caught up with Gourav Rakshit, COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, to know more about the regional market foray, the content and marketing strategies and more. 

What is the strategy behind the ‘digital first’ approach for Colors Telugu?
We have 55 million users on Voot. We found that a large section of the audience from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been consuming our Hindi content. Of course, there is actually a Hindi play in those markets, but a majority is actually Telugu speakers and they are consuming Telugu content on other platforms. 

It was up to us – either we lose this audience to other platforms or draw them to us. It became obvious that we don’t have to create an audience, we just have to serve them their content in the language of their own choosing. That sort of defined the call that we had to do Telugu content. The propensity of the Telugu market towards digital content as well as the significant internet penetration in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana make them a high value opportunity to be harnessed. We are sure that the diverse and expansive content slate curated after substantial audience mapping and market research will help us get the love and support of the viewers. 

Brand Colors Telugu has come about because our brand architecture has you know that Colors is in the name. I don’t think digital content has been done before in Telugu in a significant way, but we feel that the market is large enough and hence, we are not feeling as constrained by that. We also have some proof points from our own content like ‘Naagin’, which has done very well in Telugu on Gemini TV. So, we know that kind of content works. 

Moreover, our advertisers have been telling us that they want to run Telugu ads, however, we can’t run them on Hindi channels because it seems like a misfit. Given that everyone wanted us to be in this space, it was obvious that it became a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. 

Regional has been an important play for Voot as well as Viacom18 and we will continue to identify the white spaces in the category and pursue the regional growth opportunity. We have been seeing significant offtake of network regional consumption on Voot. The latest success of ‘Bigg Boss’ Marathi with over 100 million views establishes the scale of the regional content opportunity. 

What will be the content strategy for Colors Telugu?
We are working on a content format that is loved by the Andhra audience, called ‘Feet up with the Stars’. We are using it as a marquee show because we don’t have network or television support. We want them to feel like a part of the ecosystem. It is great to use celebrities as they have a strong resonance with the audience. You could say that we are entering this market with ‘Feet up with the Stars’. 

We will also have four Originals in fiction, which we are developing right now. We have got 150 movies that we have brought that we think will do quite well. We see that there is good take rate of films in the Telugu industry. We have about 1,200 hours of content that we will make available to them. 

How will you push all this content?
We have a web show called ‘Silsila’, which we do on digital only and that we drop daily. That has created a nice habit for people to keep coming back every day and we are trying to append some of those things in the Telugu market and try to create appoint behaviour rather than binge watching. 

Though we have a large content library, we are not going to toss it out there and see what our viewers like. We will curate it and try and create a habit in the market. We will have to do a little heavy lifting ourselves as we don’t have the support. 

What are your marketing plans for Colors Telugu on Voot?
We will definitely be using conventional strategies like roadblocks on television, announcements on Voot, etc. We will also go local and do a fair bit of outdoor advertising. The consumer should know that we exist. That’s how we are initially approaching our marketing. Post ‘Feet up with the Stars’, we will look at different marquee content. 

Is the audience in the Andhra market also watching a lot of Tamil, Kannada content or is it only Hindi content?
Typically, when I look at other languages, for instance, Marathi, I am only seeing dual languages – Hindi and Marathi, I am not seeing a third language. But this is not the case in the Andhra market, where we have to either dub the dialogues in Telugu or add Telugu subtitles, which work very well. 

You have got the two big sponsors on board. Are you seeing more of national advertisers coming on board or is it mostly local advertisers?
I think that initial trust is coming from national advertisers because they want to be there and we are. We don’t think we will get much interest from locals because we don’t mean anything to anybody there. Telugu is something that is word of mouth for them to start coming in. Regional advertising is a good opportunity in other markets, so I don’t see why it will not work for us. 

How are you monitoring the viewership?
The metrics are completely transparent, because unlike television, video view is given by new ID. The difference between online video and television is that the BARC ratings actually monetise what everybody is watching and every company knows its own viewership inside out. It is both good and bad, because it requires less industry clearing standard in that sense. On the other hand, the viewership data on digital is very precise.

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