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Viacom18 @10: Sudhanshu Vats chalks out plans to open new worlds

Viacom18 Media completed its 10th anniversary on November 6, 2017. The full-play media organisation has charted a 40X growth in topline over the last decade, emerging as India’s fastest growing full-play company in the Indian M&E industry. To mark the occasion, Viacom18 unveiled its corporate brand film, titled ‘Open New Worlds’. On the occasion of their 10th anniversary, Viacom18 also announced two major developments – Colors Tamil will be launched in February 2018, while subscription-based premium offering of its VoD platform Voot will be launched by mid-2018. 

In keeping with its focus on regional entertainment, the network plans to offer digital original regional content on Voot and dial up its thrust on regional movies as well. The network is also aggressively dialing up its play in the kids’ ecosystem, where from just television content it has now taken its homegrown characters to the silver screen, to millions of digital screens via Voot Kids, merchandising and even to live experiences. Viacom18 also announced its latest social change campaign, in partnership with The Nudge Project, to provide livelihood training and job placements to underprivileged youth, through residential programmes. Viacom18 has also started a crowdfunding initiative through Milaap.org so that likeminded citizens can contribute to this cause. 

Our journey has only just begun: Sudhanshu Vats 

“In my mind, we are a 10-year ‘young’ future-focused organisation that continuously challenges status quo. Unlike legacy players, we have often entered new areas much later and yet carved out a distinctive identity for ourselves. We are proud of our ability to nurture and manage a multi-brand, multi-platform and multilingual network while growing at a blistering pace and fostering a winning culture based on a shared set of values. 10 years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that a 3-channel, ~INR 80 crore network would mushroom into a profitable full-play ~INR 3,100 crore media powerhouse that has spread its wings across 80 countries. That said, our journey has only just begun. Kudos to our team for creating magic time and again for our fans and audiences,” Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18, explained. 

Elaborating on the brand promise, #OpenNewWorlds, he further said, “Our vision to be India’s most admired M&E company is reflected in our intent to open new worlds for our audiences. Whether through our shows such as ‘Balika Vadhu’, ‘Shakti’, ‘Lakshmi Baramma’, ‘Angels of Rock’, Coot Original ‘Untag’ or movies like ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, ‘Queen’, ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ and more; a strong undercurrent of social messaging drives a lot of our content.” 

Speaking on strengthening Viacom18’s regional and rural focus, Vats told Adgully, “We have Rishtey for the rural markets and we will continue to drive that harder. Our strategy for regional is to build a portfolio and then both deepen and widen our presence in regional. We will continue to look at more options to reach the rural markets. With MTV being a pay channel, our latest effort to reach out to rural is through MTV Beats, the 24x7 music channel from MTV, and we will continue to do that.” 

As far as regional plans for Voot are concerned, Vats said regional content on the VOD platform would be upped in the coming times and added that there was need to dial up and improve the user interface for Voot to make it more language friendly. 

While competitors like Star India and Sony Pictures Network have been aggressively growing their sports business, Viacom18 has stayed away from sports so far. When asked about the group’s strategy regarding sports, Vats said, “Sports in India is largely driven by high investment and huge dedication. We at Viacom18 have alternative and exciting offers with that kind of investment that we can offer to our audiences.”

When asked about how he saw broadcast and digital going forward together, Vats replied, “In the foreseeable future, I see both TV and digital existing in India. TV will always remain because it is the most affordable mediums in India. It is one of the best entertainment mediums, especially for the low-income population, which is in large numbers. If you want to go digital and take the cheapest data packs, even then one will end up spending more. Therefore, I see both co-existing in the near future. I am equally excited about TV as much as I am for digital. India is a large country and hence, there will be a large sector that is on digital.” 

When queried on production houses or programme producers beginning to retain the IP of the shows that they come up with, Vats emphatically said, “As far as we are concerned, we want to be very clear that we are owners of IP.” Adding further, he said, “I think these are one on one negotiations between production houses and the individual network. It depends upon the value got for value given. According to me, there will be opportunities for both the spectrums to exist.” 

Open New Worlds 

Open New Worlds is a progressive philosophy that articulates the reason the brand exists in the lives of people, brought alive through Viacom18’s decade-long engagement with over 500 million Indians. The brand film, conceptualised by Leo Burnett Orchard and produced by Offroad Films, explores how Viacom18 has been encouraging everyday Indians to explore possibilities, push their own boundaries, embrace opportunities and challenge norms. The narrative of the film is carried forward through a melodious title track sung by celebrated singer Jubin Nautiyal. 

 

Watch Viacom18's corporate brand film:

A decade ago, Viacom18 was formed as an equal joint venture between global entertainment giant Viacom Inc. and Indian media powerhouse Network18, with 3 channels – Nick, MTV and Vh1. The network launched its marquee general entertainment channel Colors in 2008. Over the course of the decade, the company has further diversified into 4 more lines of business, across films, digital, experiential and merchandise, creating an entertainment ecosystem that reaches out to audiences across demographics and geographies. 

Today, the broadcast business alone has 44 channels across 80 countries. Colors has transcended languages and now become a much larger franchise with Colors Kannada, Colors Super, Colors Bangla, Colors Marathi, Colors Gujarati, Colors Odia and the upcoming Colors Tamil. MTV’s portfolio has grown with the launch of a 24x7 music offering in the form of MTV Beats and a premium offering, MTV HD+. Nick, the network’s flagship kids’ entertainment brand is a clear leader, supported by Sonic, Nick Jr. and Nick HD+. 

The English entertainment cluster has sharply segmented offerings with Comedy Central, Vh1 and Colors Infinity. The network’s movie studio, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, has been at the forefront of producing content driven cinema, bringing in both commercial and critical success. 

The digital business Voot, all of 18 months old is already the third ranked video streaming service in the country with close to 30 million monthly active users. The Live and Consumer Products businesses have helped build an experiential association with fans and audiences through the world’s first ever MTV themed café FLYP@MTV, the collaboration with KidZania to create experiences for kids and their parents and more. 

Viacom18 recently launched VStep, a start-up engagement programme aimed at mentoring and providing test environments for start-ups working in the entertainment and media-tech spaces.

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