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Voot will go deeper with its regional expansion: Gaurav Gandhi

Gaurav Gandhi
Gaurav Gandhi

Viacom18’s video on-demand streaming service, Voot, is all geared to continue its strong growth momentum in 2018. Just 19 months old, the platform has witnessed humongous transformation. Voot has successfully captured this digital entertainment landscape, consolidating its position amongst the top 3 OTT video streaming services in the country. After a successful and groundbreaking year marked by content and technology innovations, Voot is all set to move towards new echelons of growth. 

While commenting on the digital landscape in India recently at a media roundtable, Gaurav Gandhi, COO, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, cited an App Annie report that revealed that since May 2016, digital video watch time had grown 4x times. Gandhi remarked, “2017 has been a significant year for video streaming, because we have seen the market completely changing in the last 12-18 months. Fundamentally, with Jio and various telecoms plans we have seen growth in video streaming. What we have seen here is not just consumption changes, but changes in the behaviour pattern as well.”

He further added that Voot has the highest positive sentiment in the market as per iOS and Google Play. It’s a first provider globally to implement PWA (Progressive Web App) in partnership with Google that had won an Innovation Award last year.

On international  expansion plan he added “While India is an ‘And/Or’ market, Voot has different strategies for international markets. According to Gandhi, “Internationally, our big geographical pocket comes from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, the Middle East countries and also identifying places with huge consumption of Indian content. Overall, we will have a holistic approach.”

In this interaction with Adgully, Gaurav Gandhi speaks more about the plans around PWA (Progressive Web App), international tie-ups, plans to build up partnerships in India, content strategy, campaign strategy and much more. Excerpts:

What are your plans around the Progressive Web App (PWA)? How will it strengthen your offering?

We had launched PWA (Progressive Web App) in 2016. In India, we largely have an ecosystem, where majority of the people have phones but don’t have enough memory to install apps in them. They also don’t prefer the mobile web option to view any videos. Keeping all these things in mind, we thought of creating something unique for the existing mobile ecosystem and thus, the whole thought of inventing PWA came into existence. We created an app without an app. It was a high technology challenge  which  the implementation of Google’s Progressive Web App addressed. As an OTT platform, Voot has been a pioneer in founding such technology across the world.

Going forward, to push the envelope we are taking this offering offline. The Voot Application allows people to view the content offline and we will add the same feature for PWA.

Please tell us about the international tie-ups that Voot has entered into.

According to me, internationally there are places where people want to consume Indian content but are not able to get it because the cable packages are either too expensive or not able to offer the kind of content that people want to watch or they offer only linear channels and not the VOD library.

Therefore, internationally we are doing three things. Firstly, we are working closely with our existing distributors. Secondly, we are also working with various telecom operators because internationally, at many places we have telecoms that also operate television services. Lastly, we will direct consumers to the App Store.

In my view, there are two major differences between India and the international markets. Firstly, India is a mobile-first market, where majority of people use mobile phones primarily. However, internationally, the consumption largely happens on the large screen.

Secondly, for international it will be a complete pay market, where we will not have ad-supported business. We may have some advertisers and brands on board, but it will be a pay model. For India, we will do both the businesses – pay model as well as ad-supported business.

What about partnerships in India?

Currently, with ad-supported businesses we are present everywhere, but when we will go behind the pay wall, we will work closely on partnerships. When you get good partners, it gives you exposure to two key things – primarily, they give you distribution overnight and secondly, delivery of the content. We will do key partnerships once we go behind the pay wall in both the markets.

What kind of content are you primarily looking at?

Basically, we do three levels of originals. We had an original programming called ‘HDFC Young stars’, which was purely an AFP, where HDFC came in and funded the entire show. Then, we have originals with high integrations. For instance, ‘Stupid Man, Smart Phone’ was built out with a very high integration with Vodafone and Motorola. Lastly, we are doing originals with minimal integrations. Going forward, we will consistently focus on these parameters to maintain leadership.

How do you view the availability of good content creators?

As we create originals, our major focus remains on the writing, because if you get the writing sorted then rest of the things become easier. There is ample of writing talent available in the industry, but given the fact that the hunger for original content is rapidly increasing,  there is a scarcity. In order to get the best, we are doing several marketing programmes to reach out to the writers and build a huge writing community.

How are you taping programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising basically means a machine talking to another machine in an automatic format and there are various forms to it. It has several natures; we are strategising to implement it in the best possible way to get the best reach and efficiency possible.

Please tell us about your latest campaign.

The campaign was live across the entire Viacom18 Network on both HD and SD channels and is also available on our regional channels. We will hammered it across digital platforms because lots of digital first audiences are there. We will use Facebook, YouTube and a lot many homepages of portals like Saavn and Gaana for promoting this campaign. From a mass media standpoint, we are largely using radio, where we have integrations with different RJs to promote our latest campaign.

The entire communication for the campaign has been conceived and conceptualized by Mullen Lintas.

What have been the major highlights of 2017?

One thing that I saw on digital was behavior change. People’s behavior towards digital video changed and this change is permanent and irreversible. In my view, factors that have contributed to this change are the kind of content that we do, our marketing and distribution strategy and lastly, the innovative technologies that we use.

What are your expectations from 2018?

We are still at an early stage in this market and what we have seen in 2017 will become grander in the future. In 2018, we will see a big game changing scenario with BARC’s digital measurement system, EKAM, being introduced. Secondly, we will go deeper with our regional expansion, because we don’t think that the world is only restricted to English and Hindi languages. Stories do travel, but they travel and connect best in regional languages.

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