Mumbai: Viacom18’s OTT platform Voot has now launched their premium subscription-based on-demand service, Voot Select.
Priced at an affordable price of INR 99 a month or INR 999 a year, the service offers a whole bouquet of 35 + Live TV Channels (from the house of Viacom18 and Network18 News channels), an original content slate of over 30 shows in this year, a movie library that boasts of over 1500 titles and premium international acquired content.
What truly sets Voot Select apart from all its Indian OTT competitors is the service of providing Viacom18’s marque fiction content 24 Hours before being aired on TV!
The Big advantage that Voot Select as a platform has is the excellent base of a 100 million monthly active users that the Voot AVOD team has created over the four year journey of the platform.
“Voot Select is a premium entertainment service, which puts stories at the heart of the service. These stories will resonate with all members of the family. There’s something in it for everyone.” said Gourav Rakshit, COO – Viacom18 Digital Ventures in an exclusive conversation with Medianews4u on the side-lines of the mega press launch of the SVOD service, Voot Select.
Ferzad Palia, Head – Voot Select, Youth, Music & English Entertainment in an exclusive conversation with Medianews4u, on the ethos of Voot Select said, “We’ve been very clear about the fact that we are about stories. These are our originally created stories with stories coming in from television networks, our own film network, and international content.”
“We are India’s largest repository and best collection of stories which are from the past and which will come in the future. We’re focused on very good curation and creation of stories.”
Voot Select – A collection of stories
Ferzad discussed that all of Voot’s existing content goes behind the pay wall; the only difference is that when a Voot viewer subscribes to Voot Select they get access to all that existing content and the new slate of content that comes with Voot Select Ad free.
“In addition, what a viewer gets is the international content, the originals, the movie library access, access to 24 hours before TV, and many other new things that we will bring to the table, which is specially for paying subscribers.” said Palia about the additional content that a Voot Select viewer gets access to.
On the original content slate, Rakshit said “Initially we’re launching with more Hindi oriented content, although we’re putting a few regionals out to see how that works. As the year progresses, I think the distribution will become more even.”
On whether consumers can sample some of the exclusive content that is behind the pay wall Rakshit said, “Yes, viewers can watch the first episode of a show and if they like it, they can subscribe to watch more. If they don’t, then no problem, they can stay on the AVOD side. We are very confident about our content and I believe that enough people will like it to be able to jump the pay wall.”
24 Hours before TV – A disruptor?
While most of the content consumed on OTT platforms is simply catch-up TV content; Voot Select has gone one step ahead of this phenomenon and made an attempt to disrupt the space with 24 Hours Before TV.
On what brought 24 hours before TV to life, Rakshit said, “We’ve got content that’s doing very well at Viacom18; and we are number one across fiction and non-fiction. We are leveraging that because there is a group of customers who can’t wait for their favourite shows. I still know people who are happy with appointment driven television consumption. There is a small segment of people that want to be first before their friends and family.”
On being asked about some of the insights derived from data points that Voot Select used from the 100 million monthly active users on Voot AVOD, Palia said, “So that’s a great question. One of the first things we saw was this very clear move towards consuming an episode, as soon as we dropped it on the platform. About 47% to 50% of people who watched a new episode from our TV networks actually watched it within the first two hours of the episode coming on Voot.”
“That let us believe that we must investigate the space and through our research realized that it is such a big need for people to be one step ahead of somebody else who was watching the same kind of content. And that is how 24 hours before TV proposition was born.”
Confidently, Palia said, “It’s unparalleled. I don’t think it has been done anywhere in the world.”
When asked whether the 24 hour before TV offering would cannibalise the Viacom18 television business? Palia answered, “Not at all, and that’s a smart question to ask; it does not cannibalize our TV business at all because if you see who is consuming subscription video on demand today? It is largely the audience from the top six metro cities. There are consumers other markets that will increase as we go along. However, the fact of the matter is that SVOD as we call it today is largely the preserve of the top six to eight markets only.”
“And remember one thing, let’s assume things change; and people actually begin to cut the cord in a few years’ time, there will still be another 30 – 40 million people who will come into the TV ecosystem.”
Speaking about the content hungry audience, Rakshit said, “There are people who want to watch interesting Indian stories that are not told before, in the form of our originals. Voot Select is very much a premium subscription service, but its heart is in every consumer. It is built as a service to scale. Maybe our early adopters will be people who are already consumers of Voot or OTT subscription services. But going forward, we see that being relevant to all of India.”
Rakshit spoke on the timing of the launch of Voot Select and said, “It’s actually a very, very good time. We are now the number One AVOD platform in terms of profitability in the country and having that positive unit economics on the AVOD side gives us a lot of opportunity to try and experiment other areas, because having all our businesses burning cash at the same time would be aggressive. However, right now we are able to actually generate revenue from the AVOD side, which probably might not be sufficient to cover the investment on the SVOD side, but it stops being a sink for cash. Hence we were able to turn our investment to the end so the timing is really good.”
On the competitive pricing strategy, Rakshit said, “For pricing, essentially we didn’t have to start from ground zero. We wanted a price point that we could live with for some time. We liked the 999 price point which we will not need to change for a while.”
“While we have an introductory price of 499, we were quite pleased to have a price point of 99 rupees per month is something that I think India can sit on for some time. We have obviously learned from others in terms of their experience. We were quite pleased to say that this should do us pretty well. Our marketing plan rolls out this weekend and hopefully we’re going to be unmissable.”
Opportunity provided by 100 MN MAUs on Voot AVOD
Rakshit plans to up the ante on the interactions to a benchmark figure on the platform. He said, “The opportunity for us is to take the fandom that we have built on the AVOD side of Voot to the next level. We’ve been really successful. We have had 335 million interactions, which is very good. If you ask me? I would like to take that to a Billion interactions.”
“I don’t think we should stop anywhere, because fundamentally, staying in the same place is a recipe for disaster. In the AVOD business, because we have such a loyal and engaged consumer base, it’s on us actually to deliver the next level of engagement for them and that is really going to be my next journey from the AVOD perspective.”
Expectations from Voot Select
On the expectations and objectives from Voot Select, Rakshit said, “I would like to have the largest subscriber base among all Indian premium OTT subscription services by the end of this financial year.”
Smiling he continued and said, “That will really make me happy.”
When asked how Palia wears so many hats of heading the Youth, Music and English entertainment business at Viacom18 and effectively manages his time and attention to all these business units including the newest baby to the family Voot Select?
To which, Palia answered and said, smiling, “I ask the same to myself that sometimes as well!”
“But the fact of the matter is that having led the English business for the last 15 years; MTV for the last four years. I actually believe in the saying that a good manager is someone who doesn’t really need to work on a business every day.”
Proudly Palia said, “I have such a strong team. They are well versed with what really needs to be done. And I thank them, that they’ve afforded me the time to get Voot Select going.”
“I do spend my fair share of time on my other brands. But off late, clearly leading up to launch, I’ve had to spend a lot more time on Voot Select. The beauty of it is that there are insights that I can bring from TV to digital and vice versa, which is a great place to be as a business and a content person, etc. What it’s also done is it allows me to integrate that part of the network very closely into the digital part of the network and vice versa” concluded Palia.