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Voot's target is the entire 250-300 million video viewer base: Akash Banerji

Voot is witnessing 6x growth from vernacular content.

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MUMBAI: When digital platforms emerged, long-form content got a boost. But given today’s limited attention span of people, short form content is also in vogue. Spotting the need, media conglomerate Viacom18’s digital arm Voot has forayed into original short films segment. The OTT platform has come up with 12 short films under Voot Originals 'SHORTCUTS' label produced by Viacom 18’s in-house digital-focused studio Tipping Point.

Five short films Derma, Googly, Joy Ride, Bauma and Chacha and Cheetah’s Trip already went live on 8 February. Four other short films - Glitch, Grey, Aun and Teaspoon will go live on 15 February which will be followed by Maya, On the Road and Red Velvet on 22 February. All the content pieces will be available for free for consumers since Voot till now works on AVOD model only.

Talking about the new property, Viacom18 Digital Ventures marketing and partnerships head Akash Banerji said that any decision to keep them behind a paywall will be taken later. Earlier Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu Vats said it is working on Voot’s premium model.

“We still believe and are strongly of the opinion that this country with the kind of appetite it has to watch content, is still very clearly in the category creation phase at this juncture and this category creation phase is very important to make content available and accessible in the most hurdle free manner. Hence, content that is free on AVOD platform is very surely here to stay and we will continue to double down our efforts on that,” Banerji also added.

On the sideline of the launch, he spoke to Indiantelevision.com on several topics including marketing and the target audience of the new label, the platform’s ambitious plan for 2019 and other industry issues. Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

What is the target audience of the new short films?

Gone are the days, when you will define this target audience based on certain demography, geography or gender. We are targeting the entire 250-300 million odd video viewer base in this country that has a huge appetite to watch great storytelling. We are a story-first OTT brand, we are not an 18-24 age first brand, male first brand, we clock close to 7-10 billion minutes of watch time. That certainly can’t come in on the back of a certain TG. We believe in scale.

Will digital dominate your marketing effort?

We are also going to do outdoor marketing for this specific content piece. What it allows us to do is to drive immediate perception and draw the attention of the consumers that is supposed to drive a lot of awareness and consideration. On digital, the focus will be to drive conversions to our platforms. It is going to be a blend of outdoor, networks promotion along with huge focus on digital.

Why did you pick up this genre? Did you notice any particular trend?

We are not a copier of a trend, we are a trendsetter. Not everything that’s out there needs to be replicated by us. Our bigger focus is always to create such interesting things so that it gets copied by others. We believed that we have a vast library of long-form content on our platform. That has a huge advantage because on the back of that we get massive watch time. This made us the number one OTT platform in the country with respect to the average time spent per day per viewer which is close to 50 minutes. We also believe this is a fast world where a consumer may not have all the time in the world to watch longer form content and to stay committed to a content piece that is episodical. Hence, we are experimenting with this format which is not the episodic but standalone content piece but also snacky in nature so we are able to get that kind of consumers whose behaviour and need may be very different from the kind of consumer we may have acquired before.

How does the year 2019 look like for Voot?

Maddening, crazy and exciting. We are doubling down our efforts in terms of blockbuster content, hero content pieces that are supposed to drive massive acquisition for us. We are doubling down our strategy to go very deep in vernacular markets because at Voot if we are seeing 3x growth in Hindi content, vernacular content gives us 6x growth. There is a huge demand but the supply still is actually limited. By partnering and collaborating very closely with Viacom18 network whether it’s Colors Kannada, Colors Marathi, Colors Bangla, we can very clearly unlock the little need that’s there. The other big thing which we will continue to do is invest heavily in the product experience. In today’s world, a great piece of content may not be enough to get sticky consumers or to drive retention. What is equally important is to double down on the product experience so that consumers are able to discover the content of their choice without thinking about technical issues.

Voot’s UK launch was supposed to take place last November. If you could share the update..

We are getting a firmer date. Between this month or next month at best we will be doing a big press announcement. Formally the international launch will start off and we are closer than ever to launching into the UK market.

Will OTT platforms be benefitted from TRAI’s tariff order?

It remains to be seen how consumers eventually respond to this tariff order, whether it finally ends up changing their deep habit of having access to 300 or 400 odd channels suddenly overnight. These are TV watching and having access to so many different channels is a long form habit that has developed over the years. And it would be naive on our part to start thinking and predicting that it will change and OTT platform per se will start building quick result out of it. The only thing that we need to be clear of and that we are preparing for if this change happens, we should be ready to give an equally good experience to a lot of new consumer acquisition that will happen on OTT. As a network, our ambition, of course, will be very to ensure that the watch time and the consumer size and the scale do not go down at a network level and only keeps growing up.

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