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OTT platforms should focus more on retention: VOOT's Akash Banerji

VOOT has garnered 100 mn MAUs amid fierce competition in OTT space

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MUMBAI: As more and more users are flocking to over-the-top (OTT) platforms, the contenders in the race are getting aggressive about acquiring new users. Viacom18’s digital arm VOOT has garnered 100 million monthly active users amid this fierce competition. The three-year-old streaming platform is, however, focusing more on retention of users, engagement on the platform and consumer life-time value (CLTV).

In a media briefing, VOOT Advertising Video Platform (AVoD) business head Akash Banerji stated that the sharp focus on driving constant engagement and reach through partnerships, product and tech innovations, and content strategy has lead to the success. Along with reaching 100 million MAU target, the platform said it's first in terms of engagement (46 minutes) and frequency of visits according to App Annie data.

Elaborating on the importance of customer retention, Banerji pointed out that 90 per cent of consumers who install an app on day one, do not use or install the app on day 30. He also added that digital video business is about driving habit like TV.

Banerji who emphasised on good watch time also spoke of a different metric to pay attention to. “Watch-time still is the only story half-told. In this new era, the story is clearly going to be about what is driving CLTV. What is indeed driving the value I am getting out from a consumer versus the cost I am incurring to dish a certain piece of content on my platform. Till the timing I am driving higher CLTV, I am taking tangible steps to make profitability for my business,” he commented.

After the media briefing we caught up with Banerji for a short chat to delve deeper into the platform’s strategy. Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

What are the challenges for consumer retention on platform? How does VOOT ensure that users keep using the platform?

Retention happens at three levels -content, product experience and technology. A platform which has a rich roster of content that can at different points in time appeal to the varying and changing tastes of consumers has a much higher propensity to be able to retain consumer. Higher the chances a platform offering all your needs and hence a platform which has a massive catalogue of good quality content always in a much better position.

Second comes experience. You have content but if you are unable to help the user to discover that content, your story is already gone. Now, if your content is there, discoverability is there, you are bombarding him with too many ads, consumer will be pissed. Experience is great, content is great, minimal ads are there but on your 3g phone it does not work, your app us not compatible with it or keeps on buffering, streaming is not great then also consumer will leave.

So, across these three facets is what eventually drives retention- content, UI,UX, and third is the tech part.

Across each of these three things, what we have built is good balance of reality shows, drama shows, big roster of content across languages, across audience segment. On UI, UX side we have launched a new version, a V3, refreshed app. At the backend, we are building our own-house expertise.

What is your strategy to reach the target profitability?

I think two things we need to do that- to look at each and every user segment, the value that I get from him, value basis the demand from advertisers to chase that audience and what is the content cost, marketing cost, streaming cost, product cost to service that user. If I can do this for one user, 100 users, 1 million, 100 million users, then I exactly know that each and every user at any given point in time is giving me as a value and what is the cost I am incurring to service him. If the cost is high, then I am okay to let go of that consumer. If the user is very very valuable then I will do anything to get him on that platform. The more I am able to drive value higher than my cost, then I can drive profit.

What is the current ARPU of users on the platform?

I am looking at CLTV as the whole foundation stone. From the marketing point of view, for marketing cost point of view, my CLTV is higher than marketing cost.

What will be other key areas in 2020?

We will keep focusing on driving more revenue, streamlining cost, partnerships, regional content. This year was about big high revenue, big milestone in user, watch time. The story for next year is about not just user and watch-time but all of it eventually leading to profitability where specific intervention on marketing, on product, ad sales are supposed to drive towards that.  

How are you taking decisions of commissioning or licensing content?

User is going to be at centre of this. Product, marketing, tech, content revolves around him. Either it can get me a lot of new users which are not there on my platform today or to my existing audiences it will drive higher views.

Did you feel the heat of economic slowdown as brands cut down on their marketing spend?

It has affected in a way that people have realised that this proportion of money spending on content and marketing for a sustainable period of time is not going to help the cause. What you need is a very clear focus on hardcore business metrics. And hence I feel the debate is going to be about retention as opposed to acquisition.

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