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Viacom18’s Voot to have freemium, subscription models in future: Gaurav Gandhi

MUMBAI: Building its content around kids, drama, reality and comedy, Viacom18 Digital Ventures’ newly launched video-on-demand (VoD) service Voot will explore freemium and subscription models in the next 12–24 months, COO Gaurav Gandhi has said.

Sudhanshu Vats, Monica Shergill, Gaurav GandhiFor starters, it will be an ad-led VoD platform. The company decided to go for ad-supported model as the ad market for digital video is growing at a brisk pace and is projected to touch $1 billion in a few years.

Moreover, the Indian market is not yet ready for a subscription model due to expensive data cost and lack of online payment mechanism.

“From a business standpoint, we are following the advertising-led VoD model. As the market matures in the next 12–24 months, we will be evaluating both freemium and subscription models,” Gandhi stated.

Armed with 17,000 hours of content, Voot went live on Tuesday. It will be available for free on iOS, Android and the web.

Besides being the one-stop destination for all Viacom18 network content, Voot is also developing original content and has a strong repertoire of kids content, something that is lacking on other VoD platforms in the market.

Apart from having in-house kids franchises like ‘Dora’, ‘Spongebob’ and ‘Motu Patlu’, the service has also acquired third-party content such as ‘Chhota Bheem’ and ‘Pokemon’. Parents have the option of setting up a pin to make sure kids only see what they want them to.

Gandhi revealed that Voot Kids was initially planned to be launched as a standalone product, but the fact that most of the phones in the Indian market have low storage space prompted the service to look at the app concept.

The original content has been housed under Voot Originals, which will roll out shows in both long and short formats across genres like comedy and drama. Bollywood actors Gulshan Grover, Baba Sehgal, Alok Nath and a host of celebrity scriptwriters and directors will be front-lining these shows.

Furthermore, Viacom18 will move its entire content library, including Colors, MTV and Nick, to be digitally available only on Voot.

Viacom18 will remove content from all other platforms including YouTube, which will be used more as a promotional platform. “We have already withdrawn content from most of the platforms, barring a few linear channels. We are working on interesting promotional strategy with YouTube. Voot will be the singular destination for Viacom18 content,” Gandhi stated.

Viacom18 CEO Sudhanshu Vats said that the digital video economy is waiting to explode. The 4G rollout will only accelerate that process.

“India is at the cusp of a digital boom with over 400 million internet users and 200 million+ smartphone users spending significant amount of time online with entertainment and allied content being the prime driver. As more people move towards consuming content online, it is time for Viacom18 to move into the world of connected screens. Hence Voot,” said Vats.

Explaining further, Vats added, “With kids’ content and our entire Voot Originals line-up, the focus was to get people addicted to happiness. Through our content strategy, that is what we have held true. Our television channels also provide a very robust content bank that we will build upon, for the digital consumers. Voot will be Viacom18’s singular gateway to quality and differentiated content, in the digital medium.”

Voot has planned six originals through its launch phase, and is all set to introduce India’s first mockumentary, ‘Badman’. Written and directed by Soumik Sen and co-written by stand-up comedian Anubhav Pal, this four-part film has Gulshan Grover playing himself. ‘Soadies’, a comic spin-off of ‘Roadies’, has Baba Sehgal in the lead role and is produced by Frames.

Then there is a web series called ‘Chinese Bhassad’, written by Raahil Qaazi (co-writer of ‘Do Dooni Chaar’), and directed and produced by Saurabh Tewari. It also has a talk show starring Alok Nath called ‘Sinskari’. It is produced by Raghu Ram and Rajeev Lakshman’s Monozygotic.

Besides full episodes, it will also offer short-format entertainment including mini clips, promos, mashups and playlists, spoiler alerts, fast forwards, and music videos.

Gandhi expects Voot to have 2–3 million daily active users by the end of first year.

The service has a Voot Picks section, which collates the best and latest episodes of the most popular on-air shows and Voot Originals handpicked by the Voot team.

There is a personalised vertical called Just For You, which is customised as per individual users’ likes and viewing history.

Vooting Now will give users a peek into what’s trending on Voot. The Discover Cards feature allows users to ‘Pull down for Bonus Content’ to instantly access trending playlists of the most popular shows, across channels.

Sharing and Shouts allow user to share Voot content across all social platforms. The service also has Resume and Playback options, which will remember the exact point where one had stopped watching a piece of content and ‘resume watching’ from that point, along with providing the option to ‘start from the beginning’.

Voot will soon add the Chromecast option to allow users to hook up the Voot app to their TVs. It will also enable the option to download the latest episodes of shows.