Voot bets big on regional markets for consumption, revenue growth

MUMBAI: Viacom18-owned video on demand (VoD) platform Voot sees a huge opportunity in the regional market. The platform is further bolstering its regional offering with the launch of Colors Telugu on 23rd September as part of its digital-first strategy.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, Viacom18 Digital Ventures COO Gourav Rakshit said that the VoD platform gets 24% of its total consumption from regional. This explains the strategy to launch Colors Telugu on digital-first. He further stated that 20% of the platform’s revenue is generated through regional content at an aggregate level.

Rakshit also said that both national and regional are moving in lockstep and both markets complement each other in terms of growth. “The upside I see is that the regional consumption can go to 40%. When we get to 45% both national and regional will start to grow at the same rate. Right now it is outpacing national growth significantly. Regional has reached a tipping point and we have a large slate of regional content.”

He further noted that new Voot users are tilted towards consuming regional content. He cited the example of Bigg Boss Marathi 2 which was consumed by every third new user of Voot.

Rakshit also stated that Kannada and Marathi are two of Voot’s strongest markets. The platform also has a presence in the Bangla and Tamil markets. The introduction of Telugu content will strengthen the regional offering on the platform.

He expects Colors Telugu to have a strong affinity on the platform. “I definitely see it coming in the third or fourth position in terms of consumption when we look at macro-economic habits of these users.”

Importance of Telugu market

Explaining the rationale behind entering the Telugu market, Rakshit noted that the market is tech-savvy with 45% of the population having an online presence. The digital ad market for Telugu is expected to touch Rs 500 crore by 2021. “We are talking about big bucks. Advertisers chase audiences. These audiences are extremely hungry. We want to grow this market at a similar level as what we see in Karnataka and Maharashtra.”

Going digital-first for the Telugu offering is a category first. This marks another innovation from Viacom18 and is yet another first for it. The approach is strategic in nature. The aim is to drive good business value rather than just being a tick mark. Telugu is the fourth biggest language after Hindi, Marathi, and Bengali with 81 million speakers. This market has the highest video watch-time per day per user.

“The market is so stupendous. There is an audience, advertiser interest and we have proof of concept. On the consumer side, a large base is vocally asking for Telugu content. Voot’s contribution from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is relatively small now but will grow significantly with Colors Telugu. Our advertisers are very keen to be operating in Telugu. Colors Telugu has 1200+ hours of shows and movies,” Rakshit explained.

Movie and non-fiction content has a huge affinity in the Telugu due to the celebrity factor. Voot will be offering 150 Telugu movies to its customers. It is also doing a non-fiction show with celebrities called ace2three presents ‘Feet Up With The Stars’ powered by Asian Paints.

“This homegrown IP has had a tremendous response in other markets and we expect the show to do very well in Telugu also. It is not just the format but also being able to get close to their favorite celebrity that will interest viewers. Having said that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana also have a large film-going culture which is why we have got a large film slate,” he noted.

Rakshit said that the content costs are not as extreme as they are in the national market. “That market is emerging. But we face the same supply challenges at the national level.”

Core TG, customer acquisition, content plan

According to Rakshit, what differentiates Voot from other platforms is the skew of female and youth TG. “We are over-indexed in these audience segments. Women contribute north of 50% of our content consumption. It is about the nature of Voot and the kind of content that we bring to the table. This is our sweet spot. We are hence significantly dialing up our efforts in serving these audiences.”

In terms of customers acquisition, Voot is focussed on retaining customers. For the platform, retention is the new acquisition. Voot is the only platform to have a daily digital soap in ‘Silsila’. “These kinds of initiatives create a return user behaviour and habit as opposed to people only coming to binge-watch. The soap allows for the outcome of retention as people return to our platform every day.”

As far as the original IP ‘Feet Up With the stars’ is concerned, Rakshit is satisfied with its performance. He said that the show has done well with national stars but will resonate even more with local stars. He sees the show as being the primary driver. “Beyond that our film slate and our top shows like ‘Naagin’ that we get into Telugu will find viewership. We have four original fiction IPs under development as well.”

User engagement

He further said that an average consumer spends 50 minutes a day on Voot. One of the reasons for the higher time spent is that people have to commute for long hours. “Time spent is appointment driven. It is not just about filling in gaps in time alone. It is about people making time to watch the platform. The time spent gives you the idea that people are not snacking on Voot. Our time spent is an industry benchmark. Our content is sticky and we are headed in the right direction.”

Rakshit said that SVoD and AVoD are different media opportunities. He said that in the West some players have matured so much that growth is happening only in AVoD. He also warned against aping the West blindly. India, he said, is not a consumer economy. It is not a D2C business unlike the West but a B2B2C business where partnerships with distribution companies like telcos play a big role. “You have look at partnerships with telcos to bundle services.”

Asked about the economic slowdown, he noted that regional markets are bucking the trend. While overall spends are constrained more ad dollars are chasing the regional markets. “That is still showing good growth. There digital spends are still growing. Advertisers are moving to converse with audiences in the language of their preference and content of their preference. 70% of our advertisers like to use regional mediums in conjunction with national mediums to reach certain audience strata. Two-thirds of our monthly advertisers use regional content. First, you need to invest in content creation and aggregate consumption.”

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