VuClip’s president on the brand’s ambitious plans.
Viu, a video-on-demand (VoD) service provider by PCCW Media and Vuclip has a presence in more than 22 countries. The platform recently launched its originals in the Tamil Nadu (TN) market with content that includes Tamil originals and short films, Korean dramas, and curated content for the enjoyment of millennials in Tamil Nadu. In India, the platform has already launched 20 originals and will be launching 20 more by the end of the year. Viu plans to launch around 95 originals in the next twelve months.
Suraj Ramnath interviewed Arun Prakash, president and chief operating officer, Vuclip, to understand the way forward for the platform in India, the focus on regional content and the challenges. Excerpts:
Viu plans to launch 100 originals in Tamil in the next three years. How do you plan to target the Hindi-speaking audience?
This year, we will have been done with programming 95 originals across all our markets. It is a path we started on 18 months ago, a path we’re scaling because of all the learnings/data we have gathered after making originals in these markets. Originals will be an important element in all target markets.
Our strategy is based on local content, leadership teams, experience and pricing. We will not spend all our time making and marketing just one piece of content... then the consumer will watch it and uninstall the app. Our ambition is to create a habit.
What makes you think that the TN market has matured enough to consume all 100 originals that Viu is making?
We look at quite a few parameters. One of the parameters is internet adoption. The second is the maturity of the consumer audience and their taste and preference of what they are looking for. If the consumer is already satisfied with what’s happening on television, why do you have to do something different and new? But our data from TN tells us the opposite. The youngsters may be doing a lot more of passive viewing of TV. So, there is a tremendous opportunity to provide content for the youth and that content doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in the form of any digital platform or any mainstream TV platform; so there is a vacuum and a hunger.
For example, if most households are being dominated by Sun TV, the youth don’t get the kind of content they deserve. So, the entire equation is created on the basis of that which doesn’t satisfy a lot of young audiences who are left behind in terms of serving their common needs. This then creates a massive opportunity for platforms like ours.
Viu had tied up with the likes of BBC and Balaji Motion Pictures. Is it still an on-going deal and who else have you partnered with?
We tie up with anybody who has a great story to tell. When we decide to make content, we let the content decide the format. We don’t get into the content deciding it will be a mini-series or a movie. A lot of people make the mistake of the format dictating content. For Telugu, we have tied up with Annapurna Studios. In Tamil Nadu, we are talking to new content creators who have done content for youth.
Compared to the competitors, Viu is not visible in terms of advertising. Is that a planned move and if so, why?
This is exactly as planned. We would not like to change this. There are a couple of things one, for India as a market, consumer adoption of OTT is still in its very early stages. The hypecycles are way too much and the investment levels are also too high, which reminds me of dotcoms. This is a bubble which is waiting to implode. A lot of people are creating a lot of hype when the consumer is just getting started on the journey. We are here to develop that consumer journey and we will develop along with them.
The second point is - in developing the consumer journey, we focus first on substance. You first have to show your value to customers. Why should they even download an app on an on-going basis? Why shouldn’t they un-install it? The journey has to be fully developed where you earn a place as a habit in the consumer’s mind and heart. Once there... you amplify.
I am a firm believer of not getting caught in market hype. Many companies make empty noise which means they put style first before they even create the substance. Some companies do both together - I will create substance and in parallel, make a lot of noise. But a company like Vuclip believes that substance should come first in the sequence with amplification later on.
How are you promoting the Tamil content right now?
We made our launch announcements through above the line (ATL). Our general philosophy is that we drive a lot of organic growth. So a lot of word of mouth. To me, that is a good way to let your content do the talking, but that alone won’t be enough. We do focus more on BTL and digital and only after we establish a steady stream of an on-going habit, then we would do an immense amount of ATL.
We won’t rule out promoting our new content through the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). There is a lot of potential in the TN market on what we can do in terms of associations and creating content and there are a lot of interesting dialogues happening right now. We just have to be focused because it is very easy to want to take part in everything... but we have to be focused.
What are you doing in terms original content for Hindi-speaking markets (HSM)?
We are and have been doing content for HSM and we will continue. I think we make very unique content for these markets, not do the same that you see on TV.
Challenges for Viu and the OTT segment in India?
To not get caught in the hype-cycle. There is a massive amount of hype, much more than or several times more than any other country we are seeing. So, our first challenge is to make sure we do not get caught in this noise and stay true and focused on what we are here to create. The second is that the industry has too many players. It creates a difficulty for them when it comes to making content. They are making superexpensive content and I think that’s a challenge.
My belief is that in the next 3-5 years, this industry is in for a massive consolidation. The reason I say this is because OTT is not a one-, two- or even a five-year game. It is a 10 year plus game and it is not a near-term profitable game. You cannot become profitable overnight in this business and overnight here is not even 3-5 years. Third, it is not an inexpensive game. You need a massive amount of investment each year to succeed.
There will be only a handful of players and we know who that handful will be and those who are going to be left behind. Those left will be the ones with deep commitment and pockets and have the expertise to play the game. Viu is one of those in the handful and that comes from buying strength from PCCW and Vuclip.n