Arun Prakash

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL / CONTENTS - su­raj.ram­nath@afaqs.com

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

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