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There is clear emergence of snacking content: Vuclip’s Vishal Maheshwari

Over the past year, the mobile video-on-demand service has been firing up its content to consolidate its base. BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Vishal Maheshwari, Country Head, Vuclip, to find out about the VOD industry and the company’s srtategy

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | March 20, 2017

Vishal Maheshwari Vishal Maheshwari

Racing rapidly towards the finishing line, mobile video-on-demand service Vuclip has been trying to beef up its programming and hiring fresh talent to facilitate the process. There has been a focus on regional language content, content to target the young and emerging TG and much more. BestMediaInfo.com caught up with Vishal Maheshwari, Country Head, Vuclip, to understand the OTT industry and Vuclip’s strategy. Excerpts:

It’s been a year since you launched. What has changed in the industry and in Vuclip?

As far as the industry is concerned, the industry has seen the entry of new players. Solid names like Netflix launched before we did. Other players like ALT are about to launch. Players like TVF come and do content in their own app and then fall back into their YouTube channel. I think it has been a dynamic year, both in terms of the number of players that are coming in and the experimentation in platform versus content play.

The biggest evolution that has happened in the last one and a half years is a sharper definition beginning to take shape with respect to the players and their content identity. A year ago, the industry was looked upon as a clone of what was happening in the West – largely aggregated content, movies being played out on a big screen running in a cast mode or stream. Platform owners are starting to realise cloning will not necessarily work in the Indian context.

The Indian context will be a mobile first market. Even Netflix predicted the same. As a result of that what needs to really happen both in terms of length and duration as well as in terms of a clear idea of what the Indian consumer is seeking from his video-on-demand (VOD) is primarily fresh content.

We don't believe in things like library and library-based content at this point in time. If it is there as a relief, they may want to watch it. I think there is very clear emergence of snacking content versus content as a meal. A lot of the content is going to get consumed on the go.

Coming to Vuclip, we launched in March last year. Like every technology company, we clearly looked at this phase to build on our understanding of our base that we already have. We are one of the poster boys in the VOD world. Of all the people who started in 2008 in the mobile world, we are possibly the only survivors. One thing that we’ve done very well is to operate at the cusp of technology, media and content. We’ve really used that play in the last 12 months to understand the customer and what he wants from a VOD platform, a lot more strongly and a lot more clearly.

In the last one year, you may have gauged the kind of content that works for the Indian audience. Could you help us with some insights on that front?

The key insights we have is the way the customer differentiates content that is available to him on YouTube and what he expects from a VOD player. Very clearly, what he expects from a VOD player is high quality and fresh content, and in terms of production values very close to cinematographic type of execution. With that insight we went ahead and defined our upcoming content strategy. That has been a very big change and learning for us in terms of the consumers, what is going to work for them. Therefore, we’ve moulded our entire content strategy in terms of being able to put together something that is relevant for Indian consumers. It’s localised and made for India and then we will worry about the world.

We are building content relevant for young India. It is young, it is edgy and it deals with fairly whacky and zany situations. We are very clear we are not going to produce content that is available on television. We want to produce content the 18-24 really want. I don’t think the large players are looking at entering the regional market yet.

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You have been aggressively hiring talent in the last one month. How will the talent help you grow?

The time energy and the talent pool we’ve acquired has gone into place to put this entire game plan altogether. The objective has been to provide the best possible proposition to your customer and to your advertising partners. We believe in hiring the right talent and not numbers. We want talent that believes in data, analytics and insights and drives consumer’s decisions.

How has 4G's entry helped you grow?

With data prices beginning to come down, the intention and the ability of the Indian consumer to start firing up data and consume data is going to be high. But there are obviously going to be limitations that I won’t watch a three-hour movie, I will watch some 20-25 minutes of content or a three-minute content and those are the big differences that have happened in the entire space.

4G has done few things. It has made up for the deficiency of devices. If you’ve got a great device backed with a good 4G speed you can stream and download the content very fast. With 4G coming in, I’m happier to fire up my data consumption. Both ways it will benefit. What we saw six months back is only going to get better. It’s definitely going to help.

You recently launched two Telugu series – Pilla and Pelli Gola? What are the plans to launch other regional content?

Our strategy comprises Hindi (HSMs), Telugu and Tamil-speaking markets. Right now we’ve focussed on HSMs and Telugu-speaking markets. The reason why we’ve particularly focussed on these markets is that the size of the content consumption and the quality of the product is very high. Telugu and Tamil will actually exceed Bollywood in terms of size after Bahubali is launched this year. We see a large opportunity in these locations. These markets are highly internet savvy and where we think the VOD can be developed.

We want to learn from these markets and then concentrate on Tamil content. We want to build our presence there in 60-90 days.

The known base of internet users in India is 300 million. A large part of that base consists of mobile users. Then there is an overlap of different screens. We are looking at targeting a base of 200 million mobile users. 60 per cent of the base falls under HSM markets and the balance 40 per cent under Tamil and Telugu speaking markets.

What are the prospects of regional language content for OTT players?

We believe people like to consume content first in their own language and then in a secondary language in their own territory. Regional doesn’t mean only regional content, it means understanding the lay of the land and then figuring out whether crossover content can be introduced in these locations. Regionalisation is important but what is more important is how you execute that. It is not a question of slamming 30 Tamil movies and say I do Tamil.

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Vuclip offers Korean content as well. Why should a person come to Viu to watch Korean drama?

None of the players in India have Korean content. We are about three weeks old for Korean content in India. The per-minute consumption we are seeing in Korean content is amazing. Korean content tends to tick all aspects that the youth are looking for -- young, fresh, bite-sized, and contemporary.

What is your current subscriber base in India? How much has the base increased since you launched? Male, female, which regions are strong?

We have 2.5 million monthly active users (MAU). What matters to us are the MAU and the daily active users (DAU). Our DAU are 8-11 per cent of what our MAU is. The figure is as of January 2017.

Like with the internet in India, we are male skewed. Typical time periods that are good for content consumption are four and six in the evening and then after 9 pm. Our TG is 15-34; very few of them, say over 10 per cent, are over the age of 34.

Which other markets are like India?

India is massively unique. We cannot copy paste what we are doing in market ‘x’ to market ‘y,’ it is a recipe for disaster. It is said that Malaysia is a similar market, but it is also a very different market. People there don't have pay TV, they don't have 900 TV channels. So as far as media penetration and market consumption is concerned, it is a very limited market. There may be some characteristics that match with other Asian markets.

Last year you launched a cricket comedy original series ‘What the Duck?’ How did that show do for the platform?

We got over 50 million views. In fact it has done so well that we are contemplating for a second season.

What are your plans to produce original series this year?

Last year we produced two original series – What the Duck and Viru ke Funde. This year we have a slate of eight that are ready for release in Telugu and you can expect a similar velocity to happen every quarter.

What kind of programming works on OTT platforms?

In Hindi, our learning was that fresh and contemporary work better than big and popular. We realised that for the bigger titles, people have already paid money and seen it in cinema theatres and some four and a half times on television. By the time they come to our platform, they are not interested in watching it. We give them left of centre movies that they may have missed out on television and that does extremely well for us. Crossover content works very well – like a south action movie that is dubbed.

Do you feel threatened by the entry of Netflix and Amazon Prime in India?

Right now, VOD is like a game of golf. The market is so large and wide. There are three or four tiers to the market. There is a market that Netflix will cater to, Amazon has got its own market and TVF (The Viral Fever) has its own market. The market is so large that you would want to know what the other guy is doing, but is that going to drive what we are doing? That’s really not the case. We have our own game plan. We will play on the basis of what our consumers tell us. It will be very long before we start eating each other.

The big players already have their tie-ups with the Yash Rajs and Dharmas of the world. Are you looking at partnering with the larger Indian content studios and production houses?

We have partnered with the larger studios in Tamil and Telugu markets. Annapurna Studios, the largest studios in the Telugu market, have partnered with us to make content and that’s a very deep investment. We want to work with the younger film makers as they understand the younger TG better.

Apart from that, we have partnerships with Samsung, Micromax and Intex and all these partnerships help us to reach our customers at great reach and velocity. The devices are obviously at a higher end and can support the right kind of experiences and I think these partners wanted to do something special and different, rather than do simple preload kind of activity. For Samsung, we’ve actually created a software development kit (SDK) that resides within the My Galaxy 2.0. For Micromax, we have the light Viu-live player which has the light SDK.

What kind of advertisers have been on board Viu?

We’ve had advertisers like Pepsi, Airtel, McDowell’s and even BJP. Those are some of the brands we’ve had. We’ve been careful with how many advertisers we should run on the platform. We would easily go out and roll pre-runs, runs and post-runs. We’ve also been careful on the advertisers. The ones we have worked with are the best in class. They’ve got advertising that resonates with the youth.

What are you doing to provide brands’ integration and an interruption-free experience for the consumers?

If you look at ‘What the Duck,’ Pepsi had massive brand integration in that. That almost ran like an AFP (advertisers funded programme). We are obviously looking at deeper brand integration in the future.

While a lot of advertisers/brands put money in digital, is the issue of ‘measurement’ solved?

I think we follow all standards of measurement that our partners lay down. We don’t think any of the advertisers would be with us if we weren’t compliant of the standards that are set.

What is your pricing strategy this year?

We will continue to be a freemium product. We have a model where 70 per cent of our content is free and 30 per cent of our content is behind the paywall. Our monthly subscription is Rs 99 on Android and Rs 120 on iOS. We are integrated across carriers, payment wallets and credit cards.

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