Video streaming platform Ullu, generally known for its adult content, is shifting gears to become more family-friendly in its 2.0 version and will increase its digital marketing spends to promote the change, says CEO and Founder Vibhu Agarwal.
“60% of our spends will be allocated to digital and 40% to outdoors. Earlier, we had allocated 70% for outdoor and 30% for digital. But now we realise we get more conversions and eyeballs on digital than outdoor. More people are on their phones and when they see an ad, it immediately translates to conversions. OOH helps to build the brand, make it stronger and raise awareness. We are in talk with some print publications for ads,” Agarwal told BestMediaInfo.com.
With Ullu 2.0, the platform will introduce a ‘Censor’ filter, known as Censored Movie Programming, to make it more family safe. Switching it on will automatically make the content suited for family consumption and all adult content will be edited out.
“Once you switch it on, all our A-rated movies will get censored as per the Censor Board norms. There will be a warning for alcohol and cigarettes, abusive language will be beeped out, and violence and sexual content will be edited out,” he said.
Since its inception, Ullu has become synonymous with adult content. As it embarks on its journey to Ullu 2.0, it will have a tough task to transform the brand perception. As part of that, the brand will soon launch Ullu merchandise, Ullu telecommunication, Ullu music, and even an e-commerce platform.
“Through these efforts, we are trying to change our perception. We don’t have only one focus, we are into everything. Through Ullu merchandise, we want to diversify and change people’s perceptions of Ullu. We will bring T-shirts, nightwear, fashion wear, accessories, etc. The products, the warehouses, and the app are ready and we were to launch on April 1. But we have had to put our plans on hold due to the second wave. We will launch it once things get back to normal. In a year, we will also launch an e-commerce portal,” he added.
Ullu telecommunication will enable digital connections such as WhatsApp and apart from text messaging and video calling, it will have a search-based feature. “It will allow users to search based on distance. For example, if you are searching for a plumber, then it will provide you the contacts of plumbers according to the kilometres you put. We are hoping to launch it by next month,” said Agarwal.
Ullu music will give budding artists a chance. “We have a really good YouTube channel and garnered 1.5 lakh subscribers in the last 4-5 months. We are giving a chance to those people who have made songs but aren't able to release them. We have made them into albums and got a really good response there,” he added.
Apart from the marketing efforts, they are working on their content by offering more premium stuff. “Though we had that section before, we are bringing more of that now. We are ready to do outdoor shoots not only in India but also in Dubai, UK and California. These are some efforts we are putting in, the rest is up to the audience,” he said.
With Ullu 2.0, they will create segments in their content: Ullu Gold and Ullu Silver. While Ullu Gold will feature the latest movies and fresh content, Ullu Silver will have content more than six months old. “We are targeting the deep or average pockets for Ullu Gold. Ullu Silver can be watched at a nominal price of Rs 36 for six months or Rs 54 for a year,” he said.
The brand will introduce an AVod model for consumers who do not wish to spend for watching content. Ullu has a major presence in tier II, tier III and tier IV cities, and have largely been approached by brands that wish to reach that audience or by those who need volume sales.
“We have received many offers in the last three to four months from across India. Some of them may be from the B category. We are not getting ads from A category brands and only a certain segment is approaching us. There's a perception that Ullu has only adult content so we get those kinds of ads. We are approached by good quality brands for volume sales,” he said.
They are now integrating with Google to receive category-specific ads. “We have 12+, 16+, and 18+ categories on our platform. With Google algorithms, there will be category-specific ads. We are seeing how this integration works,” he added.
Ullu is looking to expand internationally and is in the process of having collaboration in California. They also plan separate verticals in different continents—Ullu Asia, Ullu US, and Ullu UK. “We will produce films locally there or stream their local content. It can be watched by all audiences with subtitles or one can watch the dubbed versions. In the 2.0 version, you can watch a movie in up to six languages: Hindi, English, Bhojpuri, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali.
The OTT segment saw a phenomenal growth last year due to the pandemic-induced lockdown and Ullu benefited from it. Agarwal said they witnessed a 220% growth, both in revenue and subscriber base, during the lockdown last year. They now have 48 million users. With Ullu Silver, they hope to increase their subscriber base by another 40-50%. “Ullu Silver targets people who stay away because they do not want to pay. We already have a large section of people who are willing to pay for fresh content. With Ullu Silver, we will have an extra 40-50% audience coming to our platform,” he said.
They propose to make 108 web series this year and have already given approvals — 42 were approved in the last month. “Since the lockdown was imposed, shootings have come to a halt. We will start shooting once the lockdown is lifted,” he said.
In February, the government introduced the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, bringing in a three-tier regulatory system to monitor the OTT industry. Agarwal said that new guidelines have not affected them adversely. “We accept the guidelines, but we only want the government to give us some more time to implement it,” he said.
Speaking on recent instances of censorship by fringe elements, Agarwal said the platforms should create content in consultation with their legal team. Despite that, if it faces any trouble, then the government’s recent guidelines for the creation of a grievance cell should take care of it.
“Platforms while making content should get their legal and creative teams together. We know the social fabric of the country and how people react to the content. While creating content, they should keep that in mind. Otherwise, if you have to edit anything out after the content is made, there will be a continuity break and the essence of the content will be ruined. So from the beginning, consider people’s sentiments while taking a creative call. Even after that if there’s a problem, then the government has made the provision for a grievance cell. The viewers can write to it,” he said.