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India,Online Video

Viacom18 Ready To Join AVOD Arena

Viacom18, putting the final touches to its video streaming app Voot, is about to enter an increasingly crowded arena for OTT services in India, where rival broadcasters Sony, Star and Zee have had their own offerings up and running for a while.

Nonetheless, Viacom18 executives are planning to hit the ground running, kitting out Voot with original content and user functionality at launch that other services developed over time, in pursuit of 2 million daily active users within a year.

It’s a bold target, admits Viacom18’s CEO, Sudhanshu Vats.

“If we get things right, it is achievable,” he tells Media Business Asia. “It is a stretch, it’s not going to be easy.”

It’s also part of a move to shift the focus away from number of downloads, a metric that favors driver content such as sports, which Viacom18 doesn’t have, in favor of a measure more akin with TV.

Voot itself is designed to stand out from its rivals, Vats explains, from the brand itself, less overtly aligned with name of the parent company, to the positioning and product design. 

Viacom18 is leveraging youth-oriented genres where its linear channels perform well, such as reality, kids and comedy, adding some acquired shows to its own content to give Voot a character of its own.

Fresh programming

The service, scheduled to launch later this month, will go live with about 17,000 hours of content. That also includes 2,000-3,000 hours of unseen footage, mainly taken from Viacom18’s reality shows, curated around specific characters or themes.

Voot Originals will also build over time, launching with four to five productions, around 15-18 minutes long, with a new one added every month.

As an ad-supported service, a broad reach is critical, however. Dramas are also part of the the mix, while more genres such as movies will be added over time.

“We are not sharply targeting it,” Vats explains. 

“Strictly speaking it’s not niche,” he adds. “We are focusing on a particular segment, perhaps one that will give us an edge, but it is a little wider than that.”

Voot represents a sizable investment for Viacom18, in a sector that is only starting to take shape. 

The unit which developed it, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, is already the third largest unit for the broadcaster, after Colors, its flagship entertainment channel, and MTV.

A subscription tier for Voot is in the pipeline, for launch perhaps in a year’s time, while a separate service for TV sets, potentially delivered through broadband-enabled set-top boxes from pay-TV operators, is also in the works.

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