Benita Chacko

“OTT-first approach is music to advertisers' ears”: VOOT’s Chanpreet Arora

The head of Viacom18’s OTT platform speaks about the strategy to launch new reality entertainer The Khatra Khatra Show online before TV.

After launching its tentpole property Bigg Boss OTT first on Voot last year, recently Viacom18 experimented with streaming episodes of its comedy game show The Khatra Khatra Show on the OTT platform before television. Premiered on March 13, the show streams on Voot at 7 pm and airs on Colors at 11 pm from Monday to Friday.

“OTT-first approach is music to advertisers' ears”: VOOT’s Chanpreet Arora

In an interview with Chanpreet Arora, head - Voot, she says the digital-first approach of the network helps to widen the audience base and also to boost subscriptions.

“Different pieces of content serve different purposes. A show like Khatra Khatra is helping us cast the net wide, garner more audiences and bring them under the Voot fold. Comedy is one genre that appeals across age groups and geographies. And then there are some content pieces, which have big fandoms, like Bigg Boss, that play a critical role in both subscriptions and widening the audience base,” she says.

But does a four-hour gap between the OTT and television release help? Arora says they are still experimenting and are yet to find the best model.

“OTT-first approach is music to advertisers' ears”: VOOT’s Chanpreet Arora

“We are at a learning stage right now. We are going to do a lot of experiments over the coming years and this is one of those. Last year it was to exclusively stream Bigg Boss on OTT and this year it is an OTT-first experiment. It’s a 10-week season and we are only two weeks into the launch. We will learn more by the end of the year,” she says.

When OTT started mushrooming in India in 2016, the approach was initially led by the fact that the data streaming costs had reduced and platforms were discovering media dark markets. In the journey of premium OTT, the monetisation began with the TV content and it became a television catch-up platform. From being a catch-up medium, OTT seems to have come a long way now to provide the content before television.

“Six years later, we see a very strong maturity in content consumption habits of Internet users. The television viewers and OTT viewers are not necessarily overlapping anymore. We have 91 per cent tele-density in India, whereas TV density stopped at around 66 per cent. Both are very strong players, but cater to very different markets,” she says.

While OTT platforms of the big four networks (Star, Sony, Zee and Viacom18) have been streaming the reality shows of their respective channels for a long time now, it is rare to see reality shows as part of its original offering. Largely, the original content of these platforms include web series and films. It has also become common to see shows streaming on television and OTT at the same time, for example, Shark Tank on Sony TV and Sony Liv. In fact, Sony Liv had an extra episode of the business-reality show. But, an OTT-first approach is new in the segment.

“OTT-first approach is music to advertisers' ears”: VOOT’s Chanpreet Arora

“As OTT becomes the first screen, the writing is on the wall. Since the launch of Bigg Boss OTT, almost every OTT platform worth its salt is trying its own version of a nonfiction. So, it's here to stay. Our endeavour will be to replicate the network's flavour fully,” she says.

Arora says that personalised viewing is the way forward and it's here to stay. But that doesn’t doesn’t discount the importance of television content. “The fandom for television content cannot be underestimated. The love for certain characters and formats transcends platform. So it is not about discarding what we have (television), but enhancing it. That’s what you will see in Viacom's integrated approach,” she adds.

The digital-first approach allows the platforms to gain market share in the growing segment. But it comes with its challenges.

“Time is our biggest challenge. Second, as an ad-funded and subscriber-funded platform, the other challenge is educating the advertisers. Before the pandemic, digital was considered to be more of a bottom of the funnel platform, used just for last mile conversion. But now with Gen Z spending maybe 40 to 50 per cent of their time here, this is the platform to embrace now for brand awareness and creating brand affinity. The users have made the transition. Educating the advertisers across the long tail is our bigger challenge right now,” she adds.

Arora says the digital-first approach will help advertisers get real-time feedback.

“It is music to any advertisers ears because it brings with it addressability and a very intelligent pipe for feedback on their content, creatives and messaging. And also on whether it is working for the right set of audiences. It allows them to track their journey of awareness and engagement without having to wait for a consumer survey at the end of three months. The transparency of the digital system is one of the most unique and powerful tools that the advertisers have not had access to before,” she says.

The recently released EY-FICCI report ‘Tuning into consumer - Indian M&E rebounds with a customer-centric approach’ noted a de-growth in television subscription revenue of 6.2 per cent last year. But meanwhile connected TV sets increased to 10 million. It is expected to drive growth as the figure is expected to reach 14 million by 2022 and exceed 40 million by 2025.

“Our bigger interest area is how CTV advertising is going to disrupt the landscape. We are seeing in the US, 52 per cent of the OTT advertising is coming from connected TVs. With the cost of the television going down in India, we are expecting to see dramatic growth in it this year. As connected TVs go up the propensity to opt for nonlinear or even linear in a digital environment with strong WiFi connectivity is going up,” she says.

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