Anirban Roy Choudhury

"The road ahead is collaboration, and not competition": VOOT's Akash Banerji

The head of AVOD business, VOOT, feels it’s not the time to ‘tom-tom’ numbers to establish superiority over peers, like Hotstar, ZEE5, SonyLIV, among others.

We’re currently in phase five of the lockdown. It has reportedly resulted in a surge in the consumption of video-on-demand (VOD) streaming in India. Viacom18's VOOT, one of the large players in the market, claims to have more than 100 million monthly active users, with an average time spent of around 50 minutes. VOOT has also witnessed a surge in its consumption.

Akash Banerji, head, AVOD business, VOOT, however, feels it’s not the time to ‘tom-tom’ numbers to establish superiority over peers, like Hotstar, ZEE5, SonyLIV, among others. "It is time to collaborate," he says.

India is gradually crawling towards ‘unlocking’. The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost all the major industries in the country, including media and entertainment. A complete ban on (fresh) filming was announced back on March 18, resulting in television channels running out of content. According to analysts, frustrated Indians reached out to the ‘small screen’ to escape the reality, which happened to be rising COVID-19 cases, dying migrant labourers, and people losing their jobs.

While the positive impact of the lockdown on OTT (platforms) is widely talked about, the mushrooming medium had to face initial blows, too. In India, the video streaming business has a few international players, and a handful of domestically grown platforms, like ALTBalaji and Hoichoi. Most of the consumption happens on the on-demand platforms of large media networks. "The reality is, for network-OTT players, catch-up TV content is our bread and butter, and it was gone," says Banerji.

To counter that loss, the platform decided to invest its energy and resources in stitching fresh partnerships, promoting archival content, and backing news channels. "Mythology content, which was there in our library, is being consumed a lot, then news channels saw a 100 per cent growth in consumption. News was always there on the platform, but with no significant consumption. We are about to announce our association with at least six to seven more news channels," informs Banerji.

When Banerji says news, he means the traditional news channels, like News18, India Today, and others. The OTT platforms embed news channels within the VOD interface, allowing their users to access them whenever they want (to). The likes of VOOT and Hotstar then monetise the news broadcast by displaying ads on the screen. The revenue then gets shared between the OTT platforms and the news network.

VOOT has also partnered with edutech platform upGrad... Going forward, Banerji says, VOOT will associate with partners in the ‘mind, body and soul’ space. "We will partner with players offering health