As competition in the over-the-top (OTT) digital content space in India grows, with the presence of deep-pocketed global giants like Netflix and Amazon, Viu—the OTT platform from Vuclip and Hong Kong-based PCCW—is betting big on regional content to survive the consolidation that it says lies ahead.
“Our research data showed us around two years ago that audiences were looking for original, local content in regional languages which they could relate to. Other players seemed to have realised it later,” said Arun Prakash, chief operating officer of Vuclip.
From 16 million monthly active users in December 2017, Viu's user base grew to 20 million as of July.
Most original regional content, Praksh said, is made for TV, which goes by the ratings and usually caters to older audiences. But, Viu, he said, has a hyper-local approach, with a different strategy for the Telugu market as against that of Tamil content or Hindi content. “Currently we offer content in these three languages. But we are looking to expand into languages like Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, and Punjabi,” he said.
A recent PwC report pegged India's OTT video space to grow 23% compound annual growth rate and revenue from these services to touch Rs 5,595 crore by 2022, from Rs 2,019 crore in 2017. Given the crowding of the OTT space in India right now, with around 30-35 players across regions, Prakash said consolidation was inevitable. “I think in three to five years, a majority of them will not exist as they do today. In around a decade, we will probably have only five players left, and I believe Viu will be one of them.”
Just making one or two high noise originals won’t help. One needs to consistently offer good quality regional content.Arun Prakash, COO, VuClip
To survive this impending consolidation, Viu is betting big on original content to stand out in the crowd. Viu India has launched 12 originals in the first half of 2018 and plans 100 Tamil originals in the next three years.
“Majority of our investment goes into producing originals. Most of our viewership comes from there, too,” Prakash said, adding that globally, too, the company is doubling down on this bet, with plans to produce 95 originals by the end of 2018. “Just making one or two high noise originals won’t help. One needs to consistently offer good quality regional content,” he emphasised, perhaps referring to the aggressive marketing done for Sacred Games and Ghoul by Netflix.
With a firm foot on the pedal when it comes to India, Viu says it is also open to the inorganic route for expansion. “We have been approached by several players. We will consider something if it adds value to Viu and makes sense directionally,” Prakash said.
Going forward, Prakash said his vision for Viu is to make it a unicorn in the next three to five years, with 100 million users globally. But for the industry to grow as a whole, Prakash said some self-regulation was necessary. “One cannot make edgy content just because there is no censorship online. Viewers’ sensibilities have to be kept in mind. If we don’t self-regulate, then regulations may be imposed on us,” he cautioned.