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We’re the fastest OTT platform in India to hit a million active, paying subscribers in less than a year: Ferzad Palia, Viacom18

  • As Voot Select completes a year of its launch, we take a look at the kind of growth it has witnessed in an otherwise difficult year.
  • Ferzad Palia, Head – Voot Select & International Business, Viacom18 takes us behind the scenes, telling us all that worked in favor of the platform and all that can be expected out of it in the next few months.

It’s been a year since Viacom18’s over-the-top platform Voot launched its SVOD offering, Voot Select. It has been an eventful year but for the platform too, it has been one of a lot of milestones. “We’re the fastest platform in India to hit a million active, paying direct-to-consumer subscribers in less than a year,” shared Ferzad Palia, Head – Voot Select & International Business, Viacom18, during an exclusive interaction with us.

The platform was launched in March last year, right before the country went into its first (of many) lockdowns. And while it would have been a disadvantage for any business to launch at the moment, it did not work as a deterrent for Voot Select.

People were stuck at home, desperately looking for some sort of entertainment. With production of fresh content on hold everywhere too, even TV wasn’t showing anything new. That’s where OTT players like Voot gained big. People were open to experimenting. And they were willing to pay for content that they liked. So eventually, its launch time worked in its favor.

“Once we got off to a good start, the first thing that worked wonderfully well for us was our first original, Asur. It really got the audience to sit up and take notice because that’s the power of one story. That probably gave us our biggest jump, right in the beginning which then got people to sample us and see what else we had to offer. And people liked that as well,” said Palia.

The early inflow of audiences that came onto the platform put the platform on a strong growth trajectory and good momentum right, explained Palia. However, has the platform been able to keep up this initial momentum? “Yes, and that is really heartening for us. Obviously, we’re not growing at the same pace as we grew in the first four months but that’s also because we were a new service. But we’ve seen consistent month-on-month growth, even after the country has pretty much opened up. Despite being a price-sensitive market, there’s been a big change in the audience mindset because they are now willing to pay for content, and good content experiences as long as there’s something there for them to buy and at an affordable price,” said Palia.

So is he confident that this growth momentum will continue, even this year? “While its early for us to gauge, I think we will grow in multiples. Our plan for FY22 is essentially doubling or even tripling down on originals, our before-TV offerings, our international suite as well as our marketing spends. If we do a few things right, like we did in the year gone by, we’ll be right up there,” he answered.

The platform will also continue to focus on strengthening its technology, to be able to give people the best possible experience, added Palia. The focus will also be on regional original content owing to the fact that there has been an increase in the amount of subscribers coming from outside the top 10 metro cities.

“We already have about five originals ready, which we are yet to release, in Tamil and Bangla. And we will be creating more this year. We’re still very new and therefore wanted to focus on getting the first market right, which is the Hindi-speaking audiences. And now that we’re very confident with that, we will now start getting our learnings from regional markets. There should be between 10- 12 regional originals from us in FY22.

And lastly, is he concerned about the OTT guidelines impacting the way they tell stories? “Not at all! Guidelines have always been around. We know that we have a responsibility to society, to the audience, to our customers, whether they’re paying customers or customers who are on our AVOD service. We’ve always managed to stay within the boundaries as a responsible entertainer so I don’t see that changing at all. There’s nothing on our platform which circumvents any of the rules,” he explained.

Along with new regional content, Voot Select will also be the new home to Showtime content in India and the exclusive destination for upcoming Paramount+ shows in the country. Its international content offering will include titles like Dexter (Limited Series), Ray Donavan Feature-Length Film, The First Lady from showtime and Frasier (Reboot) & Why Women Kill S2 from Paramount+ amongst others. Business Insider

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