5 Qs With Ferzad Palia On Marketing Content On OTT Platforms

The mainstay of Voot Select's marketing so far has been led by it's content marketing experience, says Palia

With movie theatres being shut during most part of the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a game-changing year for the media and entertainment industry. If the last decade was about PVRs and INOXs, 2020 turned to be the year of OTT entertainment.

Within just a year of its launch, Viacom18's, SVOD offering VOOT Select's  managed to cross the milestone of 1 Million subscribers. According to Ferzad Palia, Head- Voot Select, Voot Kids and International Business, Viacom18, this is a significant achievement for an OTT Platform. After successfully establishing itself in the Indian market, Palia informed that they recently expanded to US and in the next three to four months, aim on rolling out to another 10 international destinations.

In a conversation with BW Marketing World, Palia spoke about the impact of the pandemic on OTT industry, upcoming content on the platform, what does OTT mean for brands and more.


Q) How has the pandemic re-defined the OTT industry and what has been its overall impact on the business? 

We launched in March 2020. And it's been an unusual ride for us, like it has been for anybody else. Going back to the start, in March 2020, it was all very new. In the first wave, when we we went into the lockdown it disrupted a lot of our plans, needless to mention, because we were in the middle of a launch campaign and we had lots of content to put out.

Thankfully the good part was that we had a lot of content, because we had just launched Voot Select that point time. What has also helped us is that our content was getting great traction with customers, especially with the launch of ‘Asur’, which was our first original, which did phenomenally well.

I think that the pandemic helped us in a way because there was no fresh TV content that was available at that point of time and a lot of sampling of service happened during the month of March, April and May last year while there was lockdown, and people saw a lot of value in what we had to offer and therefore we were able to convert it into being paying subscribers at that point in time.

We then went into Bigg Boss in around October and we had a great experience for paying subscribers or Voot Select Members, with 24 hour live feed for the show. We had a new original called ‘Crack Down’, which did very well. And now cut to where we're back to the second phase, which seems to be rougher than the first phase.

As an industry and especially as Viacom18, we were prepared for such an eventuality to arise. We have moved quite a few of our shoots out of Mumbai and Delhi and we're hoping the situation gets better very soon.

Q) There is a surge of OTT players in the market. How do you differentiate yourself from others?

We had a strategy when we came in which was much after many players did. So, we had the advantage of watching from the outside and getting a lot of learnings as to what competition is doing and where we believe consumer behaviour will reach. And I think what we've really done is to solidify our proposition. We are made for stories. Now, those stories can be in the Hindi language or in regional language or in the English language. And that's what we really focused on that is either creating or curating for our members.

Given that we are not seeking to differentiate ourself in any specific way. I think the way we'd like to differentiate ourselves, if at all, is to tell the best possible stories that we can, whether it is through licensed content or whether it is through content that we create on our own. We would like to be known as the destination for the best stories. So, whenever you come to us, even if you haven't heard of a particular title, that Voot Select is putting something out, it's going to be off a certain quality and worth the time. 

Q) Please take us through your marketing objectives in terms of brand positioning.

There are different things that we market. A lot of our content is used for content marketing because that's our reason to exist. And each story has its own need and different way to be marketed, depending on the kind of audiences. We are still at the stage where there is increasing awareness as we're just 12 months old. We're very focused on reaching the right audiences and do not use ‘spray and pray’ kind of an approach where, you know, it is carpet bombing and you just hope that people will see your communication and come in.

That is what we have adopted so far and it's worked wonderfully well for us. It's like you would market an international original in a very different way than you would market a Hindi original from a regional original and from a non-fiction show. But the mainstay of our marketing so far has been led by the content marketing experience.

Q) In the next few months, what will be the content that will make Voot Select stand out. 

We have a very aggressive slate for 2021 and the early part of 2022 which is a combination of high scale originals which are very well produced, good stories. So, we have got a strong slate of that. And there are a few shows which are being edited right now. There are a few shows which were to start shooting now we've had to sort of re-organize and we're working around how we can get those on the floors as soon as possible.

There's a whole suite of regional language originals that we will be creating in multiple languages. We have several new properties on the non-fiction front, which is something that is too early to talk about currently. There is a phenomenal set of international originals, which will come to us, starting September from Showtime and CBS.  And there are some really big marquee shows that are lined up in the US which we will be airing in India at the same time as the US. It's a very aggressive slate that we have and there'll be a flurry of content for our members to watch. 

Q) How are brands leveraging the otherwise ad-free OTT platforms?

That is at a very nascent stage and there isn't too much that has happened because most of the paid services are ad-free except when there's a live event like sport, for example. I haven't yet come across an example where any brand has really made a mark on the premium OTT space.

But it's not to say that would not happen in the future because it's a very important base for a lot of advertisers to reach. This is a tough base to reach but the premium, as far as a subscriber base is concerned. I'm pretty sure that you will see brands being able to make some smart moves to do with integration and things like that on OTT platforms which are not regular advertising spots. But still, it is very early in the game.

Tags assigned to this article: