Indian media and entertainment giant Viacom18 is trying to carve a niche for itself in India’s overcrowded over-the-top (OTT) space.
On Nov. 12, the Mumbai-based network launched the multiformat app Voot Kids that offers children a collection of over 20,000 videos, e-books, stories, and quizzes in Hindi and English. The app will be separate from Viacom 18’s advertisement-led, OTT platform Voot.
Voot Kids, whose annual subscription plan is priced at Rs799 ($9.8), adds to Viacom18’s kids’ portfolio comprising TV channels Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. Its kids channels lead the genre on Indian television with a market share of over 34%, according to the company. The network boasts exclusive rights in India to air popular cartoon shows such as Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol, and also Indian ones such as Chhotta Bheem.
In the general entertainment OTT category, though, it is behind peers.
By some estimates, Viacom18’s Voot app, which was launched in 2016 and now has over 80 million monthly active users, lags home-grown rival Hotstar and international competitors such as Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Videos in terms of market share.
Voot Kids is not competing for eyeballs or revenues with Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, or Hotstar, according to Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO and managing director, Viacom18.
“Video content consumption is on the rise in India. It is estimated to be over Rs6,000 crore ($831 million) and growing,” Vats told Quartz India. “There are huge gaps in kids’ digital ecosystem. There is no single platform meeting kids’ entertainment and education needs at the same time. Voot Kids is aimed at filling this gap.”
In an interview, Vats talks about the importance of screen time for kids, bundling fun, and learning together and the challenges that parents and kids face in navigating the online space safely. Edited excerpts:
What are the key consumer insights that have gone into creating the Voot Kids app?
Many parents feel children’s screen time is junk time. Yet, with the digital revolution, the truth is, we cannot run away from the reality of children spending time watching video. So, we thought of flipping this notion of screen time being a non-productive activity on its head. With our brand philosophy of “Masti Main Acchai” (There is goodness in fun) we want to let parents know that fun time for kids can also be learning time for them.
How is Voot Kids positioned?
Entertainment is at the core of the app, but it’s not just about entertainment, it’s an edutainment product. When you hear of an OTT offering, you instantly think video. Next, one moves on to think about product and service offerings such as Apple, Kindle and other music apps. Voot Kids is a combination of all these products and services. It’s a first of its kind multi-format product. It makes kids’ video-watching and learning a richer experience.
There are many entertainment and edutainment apps like ChuChu TV and YouTube. How do you plan to compete with them?
We are trying to create a new digital ecosystem for kids. Voot Kids offers videos, audiobooks, e-books, quizzes, and gaming. Each of these segments is highly interactive. For example, our book reader is highly interactive. When we say, “The sun rises in the morning,” and a kid puts a finger on the sun, the app shows how morning comes. She learns to pronounce as well as spell words. In the kids entertainment-edutainment market, there are white spaces, and Voot Kids fills this gap.
YouTube, with its advertising-based model, might be the biggest free video content provider, but with our multi-format content offering, we are uniquely placed to offer kids both fun and learning.
What’s your target group and content strategy?
Our larger audience group for the app is kids in the 2-12 years age group. Having said that, the primary target group is 2-6-year-olds.
We have a strong content library, courtesy of our two existing kids offerings on TV—Nickelodeon and Nick India. We have also borrowed content from Warner Media, Oxford University Press, Green Gold, Ceebeebies, TV Asahi, Sony Music, Hasbro, Mattel, Lego. Then we have also sourced content from Indian IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) and from countries like South Korea and Japan. Our content portfolio consists of everything outside Walt Disney. It’s a massive advantage for us.
Going by your experience on TV, what are the most popular genres, and characters in kids entertainment?
Kids in India enjoy international as well as Indian content. Those in the two- to four-year age group enjoy watching international shows such as Peppa Pig. For older kids, the favourite characters and shows are Motu Patlu, Shivaay and Chhota Bheem. Indian kids’ entertainment market is big on animation.
Exposure to age-inappropriate content is a big concern when kids are online. How are you addressing safety concerns of parents?
The product has a strong in-built parental control and feedback mechanism. Parents can monitor and control the kind of videos kids watch on the app. We also have built-in features that help parents evaluate their kids’ performance, when it comes to learning through the app.
Voot Kids is a subscription-based offering. Are viewers ready to consume paid content, particularly in the kids’ space?
As a paid product, Voots Kids is an ad-free platform available in English and Hindi languages. Before launching the product, we carried out a simulation exercise looking at how much money parents spend on say video and other entertainment products for kids. Based on these insights, our monthly subscription plan is priced at Rs99 and we also have an annual plan for Rs799.
What’s the key challenge facing the company as it woos parents and kids?
The Voot Kids launch presents us with a classic marketing challenge, wherein we have to effectively communicate to parents why this app is relevant to their kids and educate them on how to use it. Creating awareness is a key challenge.