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Viacom18, the 50-50 broadcasting venture between Network18 (controlled by Reliance Industries) and Viacom Inc, has identified three clear areas of synergy with telecom giant Reliance Jio — big data, content and technology. Speaking to Business Standard, Viacom18 Group Chief Executive Officer Sudhanshu Vats said: “As we go forward with Voot (the over-the-top digital channel), the big data available with us and the huge amount of data available with Jio about its consumers can be synergised, so that we can use it to curate and create relevant and better content for customers.” Jio has close to 150 million customers who consume over 1.5 billion GB of data every month — 70 per cent of that is consumed to see videos on mobiles. Viacom18’s OTT platform has 30 million active customers and has an average viewership of 50 minutes every day. It is the data about the consumer’s preferences — what programmes they want to see, which genre is popular, and the pattern of viewing, among others — that can help Viacom18 to sharpen its content strategy. Vats also said that Viacom can leverage the technology available with Jio. “As we go forward in live events (a new area of business for Viacom18), we will be able to do things in conjunction with Jio by using technology like virtual reality, 4K and also live streaming of such events.” The live events are essentially an extension of its brands and characters. Vats said that just like in the West and the US where convergence between content companies and telcos are happening, a similar trend would happen in India and with Jio and them. “I see synergy in the content space. We create high-quality content for the pipe; we have the content machinery as part of the expanded team.” The group CEO, however, also sees a major growth for the digital business and a substantial consumer base paying for the services. He said that by 2022, as many as 100 million subscribers to the OTT channel would be behind a paywall, while another 600 million would continue to get content that is free and supported by advertising revenues. At present, Viacom18 estimates that there are over 300 million customers who see some kind of video on their mobile phones or Net. This number, Vats said, would hit 700 million in the next three years.
As a result, Viacom18 would see a change in its revenue mix.At present, 80 per cent of their revenues come from television, 12 per cent from films and the rest from new businesses like digital, consumer products and live entertainment. “This will change in the next three to five years to 70 per cent TV, 15 per cent cinema, 8-10 per cent digital and the rest from others,” Vats said. To achieve its digital objectives, the firm is planning to launch Voot premium as well as a for-pay kids’ channel on OTT by the middle of the next year. On sports, Vats said that it was a “white space” and while they keep evaluating, the space is still dominated by cricket, which requires huge investments and has a long gestation period. Asked whether advertising revenues will shift from 8 per cent to 20 per cent of the total ad pie to sports after the audacious money paid by STAR India for the media rights of IPL, Vats said, “I don’t think advertising can be driven up so rapidly. In IPL 10, the stated advertising figure was Rs 1,200-1,350 crore. My sense is, you can increase it by 10 per cent to 20 per cent. (But) beyond this, it does not make sense for advertisers because there are considerable eyeballs in entertainment.” He also argued that sports business across the world is driven by increase in subscription revenues and cannot be made up only through advertising.