Manish Dutt and Krish Dutt, Directors at VR Films & Studios, talk about their new OTT platform VROTT, dubbed Global Ka Local, as they explore a new market segment that has ensured big success…They are in the European Film Market at the Berlinale to explore more
How did you manage to successfully transition VR Studios into a content machine with your unique OTT platform VROTT?
VROTT’s transition is a natural one—an extension of our existing core verticals, namely, acquisition of content and localization. Earlier, we used to provide content and localization services to other existing TV Platforms, OTTs, etc. Now, besides the existing client base, we cater to another in-house vertical VROTT, a SVOD platform, wherein we premiere content exclusively every alternate week. This has helped us scale up business multifold, and also enter the OTT space which will help us stay ahead for a long time.
What piques your interest in the Indian market and audience? What drew your attention to this segment?
The Indian market is huge and extremely complex. In India, the majority of platforms only cater to Hindi / Tamil / Telugu or Hollywood originals from big studios / big ticket films. Independents and Global Cinema from Scandinavia, Russia, Turkey, and the majority of Europe, including France, Spain, Hungary, Poland, the Baltics, the Netherlands, Belgium, China, Korea, and Thailand, had no purchasers for the Indian market.
We decided to explore this segment. The content available Worldwide is just brilliant. We gained a large subscriber following by localising this content in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu and premiering it on VROTT. The Indian public prefers to see Global Cinema in their native language. It differs significantly from the present programming provided to the audience by other players. This helped us reach a larger audience because we were different from the other players and provided something no one else did.
Covid has caused a significant shift in audience preferences all across the world. What changes prompted you to launch your OTT?
Following Covid, revenue generators such as Theatrical and Pay TV were severely impacted. We, as content providers, were simply unable to monetise our work. Audiences were forced to consume material on OTT platforms on mobile or simulcast on television from the comfort of their living rooms or bedrooms. There was no time limit, and the viewers could access the content whenever they wanted. This was an excellent time to start our own OTT Platform and provide audience content from around the world. We were no longer reliant on other platforms to exhibit our content, such as theatres and pay television.
I believe that launching our own OTT Platform was a wise decision.
You’ve been acquiring content for quite some time. In addition, VR Films & Studios is highly known in market circuits. What is your content differentiation strategy?
We’ve been obtaining content from Hollywood for more than 22 years. Rather than limiting acquisitions to popular Hollywood /Studio programming with big star casts, we now focus on purchasing content from all over the world in exotic languages. Of course, big names make a difference, but monetization recovery is impossible. Budgets are the primary concern. Thus we buy solely for our platform VROTT any content with outstanding production quality and engaging subjects like Thrillers, Horror, Action Adventure from around the world. We provide exclusive content on VROTT that is not available on any other platform, in the original language with English subtitles and localised in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.
You’re a dubbing pioneer? How has this aided you in the OTT business?
No OTT platform in the world has an in-house dubbing setup. VROTT is the first OTT Platform with in-house dubbing capabilities, with over 80 dubbing studios across India catering to localization in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Urdu, and more languages. The Pandemic raised awareness among existing OTT platforms and expanded the reach of dubbed content. The number of subscribers increased dramatically. The need for localization was enormous. This worked in our favour.
Since we had the expertise in content acquisition and had infrastructure to localize content, launching our own OTT Platform was a big help. We could localize 600+ hrs of original content in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu languages in just three months and launched the VROTT platform. This was a huge advantage to us and did take many by surprise as well.
What genres work in India? Is VROTT restricted to South Asia region?
Thriller, horror, drama, teen romance, action, adventure, sci-fi, disaster, and conflict all these genres work exceptionally well. VROTT is currently targeting the Indian market. We plan to expand into the MENA region soon. Negotiations for integration with telecom players in the MENA Region are now underway.
What is your primary focus and purchasing goal at EFM?
Our primary focus is on Global Cinema with high production quality and engaging material. We are looking forward to acquiring content and premiering it on VROTT 2024 January onwards, as we are well stocked with content currently in post-production through Q4 2023.
How can you stand out in an Indian market with 50 OTT platforms?
That is really difficult, but fortunately for us, none of the 50 existing OTT Platforms are focused on the type of content we provide. They also do not support dubbed content. The majority of OTT platforms are original language based, such as Hindi Cinema, Tamil Films, Telugu, Malayalam, Non Fictional, and so on. There are 22 languages / dialects spoken, and each has one or more OTT platforms competing with it. Consolidation among rival platforms will occur soon. Being unique in our products remains our USP.
Has the decision to become a SME listed firm paid off? Is this part of your growth story?
Absolutely, it is a part of our development story. VROTT is the sole OTT platform that is currently listed on the SME BSE platform. Certain significant announcements, such as relocation to the main BSE Board, will be made soon. This will help the company grow and raise capital on the stock market in the future.
How has VROTT embraced rising technology and AI?
AI is a positive advancement, yet it is not without flaws. An AI cannot reproduce the emotions required to perform dubs. It will take a lot of work to perfect it. To produce the base voice in AI, dub studios, artists, authors, and so on will be required. All of them will coexist. But that’s an intriguing development, and we’re excited about it.
Finally, how can you compete for viewers when the market is struggling?
Integrations, consolidations, and bundling package offers are the way to go. Soon, OTT Aggregators will emerge, offering all 50 OTT Platforms under a single label. Aggregators will compete with one another, and the viewers will benefit from the price war. With a single payment, a customer would gain access to 50+ OTT platforms. The audience will benefit the most from this.
The best way forward for VROTT is price sensitivity, solid exclusive content, and bundling with as many integrations as possible with existing big OTT players. Times are difficult, but they are also interesting.