Video-On-Demand could be the next big thing to satiate the entertainment quotient of India’s increasingly digital-savvy youth. What is driving this trend is Indian audiences’ rising demand for on- the-go entertainment, thanks to the rapid Internet and smartphone penetration, particularly in the urban and semi-urban settings.
Premium VOD service provider HOOQ – a joint venture between Singtel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros – which entered the Indian market in the middle of 2015, is excited at the popularity of the medium.
As per a report by Research and Markets on Global Video-On-Demand Market, the industry is expected to reach $74.81 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 9.63%. North America holds the major share of market with Asia Pacific being the fastest-growing region.
India Digital Review’s Romit Bhattacharyya caught up with Salil Kapoor, MD, HOOQ-India, to talk on HOOQ’s India journey so far, the VOD market in the country, growth strategies and future offerings.
• How has the Indian audience responded to HOOQ's entry in the country? Could you please share some numbers?
HOOQ has been designed to create a unique, compelling entertainment offering for consumers. We have received some great response from the consumers with our offerings living up to their needs and requirements. While we are pleased with the initial response in all our launch markets including India, our focus is more on building a healthy and vibrant ecosystem to ensure the best possible experience for the end consumer.
• What is your strategy to win over emerging markets like India?
HOOQ's mission has always been to drive the entertainment revolution exclusively for the emerging market customer. We believe a one-size-fits-all approach will not meet the needs of everyone in emerging markets. To address the emerging market customer, pricing, content, payment methods and many other factors must be tailored. On pricing, in places like India, Philippines and Thailand, entertainment must benchmark to the price of a movie ticket, and below typical pay TV alternatives. With HOOQ, customers can get access to over 35,000 hours of movies and TV series from Hollywood blockbusters to the latest local hit TV shows, all for less than $4 per month. On content, we remain focused on the best of Hollywood with a strong emphasis on the best of local content. It is this combination, which our target customers require. On payments, HOOQ is working across the region with mobile carriers and alternative payment providers to offer the payment mechanisms needed for the average Indian, Filipino or Thai.
• Have you had to customise your offerings for the Indian audience?
Yes, keeping the Indian audience in mind, HOOQ offers customers an extensive range of over 10,000 Indian film and TV favourites. To deliver this, we partnered with the country’s top studios, including YRF, UTV Disney, Rajshri, Reliance, Shemaroo, Sri Balaji, AP International, Whacked Out Media and over 50 other studios. Customers can watch local high-grossing films such as Chennai Express, Vishwaroopam, as well as classic cinema like Ek Duje Ke Liya and Andaz Apna Apna.
• How fruitful do you think is digital marketing in a country like India?
As a brand, we cater to a set of audience that is present on all digital platforms. Digital marketing allows you to target audience on a whole new level. India is the third largest Internet user base in the world, and with increase in smartphone usage, it is becoming a hot ground for digital marketing. A report by eMarketer states that India will overtake the US as the second largest market for smartphones by 2016, as smart mobile devices become affordable. Thus, digital marketing clubbed with social media will help us in gaining relevant insights about our audience. Since our audience is online 24*7, digital marketing initiates an increase in brand awareness through recall value.
• What are the main challenges you face in reaching out and engaging with the digital audience?
The challenge lies in blocking the attention of the audience, since the attention span is very small, considering the amount of content present online. Thus, content engagement is a key issue. Moreover, Indians are conservative by nature, and hesitate in sharing information online. It’s important to realize that social media is not just about highlighting brand updates, but also to do with driving engagement. Often identifying and reaching out to the right target audience on social media is a challenge.
• What is your total budget for marketing and promotions? How much of it is for digital?
We have a decent budget set aside for marketing, but we operate like any other start up would. We want to ensure we have all of the key pieces of the puzzle in place before launching any large marketing activity. Our marketing mix will be a judicious mix of online and offline. Suffice to say digital media will be key.
• What are some of the key marketing initiatives that you are most excited about?
It’s still very early days for us. We should have updates on the same for you shortly.
• What are the major areas of investment for the company in the near future?
We are 100% focused on providing world-class entertainment experience to our customers in India. All investments and effort will be towards ensuring this, whether it be acquiring the best of Hollywood and local content, latest technology or partnering with the right partners.
• What are the plans in terms of new offerings, especially for the Indian audience, in the immediate future?
It Is our mission to provide the best of Hollywood and local entertainment to HOOQsters in India. Some of the biggest entertainment franchises like Matrix Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Harry Potter are exclusively available on HOOQ. We are also keen to bring some of the hottest and freshest new Hollywood TV series to HOOQ.
• What do you make of Netflix's (potentially your rival now) entry into India?
HOOQ wholeheartedly welcomes the entrance of a large established player like Netflix to quicken the pace of the evolution of the OTT category, which is still nascent. Overall, HOOQ is happy that a large player like Netflix is now seeing the same opportunity we have seen.