Spurred by its success in the audio cinema venture, UTV New Media, the interactive arm of UTV Software, is stepping up its digital initiatives to roll out at least three new products, of which video celebrity blogs is the latest addition.
Unlike audio cinema, which at present is more a subscription-based product, the company is betting big time on the celebrity blogs and intends to eventually leverage it as a marketing tool, provided it gets the desired scale.
"The more we tasted the audio cinema success, the more it set us thinking — what could be a few triggers that are most scalable and can be replicated in new avatars? With audio cinema, we saw a scale coming in from smaller towns. It happened on mobile phones, something television could not achieve in 20 years. We are now going ahead and creating a new product on video and integrating it with the mobile and web platforms. It is the single biggest idea and could be the top digital revenue source in the country," said Ronnie Screwvala, CEO, UTV Group.
UTV New Media, which contributes around three per cent income to UTV Software’s overall business, expects its contribution to grow with more product additions. The audio cinema business currently has 1.5 million subscribers, says the company. Each subscriber pays Rs 30 a month to listen to Sholay, Wake Up Sid, and episodes of popular soaps such as Ramayan. With video blogs, the company expects to generate more numbers as it will go in for aggressive celebrity tie-ups and constantly evolve and generate new content.
"Audio cinema gave us the understanding that there is a market for such products and is growing. It gave us the confidence. For video celebrity blogs, the important thing is scale. In 12 months, we are looking at 20 million subscribers, or around four per cent penetration. The idea is to go from being just a subscription-based to an ad-based model," said Manish Agarwal, CEO, UTV New Media.
Video blogs will be an operator-agnostic property as UTV New Media will enter celebrity tie-ups and create content, and telecom operators will only remain the last mile delivery.
"Bollywood and cricket have huge influence in India and can be used as powerful marketing tools. Tweets and blogs are already popular and something such as this only takes it a step ahead. To be able to monetise it, one needs scale — that’s the challenge. To get people interested, innovation and interactivity are essential ingredients. People feel empowered when there is interactivity. I see small but growing numbers for video blogs," said Max Hegerman, head - Tribal DDB India.