India's Viacom18 to Launch Video Streaming Service Voot

'Big Brother' India host Salman Khan
Viacom18 Colors

The latest digital video player in India will take on competitors such as Fox's Star India-backed hotstar and the recently launched Netflix, among others.

India's competitive online video landscape will see the launch of a new player, Voot, by the end of March.

The streaming video service is backed by Viacom18, the joint venture between Viacom and India's Network18, which operates such TV networks as MTV India, VH1, Comedy Central and flagship Hindi entertainment outlet Colors, among others.

Promising a mix of domestic and international content, Voot is an advertising-supported service that will be offered free to consumers at launch. It will take on a host of competitors, such as the recently launched Netflix India; Fox's Star India-backed hotstarHooq, backed by Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and Singapore Telecom; and Indian film major Eros International's ErosNow, among others.

Viacom18 CEO Sudhanshu Vats told THR that Voot would also launch “a subscriber-based service in due course.” Further details as to monthly pricing and whether the subscription service would come ad-free or with limited ads will be announced later.

Star India's hotstar is an ad-supported free service, while Netflix launched its India service in January starting with a basic package of about $7.35 (500 rupees) per month. The ad-free ErosNow offers a limited-content free service, while monthly subscriptions start at 70 cents (49 rupees) with a premium HD service at $1.45 (99 rupees). Hooq's ad-free service is offered at a monthly price of about $2.90 (199 rupees).

Vats said Voot will draw on Viacom18's 10,000-plus hours of content in addition to a slate of original programming. Also included in the mix is what Vats described as “content around content,” such as specially curated extra footage from the network's long-running local remakes of reality shows, which include Big Brother and Fear Factor. Movie content will be made up of over 250 local titles, including some from the company's banner Viacom18 Motion Pictures, whose catalog includes hits such as Queen and sports biopic Mary Kom.

While details of the international content will be revealed at the time of launch, the service will also include kids programming from Viacom18's Nickelodeon channel. In addition, the service has acquired digital rights for shows that otherwise air on rival networks, such as Discovery Kids, Turner International's Pogo and Cartoon Network and Disney India's Hungama channel. Foreign content includes Mr Bean Animated, Mr Bean Live, Pokemon, Transformers and Kate and Min Min. Local shows include popular properties such as Chotta Bheem, Mighty Raju, Kid Krrish and Tales of Shiva.

In terms of original content, Voot will include shows such as Badman, a comedy starring veteran Bollywood actor Gulshan Grover, known for his long career playing famous onscreen villains, who gets to relaunch himself as a hero. Another comedy series, Soadies, revolves around a Delhi-based family obsessed with MTV India's popular reality show Roadies, which is known for the often rude behavior of its contestants and judges.