Exclusive Interview – Monika Shergill, Head-Content, Viacom18 Digital Ventures

06 . Oct . 2017
Reading Time: 3 minutes

VOOT, the OTT platform of Viacom18, has been making all the right noises. And there’s one woman spearheading this development – Monika Shergill, Head-Content, Viacom18 Digital Ventures. She comes with 20 years of broadcast experience and VOOT has grown stupendously under her leadership. Its download numbers have doubled in the last 6-8 months.

In an exclusive interaction with TheDigitalHash.com, Monika gives us an insight into how VOOT selects the right shows for the ‘digital first’ audiences.

  1. What have been some of the key reactions for VOOT’s latest original Stupid Man Smart Phone, an adaptation of British series by the same name?

SMSP (Stupid Man Smart Phone) is a completely organic idea for this medium – with live help from social media. Viewers have said the show is a Bear Grylls (Man vs Wild) with humour and brings together completely unlikely people to survive.

  1. Like SMSP, are there more Indian adaptations in the pipeline?

We are keen to look at more formats, but only those (formats) which have a digital skew to them. We want to keep a filter on why a certain format should go on digital, and not on TV.

  1. Which new series is VOOT coming out with? Are there any ‘season two’ in the pipeline?

We are looking at more radical concepts. There is a story of a young couple, a slice of life take on what happens when two people want different things from life. It is a textured and layered story with a beautiful cast.

We are already working on the second season of ‘It’s Not That Simple’. It will be more scaled up and complex storytelling, and will have a mix of original star cast and new actors.

Shaadi Boys season 2 is also in the offing. We are constantly bombarded with queries of another season for this series on our response cell.

  1. Between the nine Voot Originals, which was the most challenging to put together?

It’s Not That Simple’; we started working on it in the early 2016. At that time, web content was male driven and mostly comedy. The belief was that there is no audience for an adult woman drama, digitally. But we experimented on attracting this digital only audience group with this an inflammatory subject – a woman in a toxic marriage, looking for love and respect.

Stupid Man Smart Phone is a tough format. The entire show is dependent on your interaction with the outside world. It has been challenging yet exciting. In the last one and a half years, we have done a wide variety of originals, which transcend the gender bias on the digital.

  1. How has Netflix and Amazon Prime investing in India changed the digital scenario?

Currently, the Indian digital audiences have already watched high quality English content, best from across the world. Audiences are looking at competitive story-telling. If you present them something that has been done in the past, it is dismissed as formula.

What Amazon Prime Video has done with Inside Edge is a step up from the current level in storytelling and canvas, but is sup par with in comparison with global audiences.

But at VOOT, we are looking at bigger series with larger canvas, big production scale with every subsequent concept/series.

  1. Comparing original VOOT content with network consumption, which is a bigger play for VOOT?

The network consumption outdoes the VOOT originals’, but there can’t be a comparison because the volume difference is immense. VOOT originals are a brand addition. At the pace at which people are adopting digital, to not make originals can be a huge error for anyone.

  1. On what criteria does VOOT commission its originals?

VOOT is seen in over 1,500 Indian cities (metro & mini-metros). We have 45 million downloads already. We have conducted research in the 18-35 age group, and focussing on their challenges, pre-occupations. It gave us an interesting insight that a lot of them were living double lives – one for their family and one for their peer group. Men and women have their own set of stress. On the basis of such insights, we work closely with writers, and develop concepts. We also get concept pitches from outside as well.