Vuclip Launches Movie Clips Site For Mobile; India MD Salman Hussain On Plans

Mobile video service Vuclip has set up Starlight Cinema, a site where you can watch trailers, movie clips, short feature films, song reviews etc in various Indian languages.

And it's not just for smart phones. Since the website does not stream the video, even users of low end feature phones that have basic 2.5G internet connectivity on the mobile can visit it to download the clips. This is unlike Jigsee, which offers an app for mobile videos for feature phones, and streams videos using algorithms for smooth playback.

Vuclip is hoping to cash in on the regional advertisement opportunity, by offering clips in a variety of Indian languages. Movies in 13 Indian languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, Oriya, Rajasthani, Kashmiri, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam will be available.

For Starlight Cinema, Vuclip has entered into content partnerships with UTV Motion Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Vega, Whacked Out Media and MAA TV. The content served is a mix of old movies, recent blockbusters as well as upcoming ones such as Barfee, Agneepath, Rowdy Rathore and Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl. There are also trailers of Hollywood movies such as The Adventures of Tintin, The Awakening, Hugo and Tresspass. The site has 9,000 clips from 350 movie titles in Indian regional languages.

In the pilot testing stage of Starlight Cinema, it recorded two million user visits and 11 million video views.

Salman Hussain, vice president - business development and managing director, India & Middle East, Vuclip, talks to about the mobile video advertising market, the genesis of Starlight Cinema, ways to monetise it further and operational expansion plans.

What is the traction seen for mobile video in India over the past year?

If you look at when we started in January 2008 in India, the mobile internet growth story was yet to start and we have actually witnessed the growth story of mobile video. Just to give some metrics, in October 2010, we were doing 48 million videos per month. Now in a year's time, we have crossed 100 million videos per month.

Globally, what is interesting about 5 billion videos we serve, is the growth rate. Since we started, the first billion was achieved in 34 months. The second billion was achieved in nine months and the third in three months. It's been a hockey stick growth.

Has 3G helped boost traffic to Vuclip?

3G is still to take off. I would say that what it brought was awareness. Users think - I have a ton of bandwidth and what do I do with it. Here, video becomes a use case. Watching a video is an impulse, what we call "snacking", to kill some time. So now users watch 2-3 mins of their favourite comedy scene or a movie clip.

This was the reason for launching Starlight Cinema. We keep a track of what videos are being viewed and we thought it would be a good amalgamation of content. That was the genesis of Starlight.

How are brands and advertisers innovating using the mobile video medium for reaching out to their target audience? Also can you compare it to online videos?

Advertisers started talking to us and asked us to create a video ad that entertains users but also subtly puts his brand there.

What's most interesting for brands is their demographic. And what we have seen is mobile video on Vuclip has an audience of 14-18 years, 25-35 years and they are male. This is the target group for advertisers too.

Mobile ads for video have better retention rate than banner ads as videos are engaging.

Tell us more about the social sharing feature.

We have an off-deck site and have not done a ton of marketing, or TV ads, for that matter. We grew our user base because of the sharing aspect. If you like a video, you can share by SMS or to your friends on Facebook.

In India, Facebook / Twitter usage is minimal. SMS is big chunk of sharing here because people are used to the concept of forwarding text. It's a natural fix for them. Around half of the 120 million views is via sharing.

How is Vuclip different from mobile TV companies like Apalya or start-ups like Jigsee that streams video clips?

We are not in mobile TV. Our primary mode of entertainment is 2-3 minute clips. And we don't need an app. That's a mental block, and a big put off. We leverage the handset capabilities and allow you to download the clips.

Around 34 per cent of our users are smartphone users. The majority is feature phone – say a Nokia 5233 and c101. They are the ones who contribute to traffic.

The advantage we had is we got in before the market grew and how to position ourselves. We have a huge target audience. We don't have anyone doing videos at this scale. From an India perspective, we are the market leaders.

How is Starlight faring? What are your plans for it?

We have got two million eyeballs already and are doing a south Indian version next. We will segment it further. This is just version one and as traffic grows and as we engage with advertisers, we will change, localise, add more contextual advertising, sponsorships by brands, do viral videos and pre-roll advertising. We are reaching out to all top advertisers - FMCG, automotive majors.

Do you have any other monetisation plans for the site? What are your expectations from it in terms of a percentage of revenues?

We are looking at a couple of areas – advertising is obvious. These revenues will form a significant portion of revenues over the next 6-8 months.

What about subscription-based plans?

We are going to keep Starlight Cinema advertising-only and are not moving into the subscription play. There are other aspects of Vucclip like a freemium model that we can look at.

What are your operation expansion plans?

We have a small team of 18 people in India. They are spread all across – Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad. What's key more than anything else is to be where customers are present. Regionalisation is important and our localising in state/circle. Vuclip is scalable and highly automated so we do not need to grow our employee base a lot.

We have also launched in South East Asia. Our focus is to grow out and launch new services like Starlight and video alerts and also evangelise business in new regions.

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