Exclusive: “Future Today in talks to acquire Indian animated content”- CEO Vikrant Mathur

Last month, Future Today, the only full-stack streaming solution that packages branded channels and delivers the audiences to watch them, announced a massive growth across distribution, advertising and viewership.

The viewership grew by 120 per cent year-over-year, delivering content to more than 12mn active households each month. Its viewing time increased by 85 per cent year-over-year, streaming more than 43 million hours of content in the month of March, alone. Future Today CEO Vikrant Mathur agreed to speak to us on the trends, acquiring Indian content, plans for the rest of 2021 and so much more. Below are details:

Vikrant Mathur

What according to you has/have driven the humongous viewership to the Future Today owned channels?

We’ve experienced massive growth in the last year and now serve more than 100mn households across the US on every major streaming platform. We grew overall viewership by 120 per cent with HappyKids seeing a 150 per cent+ growth and have expanded our content library to offer more than 225,000 movies, TV shows and episodes. 

I would attribute several factors to our owned and operated growth over the past year. First, our content library grew significantly over the last couple of years giving users a lot more choice and reason to keep coming back to the channels. Secondly, the decline in linear cable has shifted viewers and ad dollars away from traditional linear to CTV. Third, we added significant distribution for our channels with the launch of additional channels on existing platforms as well as the launch of new linear channels. Finally, COVID and the stay-at-home situation over this past year has contributed to this growth, especially for our Kids and Family channels. 

How are you looking to invest and distribute further in kids’ content?

We are always looking to grow and expand our content. In the last year we launched 50 new channels including Pinkfong (Baby Shark), CoComelon, and Like Nastya, while rapidly expanded children’s content offerings, adding new content from Lego, Spin Master, 9 Story, and many more. Going forward, we will continue to partner with premium content creators, and are exploring co-production partnerships with several studios.

Tell us more about Channels-as-a-Service Technology and streaming stack?

It’s a sad fact that most OTT services fail. For some it’s because have they have content but no distribution while others don’t know how to properly manage an OTT service. We’ve looked at all the pain points of operating your own streaming service and created an end-to-end technology solution. Powered by our proprietary technology, our Channels-as-a-Service Technology is the only turnkey, end-to-end streaming stack available that’s specifically designed to help solve all problems in the industry, and the best part is it’s incredibly simple for our partners. We can launch dozens or even hundreds of channels in a matter of days, on nearly every over-the-top streaming platform and device. It’s as simple as uploading your content then watching us do all of the leg work. This is why content owners from around the globe turn to us to help create, distribute, promote, and monetize VOD and Linear Channels on all major streaming platforms.

CoComelon

There’s no easier way than to monetise, promote and distribute content than partnering with Future Today. We make everything simple and help content owners, video distributors and advertisers deliver a superior OTT experience for viewers, while driving new viewership, more engaged audiences and increased ad revenue.

The technology stack provides video management, publishing, discovery, advertising, data and reporting as our five main pillars. This is how we can truly offer a white-glove, hands-on approach for our content owners, distributors, and advertising partners. 

Do you have plans to acquire/take up Indian animation edutainment and infotainment content in the near future?

We already work with a number of prominent Indian content companies such as Chu ChuTV, Rajshri, Shemaroo and USP Studios, and are always looking to acquire unique content irrespective of where it comes from.

What worked well for infotainment channels globally including Future Today owned ones?

We cover a wide variety of different grounds and every channel and genre has its niche, and we focus on providing content that audiences want to see. We try to blend a mix of recognisable with nostalgia, and something new to discover.

Our infotainment channels were the foundation upon which we grew this business to a global footprint of over 100 million households; it will continue to help us move our brand forward.

How well have linear FAST channels worked for you, can you share some numbers? How do you plan to further leverage its reach and popularity?

Linear FAST channels provide an opportunity for audiences to watch our content in unique and different ways. I think the success of the FAST channel model hinges on the ability to aggregate a multitude of channels to give viewers depth to explore and drive content discovery. 

It will be interesting to see how FAST curation styles will evolve or resonate with audiences. Our on-demand average session length is 15 times what we see on linear channels. We see greater engagement from users who seek out specific content versus ones who simply happen upon it through channel surfing. That being said, some users simply prefer that method of content discovery, and it is a service we will continue to happily provide.

What has changed in viewing patterns since COVID lockdown in 2020 and now in 2021?

We have seen a dramatic shift in viewing behaviour since the pandemic with viewership up 75 per cent across all our channels since the beginning of the pandemic, while as I said, HappyKids stands out at 150 per cent+ growth in viewership. Additionally, COVID has really accelerated the adoption of streaming services across the board. Our numbers have also been growing, both for HappyKids as well as our entire portfolio of Future Today channels. In the Kids category, as an example, we’ve found that audiences are spending more time watching content during the weekend than during the week. Pre-COVID, families were spending more time outdoors and busy in activities, so our weekend traffic used to be lower than weekdays, but now the model has flipped. 

How has advertising bolstered the streaming powerhouse?

The decline in linear cable has shifted viewers and ad dollars away from traditional linear to CTV. Agencies are attracted to CTV not only because people are cutting cord and those households can’t be reached through linear cable anymore but also because CTV provides the benefits of big-screen, premium, TV experience with the sophistication of digital targeting, measurement and reporting.  

We have recently expanded our advertising stack to include contextual data capabilities across all channels, to maximize engagement and ROI for advertisers, while increasing fill rate and CPM for content owners and distributors.

Our platform provides a COPPA compliant, brand-safe environment to not only ensure personal data and privacy are protected, but also that every ad served is manually reviewed and vetted as family-friendly and appropriate for kids.

What are your plans and outlook for the year 2021?

The video landscape is rapidly evolving and will only continue to grow. We see this as an opportunity to have our business grow with it. We’re confident our Channels-as-a-Service Technology is the future and AVODs popularity will continue to grow. To that end, we are going to grow and scale our company while we continue to expand our global viewership footprint. 

Trends to look forward to from Future Today?

As we introduce more original programming for our audience on HappyKids and our other leading owned and operated channels, we will continue to offer the shows and movies that our audiences have come to know and love, plus plenty more for them to explore and discover.

For our content partners, we will continue to approach our service from a publisher mindset and mentality – we are not just a service provider – when their content performs well, everyone wins.

For our advertising partners, we are continuing to scale up our offerings and expand upon our existing capabilities to provide opportunities to reach specific categories, subcategories, individual channels, a collection of specific videos, and many other granular, user-agnostic options.

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