Viacom18 Staffing Up New E-Sports and Gaming Division for India

Viacom18 Staffing Up New E-Sports and Gaming Division for India
  • It will be tasked with creating gaming and e-sports content
  • It may tie-in with the company's plans for Voot
  • It's looking to "engage" with gaming audiences in the country

Viacom18 is staffing up for a new division for e-sports and gaming. According to multiple job listings on LinkedIn, the company is looking to hire across marketing, sales, and operations for "a new business line to engage with the e-sports and gaming audience across TV, digital, and live events". Considering that the Viacom18-owned Voot has streamed events like Dreamhack Mumbai 2018, albeit with varying degrees of success, this seems like an attempt to scale up its presence in the space or "engage with the e-sports / gaming audience in India" as its job listings allude to.

According to the listings, this team will "conceptualise, develop and execute new on-ground properties, create clutter breaking esports and gaming content across Viacom18's TV and digital platforms as well as develop new business partnerships in the esports/gaming ecosystem."

While new entrants in the games space are always welcome, it will be interesting to see if this would impact Viacom18's existing partnership with Ucypher that brought reality TV e-sports to its MTV channel or its dealings with ESL. Gadgets 360 reached out to Viacom18 for comment and will update this story if we hear from the company.

The entry of Viacom18 into e-sports and gaming follows Reliance Jio's push in the space what with the hire of ex-Riot Games India boss Anurag Khurana.

Considering that competitive mobile titles like Clash Royale and PUBG Mobile have a dedicated following in addition to traditional e-sports fare like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2,

Viacom18 could very well open up e-sports and gaming to a larger audience. We'd speculate that it may amplify what's already been done by existing entities or take them on with its own leagues, talent, and tournaments albeit backed up by its reach. Or perhaps it may prop up Voot's upcoming plans.

At Dreamhack 2018, Sidharth Kedia, Head - Corporate Strategy, M&A, Data Sciences and Deputy Chief Commercial Officer for Viacom18 told Gadgets 360 that it's considering to add chat and integrated gameplay to Voot by next year, buoyed by the early success of its e-sports streams featuring PUBG Mobile, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2. In addition to its general entertainment offerings, Voot has its eyes on being a platform to showcase e-sports in its entirety. This could be an interesting move considering Twitch while having an India presence, is far from active in the country.

"We're going to bring features like chat, integrated gameplay, into Voot once we're fully into e-sports," said Kedia. "This is a POC [proof of concept] phase for three to six months. We've put a development plan in place where by the end of 2019 we have all the essential components that are required for a platform to showcase e-sports in its true and entire form."

Kedia told us that company is still considering "whether non-e-sports users on Voot are even looking for a chat platform there" which should let those interested in watching Pokemon or Voot's originals without the added interactivity breath a sigh of relief for now.

Furthermore, he also let slip that the Voot is looking at putting its e-sports content behind a paywall.

"If we add a paywall in Voot, then we will evaluate whether e-sports as a category will also go behind the paywall," he says. 

As for which game stream has been the most popular for the service so far, there are no surprises.

"PUBG was maximum, because it's popular in India," he says. "Dota 2 surprised us we got pretty good viewership. CS: GO what we expected we got. For us, proof of the pudding is to see how some of the India events do on Voot. So far other than PUBG the Dota 2 and CS:GO events were international events broadcasted in English in India. With that and with Dreamhack we're confident that the Indian events we showcase are going to be fairly popular."

Given YouTube Gaming's eventual demise, with its features being rolled into YouTube proper and Twitch's lack of enthusiasm, it leaves the likes of Voot with an opportunity to capitalise on what appears to be a vibrant user base of gamers.

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Further reading: Viacom18, Voot
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