TikTok Rival Lomotif Grows India Business With Viacom18 Partnership

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The India expansion plans for short-form video platform Lomotif are well underway via a partnership with billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Viacom18 media conglomerate.

The partnership kicks off with 10-episode science-based reality series “The Inventor Challenge,” which is set for an April debut, with the option of a second season. The series is based on Emmy-winning PBS series “Everyday Edisons,” a format developed by Edison Nation, a company now known as Vinco Ventures. It will play on Viacom18’s linear channels and on the company’s Voot streaming service. “The Inventor Challenge” will subsequently stream on Lomotif. Budding scientists will be encouraged to upload their inventions on Lomotif ahead of the show streaming on the platform.

There is another partnership in the works with Starz’s Asian streamer Lionsgate Play for a reality format, details of which are under wraps at the moment.

In 2021, Zash Global Media, backed by early TikTok investor Jaeson Ma and Ted Farnsworth — the U.S. financier who set in motion the meteoric rise of MoviePass, before its dramatic crash — agreed to acquire Lomotif, a Singapore-based music-video sharing firm. The deal was coordinated with the reverse merger of Zash Media into NASDAQ-listed Vinco Ventures. The venture’s pitch was that Zash-Vinco would become a pure-play social video firm that could be compared with the ByteDance-owned TikTok, the NASDAQ-listed Bilibili, or Kuaishou, the direct competitor of TikTok’s sister operation Douyin in mainland China.

The overall Zash ecosystem has 100 million global active users, according to Farnsworth, while Lomotif has 41 million active users in India.

Lomotif’s push into India comes amid consolidation in the short-form video space following the government’s ban on TikTok in 2020. In February, Times Internet’s MX TakaTak and ShareChat’s Moj announced a merger, creating the country’s largest short-form video platform. The combined MX TakaTak-Moj platform has 100 million creators and more than 300 million monthly active users (MAU).

Farnsworth described the investment in India as being in “the millions of dollars.” Lomotif is using several approaches to grow its India footprint, one of which is working with marketing company Social Kite, which has more than 100,000 micro-influencers on its roster, to spread awareness of the brand.

“That’s a tricky market, most people think they’re just going to go in there, it’s billions of people, and it’s going to be easy, it’s going to be a home run,” Farnsworth told Variety. “But it’s a hard market to crack.” Rather than go with big influencers, Lomotif chose to target the market community-by-community using micro-influencers and the tests have done well.

Another approach to the market is leveraging Zash Media’s IP across Lomotif.

“We’re taking a different approach where we’re blending the two universes, taking linear TV that we own, reality TV, different movies that we own, and creating content, but also allowing the creators out there to create content off of the material that we have, as well,” Farnsworth said. “So all of a sudden, we’re giving creators their own material, that’s all licensed by us, allowing them to do things.”

In February, Vinco completed the acquisition of ad-tech company AdRizer. The focus is now on deploying AdRizer’s technology platform to monetize the content creation and streaming capabilities of Lomotif. A platform has been developed over the past year, with a beta release due in 90 days, where a piece of the gross revenues from digital ads will be used to pay content creators.

Another initiative that attracted Indians to Lomotif is global talent hunt “You’ve Been Scouted,” which was won by India’s Yatin Kumar, who secured a $250,000 album deal. Kumar is in Africa, recording with Grammy-winning producer Teddy Riley, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Pharrell and BTS.

In October 2021, Lomotif welcomed special guests Lil Nas X and The Kid Laroi to the Electronic Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. The performance was hashtagged Lomotif within TikTok and Instagram. Lil Nas X drew millions of views within TikTok for Lomotif-tagged content. “That’s how we’re disrupting and really going after different things that we’re tackling on the marketing side, for different advantages,” said Farnsworth.

Lomotif is deploying the same strategy with Indian short-form video platforms and sees it as a branding opportunity. “I look at it a little bit different. Everybody thinks you’d have to have everything on Lomotif, I don’t believe that,” said Farnsworth. “I believe you really want to meet the consumer where they are, whether it’s Instagram, whether it’s Snapchat, whether it’s TikTok, whatever it is, and you go across all the platforms.”

Patrick Frater contributed to this report.