Rheo TV CEO Saksham Keshri on Regional Language Streaming and Attracting Users With Esports

Indian streaming and community platform Rheo is one of many platforms available in India that is trying to grab the attention of consumers. Competition in this space has increased tenfold as other local companies such as Loco have set up shop with previous experience in the content sector. Brands from China such as Nimo TV are also trying to establish themselves in the region, and the two big players, YouTube and Twitch, are also trying to cement their place in the Indian livestreaming landscape. Over-the-top platforms, such as Hotstar and Voot have also tried their hand at broadcasting live esports events. Rheo TV CEO and Co-Founder Saksham Keshri spoke to  The Esports Observer about what he believes makes his product unique, how the company wants to build the brand in the market, and where esports stands in the livestreaming world. 

Keshri says that his company’s mission is to take gaming mainstream and make it an industry that compares to cricket or Bollywood. Having worked at multiple tech startups in India, founders Saksham Keshri and Prakash Kumar have backgrounds in both tech products and business. In January 2020 the platform raised $2M USD in seed funding via prominent institutional and angel investors.  

Making a Unique Product

Rheo TV primarily operates on Android with its app, Rheo. The platform’s key feature allows users to earn an in-app currency known as “Rheo coins” through various activities. Making a comprehensive product is one thing, but attracting content creators to a new platform is a major challenge, especially in India. Established creators there have already built significant audiences on global platforms such as YouTube, so attracting top names is nearly impossible. Rheo’s strategy doesn’t revolve around signing big names. 

“We reward the streamers based on gameplay, existing follower base, and past performance in different tournaments,” Keshri told TEO. “To get rewarded from us, streamers need to cross bronze and silver levels.”. 

He is referring to the different tiers that creators on the platform have to maneuver in order to monetize their content. Like most gaming and esports related activities in India, the app’s core user base is mobile gamers and a mobile audience. 

The product is built primarily for mobile users but has integrations to allow PC streamers to utilize it. While a web version of the platform exists, it is pretty barebones when compared to what the Android version offers. Practically speaking, the only way to watch a content creator on the platform is via the app. 

Keshri said that what makes Rheo a unique product is that it is built for streamers who want to broadcast in local languages using mobile technology. 

“Twitch has 3M registered streamers – desktop and mostly English speaking. China has more than 6M registered streamers. In last few years, we have gotten more than 100M midcore/hardcore gamers playing on mobile. Given this scale, no one is solving the problem for streamers to stream from a mobile [device] and to a vernacular audience. We are doing this.” 

The platform is trying to lower the barrier of entry for streaming, especially for mobile content creators. Rheo provides extensive guides on how to set up streams on the platform and has integration with streaming platforms such as Streamlabs. 

As for why Rheo chose to use Android, Keshri said, “More than 95% of the Indian users are on Android. We wanted to create a product of Silicon Valley standard and given the stage of the company, it became the obvious choice. We see that a lot of professional players are on iOS though, so we have the iOS app in the product road map. We will be releasing it soon.”

Keshri thinks that it’s still too early for Rheo to consider ways to monetize its audience, but acquisition has been strong and the app has received more than 2M downloads since the start of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in India. One key method of targeting audiences that nearly all platforms have leveraged is esports. From hosting their own IPs to partnering with organizations and organizers for events, platforms have found that esports drives audiences to a large extent. Considering that players and teams with followings in the millions are playing in them, it’s only natural that platforms try and leverage some of this popularity. 

“Esports sets the benchmark to other players in the industry to see it as a career opportunity.” 

The global pandemic has set off a chain of events that have accelerated the growth of gaming and esports in South Asia. The absence of traditional forms of entertainment has led to large sections of society discovering platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Loco, and Rheo as a way to consume content. Rheo’s position in the market as a mobile app catering to mobile audiences could help them find the sweet spot among bigger names.

Shounak Sengupta is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.

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