Web and watch

Written by Abhishek Chakraborty | Updated: Jan 5 2014, 16:57pm hrs
In just about a year and a half of its launch, Disney UTVs Chickipedia, a comedy Web series aimed at helping men understand women, has clocked about two lakh viewership per episode with users spending up to 70% of their time watching the videos

Launched only in August last year, Trendspotters.tv, a digital channel network, which intends to comprehend trends from fashion and lifestyle to business, politics, sports, music and even gadgets, has managed to attract over 1,60,410 unique visitors and counting. Some of its popular shows like Vikramaditya Motwane: From Udaan to Lootera, Candid Confessions by Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Trend Alert: The Blues Are Back are seeing up to 2,500 visitors per day on an average

MTV Indias first season of Drive with MTVshowing four teams of contestants on a road trip across the country over a period of 21 dayswas aired entirely on the Web and had 1,41,000 tweets and other social media content generated around it.

THESE ARE not one-off cases. With the viewers focus shifting from prime time to real time, the Net is increasingly becoming the go-to platform for the Indian media and entertainment industry. And why wouldnt it The growth in the number of smartphone users, coupled with an increasing number of people staying online, has led to an explosion in online video consumption in India, supposedly the worlds third-largest Internet market. Today, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the total number of Internet subscribers, including mobile device users, is pegged at 198.39 million (at the end of June 2013).

Just the numbers show how online video content has grown over the years. According to ComScores Video Metrix report, released in May 2013, online video consumption has doubled in India over the past two years. The number of videos viewed per month has gone from 1.8 billion in March 2011 to 3.7 billion in March 2013. The total online video audience in India has grown 74% to 54 million viewers over the period, with the average viewer watching 18% more videos and spending 28% more time viewing.

They could be watching films, cricket matches, TV shows, yoga and cookery lessons, among other things, on their mobiles, laptops, tablets, phablets, etc. This explains the reason behind the growing number of consumers who want to watch original entertainment content online and aspirant broadcast networks coming up with full-fledged online entertainment channels that provide Web-only episodes.

Today, audiences are interested in viewing video content that is crisp, pacy and comprehensible using the Internet, says Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder and director, Trendspotters.tv, adding that the company is tapping the young generation that is increasingly hooked on to their smartphones and tablets for everything, from news and gaming to entertainment, with a concept that is unique and keeps viewers ahead of the times.

For Lavina Tauro, director, video and productsdigital, Disney UTV, In India, online video watching pattern was only looked at as a catch-up viewing platform till a few years ago. While this continues to be prominent even today, due to various social platforms which give users the choice to share their videos, the trend of original content is emerging.

One of the key reasons for this surge in demand is the short formats of storytelling. Taking the cue, MTV India has recently launched Saturday Night, Alright!, a 12-part, Web-exclusive series with each episode having a duration of 10-12 minutes. The show features protagonists who get together at the end of a working week for drinks and discuss friendship, love, bosses, relationships, sex, cricket and politics, among others.

Telecom operators, too, seem to be cashing in on the trend. Following the success of Airtels R1 video downloads, which was powered by Vuclip, the company has recently launched a R1 entertainment store that offers mobile content, including music, videos, games and photos. Consumers will also be able to get Internet browsing offers at R1 from this store. Replicating this model, Silicon Valley-based Vuclip is now planning to launch similar services in the Middle East, south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America. Vuclip globally has over 114 million unique monthly users, out of which 20 million are from India.

Vuclips chief operating officer Arun Prakash says, today, consumers want everything, from news to entertainment to sports, in the comfort of their handsets anytime, anywhere. Todays social-media-savvy generation prefers the mobile platform because users can choose from a variety of videos and also share them with their friends and families on social networks, adds Prakash.

When it comes to content, Bollywood is not the only genre ruling the roost. It can be anything that is of a viewers interest. While Disney UTVs MENtals is a dummies guide to understanding todays generation of men, Showmethecurry.com has been created by two women who show quick and handy techniques in the kitchen. The channel is a huge success on the Web and has garnered over one lakh subscribers.

Vuclips Prakash, however, believes the success rates of the genres have also to do with the geography of the users. Soccer is big in Latin America, while devotional videos fare better in the Middle-East. Regional music videos, on the other hand, are a hit throughout south-east Asia. In India, Bollywood and all things movies account for much of the demand, but cricket, astrology and devotional content are popular as well, says Prakash.

Giving users an upper hand, Disney UTV creates its episodes shared by its viewers themselves. We give viewers a chance to share their own dating game experiences and the funniest ones become a part of the Chickipedia episodes, says Tauro of Disney UTV. The company has created a song called Liquor fikar about a person who starts to drink after his girlfriend leaves him. Disney UTV also did Web series like Dilli Ki Billi and Mamman Bhai, which, too, were well-received by viewers.

Vdopia, a leader in mobile video advertising, says the trend is about my content, my device, my time. Its not about reach; the foremost important thing is to deliver the right content to the right consumer, says Preetesh Chouhan, VP-APAC, Vdopia. The US- and India-based company is now working on new products that include VMI (video mobile insights), which will be released in a few months. They have over 320 clients from various sectors and industries, and are growing double year-on-year.

Despite all these, the Internet video ecosystem in India still has a long way to go. The audience is yet to mature to pay-per-view or subscription-type models, but is opening up to in-stream video advertising. Having said that, the-thousand impressions on video ads in India are still very low for companies to build a real sustainable business or to justify quality content creation costs, says Kishore AK, CEO and co-founder of Althea Systems (the makers of Shufflr.tv). There are even some like iStream that have shut down.