The way content is consumed on digital is creating loyal viewership in the fragmented web viewing space. This offers a huge opportunity to brands and advertisers. Currently, the share of web series’ in digital is less than 5% of the total digital ad spends in India. But it is expected to grow, say experts.
“This is surely an upward trajectory for online video advertising and I expect that 10-15% of digital advertising spend will be diverted to web series’ in next two years,” says Vikas Katoch, founder and CEO, Adomantra Digital.
What’s interesting is how content players are making the most of the opportunity. Platforms like The Viral Fever (TVF) and Culture Machine work very closely with brands to create engaging content. For TVF, more than 90% revenue comes from brands. “Brands don’t just buy media space on our platform; we integrate brand stories with content,” says Jikku Abraham, GM and partner, TVF. “We integrate brand stories with content which is a premium ad unit for us. Other solutions include product placement, creating characters for brands, integrated logo unit, pre-roll ads, etc.”
With a registered user base of 5.5 million, TVF claims to give brands good reach. It recently worked with Tiago from Tata Motors for its web series, Tripling.
Culture Machine uses technology and analytics to create engaging and entertaining digital content. “We enable brands to be influencers,” says its chief revenue officer Siddharth Narula. It has grown to 1.3 trillion views in three years, owns YouTube channels like Being Indian, Blush, Put Chutney, Awesome Sauce and Viva. Apart from ads on YouTube, it has multiple revenue streams such as data enabled content creation, for which it is working with the likes of Unilever and GSK. “This is deep level data insight on how to create relevant content for brands. Our proprietary technology, Video Machine, has a capacity to create one lakh videos in a single day,” says Narula. The second is brand solutions, where brands are integrated in videos. Third, is content syndication.
“The age group of audiences watching digital content is 15-44. We see digital ad budgets increase by 15-20% y-o-y,” says Narula. While there is a lot more transparency and direct RoI for brands online than any other medium, the distribution mode plays a critical role. For TVF, which has its own platform TVFPlay, Facebook and YouTube are more of marketing channels. “We put only trailers and limited content for sampling on social media,” says Abraham, adding that the company has no plans to switch to a subscription model.
Culture Machine has no plans to invest in its own platform. “We prefer to be free-to-air under the TV parlance and we want to be on mass platforms like YouTube and FB,” says Narula. “Instagram is the third fastest growing platform. WhatsApp, because of its vast reach, has huge potential to be number three, and may replace Instagram and Facebook,” adds Narula.
Digital entertainment start-up Pocket Aces, which raised $3 million in December 2016, also echoes similar views. “If you look at link sharing on YouTube, 70% happens through WhatsApp. That’s how content spreads,” says Anirudh Pandita, co-founder, Pocket Aces. It has three brands — FilterCopy, Dice Media and Gobble, and says native is its biggest source of revenue. “We partner with brands to create content and manage everything from creative to distribution,” says Pandita. It also syndicates content.
“Most people underplay how content gets consumed and distributed today. OTT is an easy to understand model, but the real picture which people miss is the likes of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp as platforms to consume content,” adds Pandita. After all, smartphones are not akin to set top boxes — consumers only keep a few apps which include top social networking apps. Therefore, some content players see an advantage in content distribution through social apps, instead of building a platform of their own, say experts.