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Entertainment is the fourth sine qua non added to the popular slogan of our socialism – food, clothing and shelter (Roti, Kapda aur Makaan). While the smartphone has actually outsmarted the “silly” box in the recent past as the main screen for entertainment, the rollout of 4G has empowered digital to become the new mass entertainment.
What’s starting now is the democratization of start-up-led digital entertainment content that’s snackable, lightweight, personalized, unrestricted, and accessible to millennials. Oh! And of course bahu anti-saas, allergic to melodrama, and exaggerated headaches.
The growing gap between TV and smartphone for content consumption is more overwhelming than ever. The global voice on internet and new technologies, Mary Meeker, in her annual report on internet trends this year, reported that Indians stay hooked on their phones for 28 hours a week compared to a small time of four hours on television . But what is at least less than obvious but not very unexpected is that 45% of those 28 hours, or about 12.5 hours, is spent watching entertainment content which primarily includes internet-first channels or only Internet, video streaming services, including All India Bakchod, hot star, Viral fever (TVF), Vote etc 34% of time is spent on search, social media and messaging, which were otherwise the de facto areas of online consumption until data costs crashed.
“Before the rollout of 4G, mobile internet consumption was mostly around social media and shopping. While the demand for video content was there, but due to the higher cost of data, it was quite restricted. But with 4G and the entry of Jio into the market, the cost has dropped significantly even as the speed has increased, leading to an increase in video consumption,” says Girish MenonPartner, Deal Advisory, KPMG India.
This has led to a change in the socio-economic profile of India where people from a low income group can access content digitally with demographic deepening – beyond 35 and penetration beyond cities of level II and level III. In fact, for many of them, an affordable smartphone is the only source of the Internet. They may not use it to make purchases, but video consumption will continue to be a fairly large component of Internet usage.
However, there is a difference between putting TV shows online and generating original shows specifically for digital. The latter is where the maximum opportunities are for emerging online channels or start-ups in all categories. This includes short films, parodies or parodies, etc., in both short and long format videos ranging from around four minutes to 90 minutes on various over-the-top (OTT) players such as YouTube (the largest platform), Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc…
This opportunity exploded when these start-ups or online entertainment channels realized that millennials, in particular, could not tune in to content on TV. Thus, unlike television, the audience cannot be generalized on digital and this calls for niche or original content.
“On television, everything seems unreal, from the actors, the location, the makeup, the dresses, the problems they face in daily life, etc. With television penetrating the villages, the quality of content is more regressive then that on digital it is progressive in terms of uniqueness and connecting with young people,” says mohit husseinco-founder, Shitty Ideas Trends (SIT) – a comedy channel on YouTube which created its first webseries on the couple’s relationship.
Hussein has been the director for 18 years and has directed TV shows such as Veera, Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, etc. and is married to actress Chhavi Mittal, last seen on the channel’s daily soap Krishnadasi Colors last year. “We plan to reach approximately seven lac subscribers on YouTube and at least 15 lac subscribers on Facebook by the end of this year,” says Mittal. The company has over 120 videos on its channel. Every Friday a new video is posted, but “it’s a challenge to bring out new content every Friday that your community loves,” says Hussein.
Along with these entertainment channels, there are video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and Voot apart from user-generated content. Although each category creates videos on unique topics, the risks of overlap are certain. And as more and more players arrive, it would be necessary to create more attractive content that is distributed faster even if none of them have to compete for the attention of the public, but to ensure that subscribers do not leave the paid channel or network.
“It largely depends on the distribution platform. TVF gets more traction on YouTube than its own platform due to the depth of YouTube users. Over 50% of the online audience happens on YouTube which, like a supermarket, has everything for any type of audience,” Menon says.
However, it’s hard to predict which form of video streaming would have the upper hand. “Social networks will have a big advantage which would be hard to beat because they have a community and it reaches many people very quickly with great virality. They will challenge the big television networks like Netflix”, says Ashwin Suresh who launched Pocket Aces with Anirudh Pandita. The Sequoia Capital-backed digital entertainment company owns several content brands, including FilterCopy, short-form content; Dice Media, which is about 17-18 minutes long storytelling, and Gobble which is into food content.” currently around 75 million views per month across three channels,” says Aditi Shrivastava, another co-founder of pocket ace.
Reach the regional
Much of the content distribution for these start-ups is on YouTube and Facebook followed by WhatsApp, Instagram and finally Snapchat. However, the delivery of content on YouTube is done through WhatsApp or Facebook. The approach however for YouTube and Facebook is different.
“Users have different mindsets on the two platforms. YouTube is all about watching videos whereas Facebook is more personal,” says Anand Doshi, co-founder of Click Digital Studios. The four-year-old start-up runs 80 channels, including animation, live broadcasts, voice-over and image, and produces around 200 videos on its channels, including its bollywood animated parodies under the Shudh channel. Desi Endings with a combined monthly traffic of 350-380 million views. “YouTube has been the medium for us for the most part so far, but Facebook is catching up with us,” Doshi adds. According to a 2016 Ernst & Young report on the future of digital content consumption in India, audiences are increasingly looking for regional content with 93% of time spent on videos in different languages, including Hindi. In fact, nine out of ten new first-time Internet users are language users, but the challenge, Menon says, is that “there isn’t enough structured regional content available.”
Distributor and producer of short films Pocket Films, however, focuses on regional content. “We have content in different languages including Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, etc.,” says Saameer Mody, Founder and CEO of Pocket Films. The company through its network gets around 60 million monthly views. Mody releases a short every day and has a library of over 5,000 videos.
Sources of revenue are typically advertisements and brand engagement in videos, apart from syndication of content for other platforms, including TV. Shudh Desi Endings is also earning via parodies for new movie releases. “Movie producers have realized that to meet the needs of millennials, showing trailers only on TV won’t reach the entire audience, so they want to cater to them through us,” Doshi adds. On the other hand, SIT has made branded videos for Flipkart and some restaurants in Mumbai, while Pocket Films streams its catalog content on NDTV Prime every week and some OTT players like Hungama Play, which adds to their revenue. respective.
The challenge, however, is getting ads on the content. “The rate of monetization growth versus the rate of audience growth is out of sync, so the challenge is to get more ads on the content. something substantial that comes your way,” says Mody. As he is heavily dependent on advertising and the digital evolution is in its infancy in India, the economy does not support these start-ups. The money needed to create content versus the revenue they earn suffers from a lag.” Although the gap is narrowing over time, but unless the subscription model evolves, it will be difficult to invest much consistently on the original content,” concludes Menon.