Slow start for TV shows on VOD

MUMBAI: Television programming in India has traditionally chased revenues from its first-run life on channels. There has been some mythological content such as Ramayan, Mahabharat and Om Namah Shivay that have enjoyed syndicated revenues or travelled successfully abroad. But generally library content has gathered dust or lived in a state of penury, failing to amass strong audience or advertising support.

Now content owners are trying to open another revenue window: online sites that offer video-on-demand content. Though at a nascent stage, they hope the delivery platform will emerge stronger among younger audiences as the infrastructure on the broadband front improves and bandwidth costs further fall. and have in their menu a horde of TV serials and soaps. While has shows like Ramayan, Fauji, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Mahabharat, Maayka, Bandini and Ghar Ki Laxmi Betiyaan, has serials like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, Saara Akash, Kumkum, Khichdi, Kehta Hai Dil, and Seeta aur Geeta. 
The genre on exposure is broad, ranging from soaps to social drama and comedies. Says Rajshri Media MD and CEO Rajjat Barjatya, "There are people who want to have a repeat view of the shows of their liking. No TV channel repeats its shows after the telecast run expires. The only option is to find them on websites that have them.”

Mythology, however, stands out as the most popular TV content on VoD. On epics such as Ramayan and Mahabharat have so far got views amounting to 225,904 and 4,135,833 respectively while shows like Fauji has had 152,386 views, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai 537,630, Bandini 85,754 and Maayka 198,237 views.

Avers Barjatya, “You see, somewhere, even today, we are linked to our mythology. Everyone admits that Ramanand Sagar and BR Chopra have made the finest adaptations of Ramayan and Mahabharat respectively. That is why even today, these serials get maximum number of hits.”

The kids genre also exhibits a strong repeat value. Serials like Vikram aur Vetal, Karadi Tales, Tenali Raman and Arabian Nights have their own followers on online streaming sites.

Another genre that has just started peeping in on online streaming websites is the reality TV genre. NDTV’s latest Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge is today’s rage among viewers.

Regarding the size of the VoD market, India pales in comparison to the US and other matured markets. “I think it is around Rs 50 million annually. It is taking time to grow primarily because of the lack of infrastructure and bandwidth availability,” avers Shemaroo Entertainment Director Hiren Gada.

For the whole lot of its content, Big Flix has revenue-sharing arrangements with content providers, who are either producers themselves or are holders of digital rights.

“We don’t get into exclusive deals and generally the revenue share model is 70:30," says business head Murtuza Kagalwala. "Online streaming gives people ease of use as it fills the needed gap."

Does it pay to have your TV show on these websites? "Certainly," says Creative Eye founder-promoter Dheeraj Kumar. "There is always a scope of payment. Sites like YouTube and, as far as TV shows and serials are concerned, are very reliable and they pay well."
So what is the commercial arrangement between online sites and content owners? "Firstly, it is done on revenue-sharing basis of 70:30. Then for some shows, producers are paid on the basis of ‘hits’ that the serial gets. In the last option, some websites resort to paying a minimum guarantee," says Kumar.

Adds Prem Sagar, "To me getting paid on the ‘hits’ is great. See the number of hits our serial gets. It shows that Ramayan is popular even today."

So how are the online sites making money? On the internet, there are three ways to monetise - charging for downloads, ad supported streaming and subscription of library content.

Adds Barjatya, "Currently, 95 per cent of our revenues come from advertising. As advertising keeps on rising, we are putting a strategy in place to scale up the download business."

Will there be strong growth for TV shows on VOD? "The size of the market would grow between Rs 700 million to Rs 1 billion in about five years," says Gada.

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