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“Couldn’t have asked for better timing”: The Viral Fever’s Arunabh Kumar

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MUMBAI: On 10 February when Aam Admi Party (AAP) founder Arvind Kejriwal created a history of sorts by winning the Delhi assembly elections by a record win of 67 seats, social media was abuzz with another first he had scored as an Indian politician. The muffler man was the first Indian politician to feature on a satire show on a digital network, The Viral Fever (TVF).

How tough was it to convince Kejriwal to come on board for the flagship show Barely Speaking with Arnub? “We were talking to Kejriwal since October last year but he was busy with his campaign. He was well aware of the bitter-sweet thought provoking content we present. While we were unhappy with the delay, we could not have asked for a better timing and release,” The Viral Fever founder and CEO Arunabh Kumar tells Indiantelevision.com.

The show, which was uploaded on 9 February, has garnered 2,251,010 views on YouTube so far.

The digital network also partnered with Times of India (TOI) as part of its The Great Indian campaign. Kumar says when TOI started the second leg of the campaign The Great Indian Litterbug, they were simultaneously in talks with Kejriwal. 

“The campaign was about the common man indulging in littering while the symbol of the AAP party, which is the broom, stood for cleaning up the act. We thought it was a great fit in such a way that people would not know it was branded integration,” adds Kumar.

The host of Barely Speaking is seen imitating India’s most popular news anchor Arnab Goswami of Times Now. When asked if he has been confronted anytime by the real “nation wants to know” anchor, Kumar is of the opinion that imitation is flattery and it is not a major concern as the network has partnered with the Times Group for different associations. “Let’s hope we are able to convince him to come on board for our show and have an ultimate showdown,” he says.

When queried whether India was ready for a subscription based model going by the rise in video on demand (VOD) platforms, Kumar says that their network has a product called the TVF Box Office where people can watch movies they have missed by paying for it.

“Rocket Singh has sold 30,000 tickets in three years on Google Play and Sulemani Keeda, a very tiny film which didn’t even get a decent release sold 10,000 tickets in less than 10 days. This has been able because of the traction the Viral Fever has been able to garner,” the founder explains.

The network has a total strength of 70 people and took a total of 36 hours to shoot the interview with Kejriwal and upload it on the online channel. Previously Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan too has made an appearance on the show. When asked who are the other guests he looks to get on board, Kumar says “I think there are Shah Rukh’s of various different industries that we plan to get on board. But Bollywood always makes up for good content and at the same time the younger upcoming actors are open at laughing at themselves.”

The network also has a small division called the TVF Tube, which is headed by Samir Saxena. This segment looks at producing content for television. Saxena has directed the popular online show Permanent Roommates. “Permanent Roommates is globally the most watched web series on YouTube. It is at the number one spot. There is no other branded fiction property more popular than Permanent Roommate on YouTube,” boasts Kumar.

The network has so far worked with 30 different brands for brand integrations. It has produced shows with brands such as Airtel, Flipakart, P&G and are currently also working with Kingfisher.

Speaking on the road ahead, Kumar informs that their non-fiction vertical Recycle Bin will be pushed a lot this year. They are also looking to work with different partners for different genres of programming. Thirdly the company is also looking at enhancing its technology to disseminate content better. Talking about the cost involved, Kumar says, “For us cost does not reduce because the size of the screen reduces. We believe great content cannot be produced at a cheap cost. We can literally get Rs 10 out of Rupee one of content.”

In his concluding remarks Kumar says that their one key challenge is to make Indian audiences respect great content. “Because they seem to be enslaved completely by Bollywood, which I think we have managed to change to certain extent the value and core remains to create and serve and disseminate premium content at par with global standards,” concludes Kumar.

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