The web of entertainment

With content created especially for the digital medium,online entertainment is slowly picking up in India

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: July 13, 2012 12:47 am

With content created especially for the digital medium,online entertainment is slowly picking up in India

A girl throws a tantrum,which prompts her boyfriend to pull out an imaginary revolver and shoot himself. All episodes of Chickipedia begin with this format and over the following two minutes,showcase scenarios of possible strife between a couple,accompanied by tips for men on how to deal with similar situations. Albeit cliched — and sometimes sexist — the content of this comedy web series by Disney UTV Bindass,aimed at “helping men understand women”,has witnessed huge success. With 13 episodes available until now,the weekly has garnered over five lakh viewers. “Until a year ago,we were using content from Bindass TV channel to create an online presence. The response encouraged us to make content especially for this medium,” points out Sameer Pitalwalla,Director – Video & Celebrity,Disney UTV.

The model adopted by Disney UTV is by no means new. Lonelygirl15,The Guild,The Annoying Orange and Burning Love are series already successful on the web. Popular American TV show host Larry King’s show will soon be available only on the internet on subscription basis,and Oprah Winfrey is likely to follow suit. Indians too are warming up to the concept.

Media company Babble Fish launched P-Man Show in 2008. Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji group was among the first big players to create exclusive web content. Their fiction show Bol Niti Bol addressed the daily travails of a young teenage girl’s life. However,both these shows experienced moderate success. “When technology and sensibilities are involved,timing plays a huge role. We attempted this ahead of time,” admits Samira Kanwar of Babble Fish. The company,which recently produced the music-based show The Dewarists,is now focussing on TV medium.

But stand up comedy show hosted by TV actor Sumeet Raghavan,Jay Hind!,launched in 2009,became India’s first successful web series. It is now also aired on the TV channel Colors. Bangalore-based Lakshmi Rebecca conceptualises and hosts an infotainment chat show,Chai with Lakshmi,which has crossed one lakh views. The entrepreneur interviews local celebrities and talents,such as accomplished musicians,chefs and sportspersons among others.

Several factors,says Jay Hind!’s producer Abhigyan Jha,work in favour of the medium. “The possibility of experimenting is the most important of all — it allows one creative freedom without boardroom politics and corporate diktats,” says Jha. He had conceptualised the show for Imagine channel,but pulled out when he realised that they were not on the same page.

The low cost involved in creating these series serves as a draw. “Since content is key,familiar faces are not necessary. In fact,the medium has had its own stars,such as Dhanush after Kolaveri Di went viral,” explains Pitalwalla. Rebecca adds that her show does not need elaborate sets. That apart her team often shoots with webcams and digital cameras. However,Jha is not in favour of making such compromises. “One needs foresight. Had we not shot in high definition or on full-fledged sets,we would not have been able to take the same content on TV,” he says.

To exploit the medium seems easy at the outset,but the challenge lies in the understanding of the medium. “Internet offers tools that no other medium can. A user can be directed to other content,hyperlinks can be used,annotations can allow the user to play games related to the show and so on. For instance,our coming episode is not a video but a video game,something we cannot do on TV,” explains Pitalwalla.

According to Rebecca,it is important to stay put and invest in the medium until one breaks even. “Since word of mouth is all that works for web content,one needs to bide time,” she says,asserting that it took her over a year to begin monetising her content.

The market for this medium is likely to grow by at least 50 per cent over the next two years. Bindass has initiated 15 new series to be launched over the next nine months. Rebecca is planning another two properties. Babble Fish too,is considering a comeback on the medium.

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