timesgroupThe Times of India group has formed an online video network called the Times Audience Network (TAN), which partners with publishers and gives them access to videos from group properties – TV Channels Times Now and Zoom TV. In it’s previous avatar, it was known as the Zoom Audience Network, and had the task of monetizing video content –  from the groups Bollywood and entertainment focused TV channel Zoom

The Times Audience Network has partnered with BigAdda, which now claims to have as many as 4 million users, to provide news, feature content and interviews from Times Now and Zoom, as well as full length episodes from Zoom. Interestingly, as a part of the deal, both Zoom BigAdda and Times will monetize the video inventory.

Evolution of Online Video Content In India

India is a country that has very low broadband penetration – at less than 6 million broadband subscribers, mostly with speeds of 256 kbps, and yet YouTube, according to Alexa, YouTube ranks number 4 in the country, while India is the fifth largest contributor to YouTube, in terms of users visiting the site. Do note, however, that Alexa has its own issues when it comes to measuring traffic – its estimates are based on users who have the Alexa toolbar installed.

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The way the online video content space has evolved is quite interesting:

The Destination Era: most publishers started hosting their own video content- they had destination sites, and expected that the exclusivity of their content would attract visitors. However, given a fairly fragmented audience base, the short attention spans, virtually unlimited choice of content, Indian publishers found it difficult to get viewers to their own destination sites for video content, and hence, weren’t able to monetize very well. Examples of destination sites – Broadband.indya.com, which hosted content from Star TV; the site is now defunct. 

Platform Era: Sites like Rajshri.com, BigFlix, Jump TV and Rediff iShare, among several others, are platforms that host content from multiple content owners, with the promise of an advertising revenue share. Content was not exclusive, and with a proliferation of such sites, the marketing costs were significant, in order to attract more and more viewers, and monetize them. However, there remains an issue of being able to attract sufficient number of viewers on a single platform.

Network Era: we believe that we’re now in a network era, where content owners and platforms are trying to establish a diverse enough network for their content, and bring as many destinations on board as possible. While Times Audience Network currently has access to primarily to their own network, we won’t be suprised if they use their distribution reach to get more and more content on board, and offer publishers a larger variety. This expansion in content will help them acquire more publishers, and offer greater reach to their advertisers. Nautanki.tv, in which Hungama owns a majority stake, is doing something similar , by streaming content to multiple websites, thus aggregating a larger user base.

The way the network works is – one doesn’t expect the viewer to come to the content, but makes the content available to the viewer, whichever site she may be visiting.

Note: We’ll update with more on the Times Audience Network, and their plans.