uday-sodhiBalaji Telefilms, a BSE listed TV production house, recently launched a talent sourcing and showcasing portal called Hoonur, which allows aspirants to create and host portfolios by uploading photographs and videos. Balaji is also creating content for the mobile, currently focusing on audio content.

On Hoonur

Hoonur is a case of segmentation in the online jobs space: other portals like Naukri, Monster, TimesJobs and ClickJobs don’t host elaborate portfolios, hence can’t do justice to the entertainment segment. Uday Sodhi, CEO of New Media for Balaji Telefilms, told MediaNama that in the entertainment domain, there is a significant amount of talent that needs to be hired – actors, actresses, script writers etc, and much of this industry is fragmented.

— The Need: For a movie, hiring involves 3-4 months of screening and audtioning; Studios typically get swamped with responses to job advertisements, with photographs, DVDs, VCDs, portfolios being sent by email and snail-mail; only some are viewed, or reach the right people. The aspring actors end up paying “model co-ordinators” for work etc, and the studio typically does not pay for hiring. Hiring is inefficient, and on the basis of recommendations, and Hoonur will allow studios to screen talent for auditions, according to Sodhi.

logo-hoonurOn the issue of over-supply of portfolios online, Sodhi said that social tools will help segment – users can create a fan base, videos and photos can be “liked”; this makes the task of searching for a profile easier (though it can be gamed). “Eventually, there will be serious contenders who will invest in creating a proper portfolio online, for whom this will be more than just an experiment,” Sodhi believes.

— Deployment & Monetization: While going through Hoonur, we felt that the search needed to be improved – from a job-seeker and recruiters perspective, a drop-down menu with fixed categories will help. They received 800-900 profiles in a week, and are observing consumer usage patterns. Sodhi sees revenues from Hoonur by the end of this year, with advertising as the main revenue stream. The company is looking at (online) display as well as event driven advertising. “For example, somebody wants to do an event around a certain product or around or an FMCG company wants to do and event around a product of theirs”.

Balaji Telefilms will also consider introducing paid featured profiles, once they have 40,000 – 50,000 profiles on the site, though the price hasn’t been determined yet – “It won’t be too expensive – maybe around Rs. 500”, Sodhi said. Balaji Telefilms is also working on direct relationships with a few studios; Sodhi declined to share names, said that the company has tied up with around 12-15 small and medium sized studios.

Mobile Content Plans

logo-balaji-telefilmsGiven that TV Channels tend to acquire all rights to content from producers, Balaji Telefilms is creating separate, made-for-mobile content, and not really repurposing existing content. Sodi says that the company is currently focusing on audio content – doing humor and devotional content for voice portals, Mobile Radio etc, though they view video as a long term investment.

“We have in-house production capabilities in the non-fiction space, and have been been doing music and devotional content for years. We’re importing that for mobile etc. We have enough competence and width in terms of production capability and creative people.” There is a separate content planning team for the mobile, which has access to Balaji Telefilms resources for shoots, editing and production.

The content is being licensed on a revenue sharing basis – Sodhi says that MG deals are usually exclusive, while they want to publish content across operators. Balaji content is live with Reliance, Tata, Idea, Aircel and Vodafone, and some content is live with Airtel as well. Some Balaji created videos are also live on BSNLs 3G portal. In response to our question about whether the revenues currently justify the cost of content creation, Sodhi said that this is a long term investment in intellectual capital – “The cost of content and revenue will not be recovered in one year. No company manages that – even if you look at films, they monetize it over a period of time, with three-five year video rights or cable rights, TV rights.”

Balaji is currently focusing on building their relationships with operator partners, and has international distribution of content as a part of its plans.