One of India’s largest YouTube Networks, Nirvana Digital claims to have received over 1 billion views on its network. The company claims to have a collection of over 200 YouTube Channels and over 50,000 videos serving over 2.5 billion minutes of videos in 2013 on YouTube.

Pinakin

Besides YouTube, Nirvana Digital distributes content to video platforms like Hulu, Amazon VOD, Apple iTunes, mobile apps and devices.  As a multi-channel network, the company works with small, medium and large content creators and owners to showcase their content on different platform and generate revenue from them.  The company also provides infrastructure facilities to creators who may not have access to it.

We caught with Pinakin Thakkar, Director of Nirvana Digital to find out more about the video content business, consumption on web and devices in India, monetization on YouTube & challenges among others.

Content Consumption in India

MediaNama: How do you see people consuming video content especially in India as opposed to the US?

Thakkar: It depends on the genre in India. Spiritual content is consumed in the morning where audio is mainly used as background content while going about daily chores and bollywood content is consumed during office hours and during the night.  In terms of devices, about 39% of our traffic comes from mobile devices. With better connectivity, mobile will increase although mobile monetization has to improve, which will lead to an increase in consumption.

In comparison, consumption on devices is much higher in the U.S. They have devices like Apple TV, Chrome TV with content that can be watched via mobile as well as on the television screen. In terms of technology, they are making screens talk to each other but in terms of average time of viewing, it is still increasing. If a person wants to catch up on a show, he goes online. In India, Sony, Colors etc all play re-runs on YouTube. Those who miss a show on television, can catch up with it on YouTube. The trend is there in India but the average consumer watching time is lower.

MediaNama: Why do you think video is working?

Thakkar: It’s a basic evolutionary step. In 1990, there was no visual element available on the Internet. Then came audio and then video. Video will become the medium of communication. Video is still new in India and the kind of content that you get on internet will be different very soon in the country. The question is that whether it will be short form content for different devices which essentially provides a lean-in experience or television content which is lean-back content. However, online platforms record what you have watched and keeps you hooked to it for sometime at some level. It is available in all devices, shorter content, engaging and you can choose what you want to watch and when you want to watch it.

MediaNama: What is the content that you primarily focus on being a Multi-channel Network (MCN) on YouTube? How do you prioritize? Is it audience centric?

Thakkar: We do whatever works. The genres that perform well for us in India are Bollywood, spiritual and kids. What we have seen also is that Pakistani and Nigerian partner content works outside India and outside Pakistan, especially in the U.S, U.K, Israel, Canada. However, you cannot really call it prioritizing. We either buy content or we share profits with the content producer. We start the channel and manage it with managers. I let the managers choose the channels of their choice so that they make them work due to interest. Many of them are certified people who use good annotation, keywords etc. There is an amount of attention that is allocated to every channel. For example, if Dussehra is coming, then the guy handling the spiritual channel should know to build tentpoling content around it. Once a channel has picked up with subscribers, views, likes etc, then it will pick up. You just need to check which are the videos which are not working, then pick it up and optimize it.

Video Consumption on Devices

MediaNama: How do you see the audience choice of consuming video between mobile and web likely to change in the future?

Thakkar: If the speed grows, the mobile consumption will grow. But in the future, I feel that all content available on the web will be consumed on the mobile, specifically short form content.

Monetization

MediaNama: What are the ways in which you monetize the content on your network? What are the challenges that you face in monetization?

Thakkar: Challenges are that when we have rights to certain dubbed movies, through YouTube’s Content ID, the audio rights is held by someone else. We optimize the movie and get a third party match for dubbed movies. The time it takes to get the rights for the dubbed version, delays the release of the film on YouTube. The manual labour of titling and optimizing the films is also time consuming for us. It takes time to break down films for smaller videos like action scene, comedy scene etc.

Monetization-wise, there’s YouTube that goes ahead and sells ad inventory. YouTube gives you one report which is a break up of YouTube inventory that has been sold and AdWords inventory that has been sold. They have a bidding system for the AdWords inventory. Additionally, we approach content owners and try and sell third party ads on content. We are also trying to do brand tie-ups within videos itself. We have shot the first few videos and we will publish them somewhere in December.

MediaNama: How much does YouTube contribute to your revenue? Is it as easy as it sounds to make money on YouTube?

Thakkar: If you put in the effort then it is easy to generate revenue on YouTube. It contributes a significant share to our revenue but we also publish content on other platforms like NetFlix, Hulu, Roku, DailyMotion and iTunes among others. These also contribute to our bottom line and topline as well but YouTube contributes quite a large amount.

Marketing & Competition

MediaNama: What are the marketing efforts that you utilize to promote your content? How did the Comedy Week work for your company?

Thakkar: Marketing initiatives include creating annotations and messages through subscriber feed. We also advertise and buy banner, in-video ads, among others. It was good to see that YouTube initiated the creative process through Comedy Week. We didn’t receive a very large response during the week but it was a start. We couldn’t expect wonders in a week. It was extended to a month and we were featured throughout on the YouTube India page.

MediaNama: Who do you see as competition in this space? What are your challenges with tackling competition on YouTube?

Thakkar: If you create your own content and its compelling enough, then you don’t have to worry about competition. We know how to optimize content and make things work which we initially thought won’t work. People will keep producing content and if they can’t get maximum juice out of their content, then they maximize it through our network.

Scaling

MediaNama: How are you further looking to scale your business? What are the possibilities available to a MCN?

Thakkar: Studio companies are great at content but their role is to aggregate content. Other than Yashraj, Eros and couple of others, studios aggregate content. The opportunities that we have as a MCN is that since we understand YouTube well, we can create both original content and also aggregate great content. We are looking at scaling to other countries & have studios set up there, so that we can create talent who can then develop content.

MediaNama: What are your challenges of scaling your YouTube business, especially in India?

Thakkar: Challenge is in signing up with the right content owners. It has to be done clean since it takes time here in India. If a creator decides to do a cover and own the rights to it, there is no way to pay some sum and create their own cover here in India. There needs to be a push to create content in India. For example, if Full Screen say it has a contract with Universal then they ensure that content creators can make videos and own the rights without having copyright issues. Infrastructure and better copyrights management are the two things that are needed to boost content creators in India.