Despite abysmal Internet speeds in India, 2014 saw more companies foraying into the online video sector and web-exclusive videos receiving mainstream adoption. As pointed out by Google, two of the top five non-music videos watched on YouTube India during the year were web-exclusive videos released by independent video creators like AIB and TheViralFever. A look at some of the top developments we’ve noticed in the sector in 2014:
The advent of YouTube MCNs
Disney owned Maker Studios, possibly one of the largest YouTube multi-channel networks (MCNs) worldwide, entered India by signing up Indian YouTube channels like All India Bakchod, East India Comedy and Kanan Gill among others, while another large YouTube MCN FullScreen partnered Qyuki to expand into India. Interestingly, Qyuki itself had pivoted to become a YouTube MCN in March this year, a much needed change from its previous Tumblr-inspired avatar.
The team that ran the now-defunct iStream, also launched Pepper Media in June while Culture Machine, an MCN setup by former Disney-UTV exec Sameer Pitalwalla and former YouTube exec Venkat Prasad raised investment from Zodius Capital. YouTube MCN Rightster signed a deal to manage Lehren’s YouTube channels while the TO THE NEW Ventures-backed YouTube MCN #fame signed a deal with celebrity management firm CAA Kwan to launch celebrity YouTube channels.
Culture Machine vs Shraddha Sharma: Also noteworthy this year was the legal battle between Culture Machine and YouTube India star Shraddha Sharma over an alleged breach of contract. This was a particularly interesting case since it brought to light the relationship between YouTube MCNs and YouTube stars over ownership of channels. Culture Machine was later asked to return Sharma’s YouTube channel after she won the case in Bombay High Court.
New video on demand services
Zee Entertainment partnered Voddler to launch a Bollywood video on demand site Bollyvod which started its US rollout in June this year while Pritish Nandy Communications is currently testing a similar service called Ogle that offers the latest English TV show episodes & English movies besides regional content.
Relativity Media had also signed a $100 million joint venture with Indian TV channel B4U to launch a digital streaming service RelaTV that will offer short and long length video content to Indian viewers.
Traditional studios releasing web-exclusive content
Chennai-based film production house AVM Productions released a direct-to-Internet movie on YouTube in April this year. Spuul told Medianama that a lot of smaller productions have also started viewing online platforms as a key distribution channel to reach out to a bigger audience globally.
Apart from film studios, MTV launched two web series – a fashion and lifestyle web series called The Look and a fitness web series called Get Fit while Sony Music launched an art & craft-focused YouTube channel MadStuffWithRob and Rajshri launched a kids video channel Peekaboo.
Strangely, we also noticed how quiet Times Internet’s video streaming service BoxTV has been this year, as if it’s not really there. BoxTV business head Ashish Behl however said that they are currently working with a few studios to bring new releases and fresh content first to the web or at the same time as offline platforms.
Emergence of media streaming devices
Google launched its media streaming device Chromecast in India earlier this month, although content providers have been supporting this device from much earlier. Spuul had introduced Chromecast support in June while NDTV added it in September this year. Rolocule Games is also adding Chromecast support for one of its games Motion Tennis.
Airtel also briefly piloted a Chromecast clone Inferno in Gurgaon, wherein it was offering the device at a subsidized rate of Rs 500 for Airtel Broadband users in Gurgaon. The company had tied-up with TV streaming startup Teewe and was part of Teewe’s ‘Enterprise’ services, wherein it white-labels the product and service. Teewe itself was launched exclusively on Snapdeal in August this year.
While there weren’t many investments in the online video sector this year, Bollywood content aggregation company Shemaroo Entertainment raised Rs 120 crore through an IPO on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The company currently manages 32 channels on YouTube including Shemaroo Movies, Shemaroo Entertainment and Filmi Gaane among others. Besides this, it also has agreements with Daily Motion, Yahoo India and Spuul among others.