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1 million and counting for AIB & TVF, but YouTube dependency is a cause for concern

All India Bakchod (AIB) and The Viral Fever (TVF) have both recently crossed the 1 million subscribers mark on YouTube. Over the past 12 months the online video sector and web-exclusive content received a great degree of mainstream adoption, and AIB and TVF played a significant part in this change. As pointed out by Google, two of the top five non-music videos watched on YouTube India during 2014 were web-exclusive videos released by AIB and TVF.

 

TVF’s five-episode long web series Permanent Roommates received over 6 million views, while its spoof on the Times Now show Frankly Speaking with Arnab Goswami called Barely Speaking with Arnub has received over 7.5 million views (and just 3 episodes have been released so far). On the other hand, AIB’s insult comedy show AIB Knockout (which has since been taken down and faced a lot of legal heat) had notched up a cumulative 4 million views within two days of its YouTube debut, of which the first million came within 12 hours. It eventually received over 7 million views before being taken down.

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It’s fair to say that both AIB and TVF are now media networks in their own right.

It also needs to be pointed out that the choice of YouTube as the medium of exhibition has played a crucial role. Independent video content creators depend heavily on word-of-mouth publicity, as marketing resources are meager to say the least. The social nature of YouTube makes it possible for videos to go viral, which isn’t possible with a medium like television. Plus, high TV ad rates is a huge barrier.

However, there is a danger in this extreme dependency on YouTube as well: The recent YouTube ban on the use of graphical title cards, which includes the use of sponsor logos and product branding in videos, unless the sponsor pays Google to advertise on a particular channel, is a case in point. This move will affect multi-channel networks, but independent creators such as AIB and TVF are likely to be hit much harder, as their advertisers will now have to pay Google a cut directly for the use of their logos in video overlays.

It’s also not clear how this ban on ad slates will impact branded shows, like Ask AIB which is a Q&A show by All India Bakchod sponsored by AskMe or TVF’s Permanent Roommate which is sponsored by CommonFloor.com. Thus far, YouTube took at 45% cut on every ad played on its platform, but it didn’t get any cut from embedded ad slates. YouTube, it would seem, is getting greedy.

Alternatives: Since, none of the other major online video distribution platforms like Vimeo, Vevo, and Hulu among others have either entered India or in case of Vimeo found enough audience, the likes of AIB and TVF are still dependent on YouTube for the time being. Interestingly, AIB and TVF have taken two distinct steps to diversify. AIB has opted for the Only Much Louder model of taking online popularity offline through the AIB Knockout show. While TVF has opted to launch a movie streaming service called TVF Inbox Office, which incidentally will primarily be competing with YouTube Rentals.

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