There was a time when an average Indian household consumed content on television and had to rely on the traditional television channels for their entertainment needs. For kids, television provided cartoon content, and for adults, there were soap operas.
However, a large segment of the Indian population aged 18-35 was consuming low-quality Indian content due to a lack of focus from television content creators for this age group. Consequently, they have to rely on shows from the west such as FRIENDS or The Big Bang Theory.
Then came access to smartphones and cheap data changed how Indians used to consume content. They started watching content online on platforms such as YouTube and OTT. As per reports, the Indian video OTT market is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2021 to $4 billion in 2025 and further to $12.5 billion by 2030.
There has been a wide array of Indian content available online to watch in this digital age. As per IMDb’s Top 250 TV list, the top 10 Indian shows are as follows:
- Scam 1992
- Kota Factory
- Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai
- Yeh Meri Family
Did you observe anything unusual in this list? From the ten shows listed, six shows (Aspirants, Pitchers, Kota Factory, Gullak, Yeh Meri Family, Panchayat) are created by TVF (The Viral Fever). Did you also observe that most of the content was free to watch? Then how does TVF make money? What is TVF’s business model?
Starting in 2010 and incorporated in 2014, TVF targeted people from the neglected age group of 18-35 and created content for them. Their content appealed to internet-savvy Indian millennials, and living up to its name, it became genuinely viral.
From IITian to Qtiyapa guy
After completing his education in engineering from IIT Kharagpur, Arunabh Kumar took up a job in US Airforce as a research consultant and was ready to fly to Tokyo for the same. Sitting at the Mumbai Airport for a flight to Delhi to complete his visa formalities, self-realization hit him, and he decided to pursue his passion for story-telling. He came back from the airport, submitted his resignation, and started looking for a job with a production house.
After several cold calls to multiple production houses, he finally landed a meeting at Shah Rukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment. He asked Farah Khan for an assistant position. Red Chillies decided to give him a break and offered him the position of assistant director in Deepika Padukone’s debut movie Om Shanti Om, and hence Red Chillies became his film school to learn and grow.
All this while Arunabh was writing short films and was working on documentaries, music videos, and ad films. He soon realized a gap of content from a 30s ad break to a 3-hour movie for 18-35, which he can fill with his content.
So, he assembled his friends, including Amit Golani, Deepak Mishra, and Biswapati Sarkar, who had the same inclination towards story-telling, and pitched the idea of creating small videos relevant to Indian youth to MTV.
When MTV rejected the proposal, the team decided to parody MTV’s popular show Roadies. In 2012, the team released Rowdies, the first original video of TVF. They planned to have a party if the video crossed 100,000 views, but it became viral and garnered 1.1 million views in 5 days.
And that’s when the team decided to use YouTube as a distribution channel for their content, and the story of TVF began with Lights, Camera, Experiment!
For TVF, content is the king.
Arunabh Kumar describes TVF as B2C tech and a data-led company in the content space. In 2015 TVF launched its own OTT platform named TVFPlay to distribute its content.
However, it neither paid nor restricted to watch content only on that. TVF continued to publish content on YouTube along with TVFPlay. It partnered with other OTT platforms as well to make content for them. Hence, Kota Factory Season 2 was launched on Netflix, Panchayat on Amazon Prime, and Gullak on Sony Liv.
So, the question arises why TVF creates content for other OTT platforms despite creating its platform. The answer is that TVF wants to do business in the content space and not in the OTT platform space. It is not in the competition with Netflix or Amazon Prime but with players like Disney, where content is the king. This also helps TVF cater to a large audience by providing content on multiple platforms, increasing its distribution.
As of today, TVF has uploaded 387 videos on YouTube, with 1,490,844,708 views and 10.8 subscribers. The company has also created five divisions – TVF Branded Entertainment, TVF Production Labs, TVF Live, TVF TV Production, and TVF ONE Online Network for Entertainment, which offers services like branded content for the internet, production services, live events, television shows, and web series.
TVF has also created a precise segmentation of content offering by launching different verticals to target different audience segments – Qtiyapa (comedy), The Timeliners (news and lifestyle), Girliyapa (women-centric content), Funda curry (infotainment), Screenpatti (teenage humor) and TVF Drama (softer emotions).
How does TVF make money?
Can a business model like TVF’s make money? Ofcourse! A business needs to be innovative. TVF’s content is largely distributed through YouTube. However, advertisement revenue provided by YouTube contributes to a small proportion of total revenue. As per Growjo, The Viral Fever’s estimated annual revenue is currently $62.5M per year
A large amount of revenue is generated by working with brands. If you have watched some web series of TVF, you might have observed the references of Unacademy in Kota Factory Season 1 and Aspirants. In the web series Tripling, TATA motors’ Tiago, and Humorously Yours series, OnePlus played an integral role. Similarly, Kingfisher and Ola were referred to in Pitchers and Permanent Roommates Season 2, respectively.
These brands associate with TVF as it caters to a large young audience, and brands try to associate their brand with TVF’s content and, through that, to their audience. This is called product placement by the brands, and for TVF, it is brand integration. As of March 2020, TVFPlay had over 1.38 million new visitors.
Hence, T.V.F. creates content to gain an audience, and then this audience serves as a target group for brands who pay to get associated with them.
TVF has also raised $10M in 2016 and $6M in 2018 as Venture Round and Series D of $5M in 2019, all from Tiger Global Management making a cumulative total of $21M in 3 funding rounds. In Nov 2021, they raised $2M debt from Mumbai-based venture debt firm BlackSoil. The company is planning to use these funds to produce content for clients, including both OTT and brands.
Business Model Canvas of TVF
- Customer Segments: TVF’s prime focus is millennials from the age group of 18-35 interested in consuming Indian content that appeals to them.
- Customer Relationship: Since TVF caters to different segments of a young audience through various channels, it has created a loyal customer base.
- Channels: TVF does not rely on its platform (TVFPlay) to distribute content but uses YouTube as well. It also partners with other OTT platforms to generate content for them.
- Key Activities: Creating branded content for the internet, providing production services, conducting live events, television shows, and web series.
- Key Resources: It includes original content, TVFPlay, YouTube channel, actors, writers, crew members, and online platforms.
- Value Proposition: Provides high-quality original content with which the audience can relate.
- Revenue Streams: YouTube advertisements, brand integrations, and OTT platforms.
- Key Partners: Actors, Writers, Crew members, Brands, OTT platforms.
- Cost Structure: This includes production and promotion of content for clients, including both OTT and brands, paying to actors, writers, and crew members.
What does the future hold for TVF?
Lately, TVF has faced some setbacks, from harassment charges on the CEO to legal fights over equity and core team members quitting the company. The online Indian content landscape is also becoming highly competitive, with more and more players joining the race and targeting TVF’s core audience.
However, TVF has continued to create appealing content and plans to partner with more brands and OTT platforms to increase its distribution and reach an even bigger audience. They are also planning to develop a feature film for a theatrical release. Their focus will be on their unique selling point, which is creating differentiated web content for youth.
The reason behind the success of TVF’s business model is the priority given to content with which their target audience can relate, and when they created a loyal viewership, brands followed.