The Rise, Ebb and Flow of Viral Entertainment

14 . Jul . 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A couple of years ago, the Indian audience woke up to the big market that streaming entertainment is. There was a flurry of YouTube video channels that were sarcastic, funny, dramatic and some were plain wannabe. A year back, Netflix and Amazon Prime came to India with their oodles of money and that’s what the streaming entertainment turned from being the next big thing to the big thing.

The channels started pumping in money and greenlit concepts that would otherwise just exist on paper. Along that time, Balaji launched their streaming channel and the game was truly on. Not to mention the several nascent streaming players like Hooq, Voot, Bindaas, who understood what they were against and started some aggressive content acquisition and marketing.

Even with all this, the ninja content creators had to depend on YouTube and advertisements to rake in money. The ninja content creators created what mainstream media calls ‘snacking entertainment’. Entertainment that engages you, remains with you for a while and then you don’t really bother about it. These short, multiple-minute videos were consumed quickly by an audience. But then came sales plans and with them came ROI activists, who decided to mend what wasn’t broken, and therefore parroted terms like ‘seven-minute videos’ and ‘over one-minute interviews’ were grain of all ‘streaming interviews’.

Indians, of course, are obsessed with money, so there were conversations about how much money the flash-in-the-pan Dhinchak Pooja made with her viral video. None other than Tanmay Bhat, of AIB, had to weigh in and say that estimations of her making 50 lakhs a month are farfetched. But that didn’t stop content creators from making videos by the kilos and uploading them by the grams.

It all changed when YouTube changed their monetisation policies regarding Indian content and that throttled the cash flow for the creators.  That’s really put a wrench in the works, but only for a while. That’s when the streaming industry really got behind product placement.

So, the big and mighty started collaborating with brands and made short videos that had prominent product placement. These videos, and we are defining them mildly, were awkward. The netizen is inherently against the Big Man, so the audience cringe-watched videos that seemed more of a necessity than a creative effort.

The jokes were lame, the screenplay screamed, saying that the gag was worth just 5 seconds which got stretched into 8 minutes because of product placement. Some of the product placement was so rigid that it was evident the product placement dialogue has been recorded in some other studio.

The young industry had battled several things in its young lifeline including expensive data plans, QWGA display panels, mobile phones with questionable battery lives – but how were they going to survive this one?

Maybe they have found the answer, maybe they have not, but at least the eye rolling product placement videos have stopped. Viral video makers are back to doing what they do best – make frothy, comedy videos that entertain and compel. The scripts are once again tighter, the performances are better – and of course, the product placement is quite subtle at this point of time. That doesn’t mean that product placement is out of the window. At the launch of TVFPlay’s web series Yeh Meri Family, they expressed their happiness that the commercial integration – you know, product placement – has been done subtly. But this audience will live with it. After all, it has seen Captain America use a Vivo phone.