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More and More, India's Youth Are Swapping TV for Online Entertainment

Screenshot from the TVF website.

Screenshot from the TVF website.

From sitting in front of the TV during a particular time-slot to catch a serial drama full of old values to web series geared towards the country's aspirational youth, Indian entertainment preferences are going through an enormous transition.

Video consumption on the Internet in India is increasing rapidly. According to analytics firm comScore, YouTube alone has over 60 million unique users in India. So what happened to cause this migration to online entertainment?

Firstly, the current state of Indian entertainment television and its programming is dominated by reality shows based on their western counterparts; comedy shows; singing and dancing competitions; and melodramatic soap operas based on yesteryear concepts. The shows are often criticized for being of low quality, and none are doing a good job of appealing to the 356 million people between 10 and 24 years old, which constitutes 28 per cent population of the country.

According to Amit Golani, director of The Viral Fever’s online show “Pitchers”, which was recently listed in IMDb’s top 250 list of TV shows, Indian youth don’t have anything to watch on TV. But with an increasing number of original shows online, Indians are making the shift from traditional TV to online entertainment; a 2013 report by comScore revealed that online video consumption in India had doubled since 2011 to 3.7 billion videos a month.

Lack of relevant material which Indian youth can connect with coupled with the increasing number of Internet users in India mean that more people are turning to entertainment online.

In an interview with Quartz India, Avinash Saurabh, CEO and founder of game-based social wellness platform, argued that the success of “Pitchers” is its ability to speak to young entrepreneurs. India is indeed one of the world’s fastest growing startup ecosystem.

Yet another show which has garnered the attention of Indian youth is “Pretentious Movie Reviews”, featuring two guys making fun of bad Bollywood movies. Engineers turned stand-up comics Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath are YouTube stars and have become famous for their sarcasm and subtle way of criticism. Their channel is a huge hit, with each of the video netting more than a million views.

According to Youth ki Awaaz, the duo’s intelligent and clean humor connects with the masses, especially due to the huge fan-following of Bollywood movies.

The future of TV

India is already the third largest smartphone market in the world, and by the end of June 2015, the number of Internet users in India reached 354 million. More Indians are creating content and sharing it online readily. The country is among the top five in terms of content generation on YouTube, and looking at the enormous growth of online content creation and consumption in India, the company has announced that it is opening its next studio and collaboration space in Mumbai. This will allow YouTube creators free access to tools to make better videos.

Karan Bedi, COO of Indian production company Eros Now, says that entertainment has moved light years ahead of TV. And it’s not just YouTube which people are watching. The Telegraph India puts it that linear TV may soon be replaced with Internet TV and points out the growth of over-the-top content platforms including HOOQ, Ogle, Hotstar and Spuul among others. According to the report India Entertainment and Media Outlook 2014 by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, mobile Internet TV is one of the biggest growth areas in India and a third of smartphone users are watching TV on their devices.

In spite of the growing numbers in favor of online entertainment, traditional TV is not going anywhere. According to the FICCI KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2015, the number of TV households in India increased to 168 million in 2014, implying a TV penetration of 61 percent. Although the report estimates that the sector will see a higher subscription revenue growth, it remains to be seen how the traditional TV fares against the online entertainment frenzy. It will make for interesting viewing.

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