Startup Sunday Season 1 Episode 8 (TVF)

Bored of the same old Indian TV shows?

tvfFor many years now, Indian TV has been plagued with melodramatic soaps, scripted reality shows and the controversial cricket league, IPL, in the name of entertainment on Television. So, almost 6 years ago, a group of youngsters started creating ribtickling and creative youth centric videos.

Remember Yogi from TVF Pitchers? One of the four friends who quit their jobs to develop their own start-up. Yes, that’s him, Arunabh Kumar, the guy who is popularly recognized as the big bully Yogi of Pitchers. Like many other young students, Kumar, who was studying mechanical engineering at IIT-Kharagpur, would use IMDb’s Top 250 shows as a filter for what to watch. He found the absence of Indian content on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) listings disappointing. Kumar made a mental note to himself to change the things and it took him less than a decade to be there on the list.

Today, there are only two Indian shows listed in IMDb Top 250 shows, and both are from online content creation company, The Viral Fever Media Labs, founded in 2011:Pitchers (Ranked No. 27) and Permanent Roommates (Ranked No. 174). If you run a google search on “The Viral Fever”, you will probably find more links to viral fever videos than videos related to the medical symptoms.

In 2009, MTV and other youth entertainment channels in India rejected the show Q-tiyapa proposed by Arunabh Kumar. The rejection of his TV show, falling prices of DSLRs and Google becoming aggressive with YouTube, all at the same time proved to be a blessing. So he decided to apply his engineering knowledge and figure out YouTube to build an online TV channel for the youth.

In late 2010, Arunabh uploaded his first video on YouTube and within a couple of days the video got 17k+ hits, which set the ball rolling. The second video which was a spoof of MTV’s most famous show Roadies garnered more than a million hits in just 5 days, then on there’s been no looking back. And today they have more than 1.7m subscribers with total viewership of more than 200m for 155 videos they have uploaded on their YouTube channel. Today, their shows Pitchers and Permanent Roommates are bigger than any MTV, Channel V or Bindass show and is spreading like a Viral Fever.

Arunabh started TVF Media Labs with a philosophy of “Lights…Camera…Experiment” to create a new age media company for young progressive Indians. TVF started as a branded content company and today is one of the coolest brands and are leaders in content creation.

Every business comes with a risk. What actually is TVF trying to do? TVF is more than just a YouTube channel. So, they have developed their website TVFPLAY, where one can watch regular shows and content, created and curated especially for the young audience, across variety of genres like Humour, Drama etc., to move the traffic from the YouTube channel to their own home websites which is a big step towards expansion. They are not abandoning YouTube and will always be a channel to acquire new viewers.

Tiger Global Management has invested $10 million in online video content platform ‘The Viral Fever’, valuing its parent company, Contagious Online Media Network at around Rs 270 crore(Feb 2015) and picking up a minority stake of 25% in the firm.

TVF still consider MTV India as competition. Their scale of operations and reach is something TVF is yet to attain. The aim is to build a progressive youth entertainment network in this country and not volumes in terms of users. They have no ambition of reaching million users like Hotstar, Viacom, Eros Now and Netflix and for everyone to see everything on their screen. They are even planning to make a movie next year for theatrical release. The vision of TVF Media Labs is to be “Disney” of the Future.

“Entrepreneurs should choose things that they want to do, because of the process they enjoy, rather than the result that they want.” – Arunabh Kumar

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