The president of content at TVF speaks about the brand's ten year journey in India.
Ten years ago, The Viral Fever (TVF) entered the Indian content scene with a YouTube channel that specialised in humorous short format content. The video landscape, as we know it, would change forever.
A decade later, Vijay Koshy, president of content at TVF, tells afaqs! that YouTube still remains an important channel for the Mumbai-based content house. YouTube is ‘ground zero’ for TVF, when it comes to testing new formats and storylines to gauge the audience’s reaction.
"When we created a short video on 'When you date a UPSC aspirant', we got a really good response. That's when we went back to the drawing board to create a series about IAS aspirants titled Aspirants. We will continue to focus on YouTube, even if our platform grows. We will continue to be on any such platform which engages with the audience in such an impactful manner," says Koshy
Arunabh Kumar is the founder of TVF, and the YouTube channel first made an appearance under TVF Media Labs’ banner in 2010. The content creation company is currently owned and operated by Contagious Online Media Network (which is also owned and founded by Kumar).
TVF also has a premium content offering, called TVFPlay. It can be accessed on a web browser, Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store, through Android TVs and with the help of Amazon’s Fire Stick. The platform hosts premium TVF shows, as well as shows and content from around the world in different genres.
Over a video call, Koshy says that many viewers have reached out to the company with feedback about how much they enjoy watching various TVF shows. Two such shows are ‘Aspirants’ (which focuses on the lives of IAS aspirants) and ‘Kota Factory’ (which takes us into the lives of two students undergoing JEE coaching).
The viewers also give feedback and suggestions to Koshy about the kinds of shows that TVF should be making. One gentleman, for instance, wants TVF to make a show about chartered accountants and their struggles. This is the foundation of TVF’s ideation process and that’s why YouTube proves to be a valuable feedback source for the company.
“When we started out, our focus was largely on branded content. Our target audience is people between the ages of 18 and 30 years, who don’t respond to mainstream advertising. They don’t consume regular mass media, so the best way to speak to this bunch is with the help of engaging content,” says Koshy.
"Our target audience is people between the ages of 18 and 30 years, who don’t "
The examples of branded content that the company has done include a tie up with Tata Motors for ‘Triplings with Tiago’ and Rapido for ‘Screenpatti’. Despite targeting 18-30 year olds, Koshy mentions, TVF has also worked with brands like Bosch dishwashers and Kohler sanitary ware, which typically appeal to more mature audiences.
“There are many types of digital content right now. Some feature influencers, some are long form content, others are educational. Beyond ATL advertising, it’s important to use these different content formats in order to appeal to audiences.”
Koshy stresses on the fact that TVF has always focused on family-friendly content. He harks back to earlier shows, like ‘Permanent Roommates’, ‘Pitchers’, etc., and recalls that these shows were created – and became popular – before the advent of India’s 4G revolution.
The 4G revolution was brought on by Reliance Jio. The company started giving away free 4G-enabled SIM cards and launched affordable 4G-capable mobile handsets in 2016. This led to the increased adoption of Internet in different parts of the country and also increased viewership of on-demand video from platforms such as TVF.
"There are many interesting stories that take place in Tier II and III cities."
“A lot of our content creators come from Tier-II and III cities. There are many interesting stories that take place in those parts of the world. We use those as inspiration to create more content,” Koshy says.
During the COVID pandemic that began in 2020, Koshy acknowledges, video streaming and digital video were some of the sectors that saw improved growth.
“At the time, theatres were shut, there was no fresh content on television and newspapers were practically non-existent. That’s when people started sampling new forms of content and also experimenting with new platforms. This helped brands like us. The pandemic has been a blessing for those of us who dabble in content creation.”
"The pandemic has been a blessing for those of us who dabble in content creation."
The recognition that TVF has been getting isn’t just limited to India. IMDb released a list of top 10 Indian shows and web series. Six out of the 10 shows on the list were from TVF. ‘Aspirants’, ‘Pitchers’, ‘Kota Factory’ and ‘Yeh Meri Family’ were among those that made the cut. (IMDb is an online database of information related to films, television series, etc. – including cast, production crew and personal biographies, plot summaries, trivia, ratings, and fan and critical reviews.)
Similarly, global streaming giant Netflix also took note of the popularity of various TVF shows. ‘Kota Factory’ is currently available on Netflix. In August 2021, Netflix announced that ‘Kota Factory’ would be renewed for Season 2. ‘InMates’ is another TVF show that can be streamed on Netflix.
‘Hostel Daze’ is a show about a group of college students that can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. ‘Gullak’, which is centred on the lives of the Mishra family, can be streamed on SonyLIV, and one can watch ‘Flames’, the story of a young romance, on MX Player.