Home >industry >Hungama Digital sets focus on web originals

New Delhi: After starting life as a music streaming service and expanding into movie streaming later, Hungama is now ready for the next big step: Original content, the holy grail of all web media.

The first original content series from Hungama Digital Media Entertainment will debut by the end of July, the company’s top executive said. As with other Hungama content, it will be available on phone browsers, mobile apps, smart TVs and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms.

“Original content programming in the Indian context in the next 24-36 month outlook will continue to gain prominence and we will continue to invest in this," said Neeraj Roy, founder-CEO of Hungama. The company will focus on genres like humour, crime, drama and derivative music for such content.

The opportunity in original content programming is big. Original web content series like Pitchers and Permanent Roommates from online video content creator The Viral Fever (TVF) have crossed over 2 million views each on Youtube. Pitchers, a web series based on four friends and the startup ecosystem, became the world’s most popular mini-series in 2015, scoring 9.7 points out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Global media companies like Netflix Inc. and Google Inc. (for its video viewing platform Youtube) are investing in original content to entice potential subscribers.

The company is expected to go live with 4-5 original web content series before December this year, Roy said.

Roy did not reveal which production house will create the first series but said his company is in talks with 14-15 studios, creative houses and independent producers.

An official announcement is expected next week from Hungama, which received a $25 million investment from Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. last month.

Hungama is among the leading companies that create Bollywood content and stream them on the Internet. A subscription-led service, it has a content library of 8,000 films and 3.5 million songs that can be accessed at multiple monthly and weekly packages priced from 30 per week to 249 per month.

According to March 2016 data by ComScore Inc, a digital research and marketing agency, India’s online video viewership stood at 81.7 million viewers, while total time spent on videos was 23.3 billion minutes.

Hungama is close to finalising partnerships with 20 IoT platforms, Roy said, without revealing any names. IoT is defined as a network of “things" that include identifiable devices, appliances and equipment that seamlessly connect and communicate. The company, he said, is aiming to become a “converged entertainment destination".

“I believe the entertainment economy can enable the transaction economy in the country just the way e-commerce did. In a market like India, building businesses majorly dependant on advertising is a vulnerable thing to do," said Roy.

By the end of FY17, Hungama aims to reach over 100 million subscribers. It will continue to invest in both technology and content.

According to Kedar Gavane, country head for ComScore, in India, original content services have seen a “manifold" increase in the past few months. “Original digital video programming is attracting a growing audience – especially younger viewers 18-34 who are highly desirable for many advertisers."

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