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Former Sony TV fiction head joins the VoD wave with Web Talkies

MUMBAI: With 15 years of experience in TV content behind him, former Sony Entertainment Television (SET) VP and creative director for fiction Virendra Shahaney has entered the growing video-on-demand (VoD) market with his own platform, Web Talkies.

The VoD platform, which has been soft launched in July with comedy content, will launch after Diwali. Targeted at urban youth, the platform will have a mix of premium and free content.

The company, Web Talkies Digital Media, has two major shareholders, Virendra Shahaney and his wife Aparna Shahaney besides Pune-based real estate company Siddhivinayak Skyscrapers promoter Kundan Dhake.

The Shahaneys together hold 50% in the company while the remaining 50% is owned by Dhake. The promoters have pumped Rs 3–3.5 crore into the venture. The company is presently scouting for investors to help it expand going forward.

Shahaney says that Web Talkies will have four types of content, namely short-format comedy shows, fiction, music and life-related content.

The comedy content will be free. The company has already launched five shows in this segment to build traction for the platform.

The fiction content having romance, horror, drama and comedy will be subscription based. It will also produce four digital movies of 160 minutes every year under premium category.

The music content will comprise music videos acquired from music labels as well originals. It is in talks with Saregama for a blanket deal to acquire their content. Besides, it is producing 10 original music videos of its own with independent artists.

The life segment will have non-fiction, documentary-type content dealing with lifestyle.

virendra shahaney“We will have two hours of original content every month. Comedy will be one hour every month while after Diwali premium fiction will have one-hour content. The content will be in Hinglish, targeted at youths who are willing to pay for content. Our target market is the metros and Tier II cities,” Shahaney tells TelevisionPost.com.

Initially, the premium content will be free to allow sampling. The company will start charging for premium shows from early 2017 onwards. It has three packages—daily, monthly and yearly. The monthly and yearly packages have been priced at Rs 49 and Rs 499 respectively. As for daily package, the company is still contemplating Rs 3–5 from users.

“We want users to start transacting with small amounts and then gradually move to higher packs. Once users develop a habit of paying for content, everything else will fall in place,” he contends.

Web Talkies is producing shows in-house besides commissioning shows to production houses. It is working with DJ’s Creative, Director Anil Senior, and film producer Sristi Arya.

Its content is currently available on YouTube and Facebook apart from the Web Talkies platform to reach as many users as possible. Reach building is necessary to build affinity, he says.

web talkiesSharing some trends about Web Talkies’ comedy content, Shahaney says that Tier II towns are consuming more than metro users since these audiences are hungry for content and have time for that.

Secondly, as many as 75% users are male and female constitutes the rest. 25+ age group forms the biggest chunk of user base followed by 18–24 age group.

Shahaney reveals that the company is in talks with other platforms to distribute its content. “We want to give the widest possible reach to our content,” he says.

While the five comedy shows it has already launched are without ads, the next batch of new content will have ads embedded in the content. He is tight-lipped about the list of advertisers, though.

For Shahaney, platforms in digital are as important as content. “Platforms are equally important in digital. Users keep coming back to your platform until you disappoint them,” he states.