IN NOVEMBER THIS YEAR, YouTube launched a channel dedicated to Sachin Tendulkar. It has an anthem with music by Amit Trivedi (Kai Po Che!, Dev D) and lyrics by Swanand Kirkire (3 Idiots, Barfi) and runs non-stop footage of fans declaring their love for the cricket icon. One Digital Entertainment, the company that has the rights to produce the YouTube channel, is also producing several others—on the comedian Vir Das, the porn star Sunny Leone and the controversial rapper Honey Singh, among others. It has provided 200 channels to YouTube so far, which makes it the biggest “multi-channel network partner” to Google’s video portal in India. The Delhi-based company is the third venture that the 36-year-old entrepreneur Shabir Momin has co-promoted in the digital media space. ZengaTV and Singapore-based Maverick are the others.
Momin is one among scores of entrepreneurs trying to make their fortune from a combination of factors that are pushing online content back to the forefront of the Rs 83,000-crore Indian media and entertainment industry. The factors are a rapid growth in internet penetration, an increasing variety of devices available for surfing, and the subsequent rise in video consumption online. According to the data of comScore, a leading internet analytics company, the audience for online video in India grew by 27 percent between 2012 and 2013. After years of being treated as a hub for piracy, rather than an opportunity for growth, the internet is now back on business plans at Indian media and entertainment firms.
The possibilities of digital media have been speculated about ever since the internet took off globally in 1995. But it is now, 18 years later, that the combined effect of these three factors is finally bringing to the fore the prospects of the internet as a medium to sell entertainment products. As more than 227 million Indians tune in to listen to music or watch a film, a TV show or a cricket match on their mobile phone, computer, tablet or other devices, the internet is becoming a serious business in terms of audience size and revenue numbers.