How short video apps took media brands to masses in 2021

The format commands a user base of roughly 50 million from smaller towns/cities


Mumbai: “It came, it saw, it conquered...” the statement perfectly describes the meteoric rise of ByteDance-owned short video app TikTok in India. Such was the momentum created by it that by December 2020 – that just six months after TikTok was banned - the market was flooded by its Indian counterparts with Dailyhunt’s Josh leading the pack. Roposo, MXTakaTak, Chingari, Moj and others followed. 

According to consulting firm RedSeer by April-June this year, the short-form video user base at 40-45 million creators hailing mostly from smaller towns and cities, was back to nearly 100 per cent of pre-TikTok ban, with strong loyalty to Indian apps. Monthly average users were up 1.2 times, while time spent on the apps was about 0.4 times higher.

2021 was the time for short video app owners to tap into the goldmines that they were now sitting on. For players in the ecosystem partnerships and monetisation emerged as the key theme for the year, as all kinds of media brands like TV channels, OTT platforms and music labels latched on to the opportunity. Short-video apps were their window to ‘Bharat’.

“Short video and entertainment platforms have seen one of the highest increases in monthly active users (MAUs) and the engagement time spent during the second wave of Covid-19. The changes in people's emotions, platforms and emerging trends led to this growth. 

With content offerings in 14 Indian languages, Josh boasts of 124 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) and 60 million Daily Active Users (DAUs) coming from across 19000 pin codes in the country.

Commenting on how the country’s dynamic digital landscape driven by ‘Bharat’ has affected partnerships and collaborations for him, Josh head of creator and content ecosystem Sunder Venketraman, says, “Tier-2 and tier-3 cities have widely been considered a niche market in terms of content, despite holding a majority of the country’s actual population. While initially it was the telcos, FMCG and handset manufacturers that targeted these markets, there has been growing interest from every major category from auto, retail, e-commerce, OTT and financial services.”

With regard to media brands in particular, he adds, “At Josh we operate at the intersection of video and vernacular which presents a unique opportunity for media brands to reach out to a vast majority of the country’s audiences, given the growing popularity of vernacular content.”

To promote season 15 of the popular show ‘Bigg Boss’ Josh collaborated with Voot in producing a rap song and a hashtag #BIGGBOSSS15ASLIFAN, resulting in 250 million + video views, 10,000 + UGC videos and 17 million + likes. Zee Bangla’s ‘Uma’ was promoted with a challenge around the show’s main theme Cricket. Female users on Josh were asked to balance a ball on the Cricket bat for 10 seconds. The collaboration resulted in over eight million + views, 140 + UGC videos and 630,000 + likes.

The app also collaborated with Shemaroo, SVF Entertainment (Bengali film, television and OTT content production house), Pitaara TV (Punjabi movies channel, and recently launched OTT platform Chaupal), ALTBalaji (‘Cartel’), and ten leading music labels including Saregama. “This is revealing of how short-video apps are now a viable route for music labels to reach new audiences, and how new and upcoming artists can use platforms such as ours to reach out to niche audiences organically,” notes Venketraman.

ALTBalaji’s senior vice-president – marketing and revenue Divya Dixit believes that such collaborations open up multiple gateways to reach out to the youth and the masses with the right message. “Short video and entertainment platforms saw one of the highest increases in MAUs, and ‘time spent’ during the second wave of Covid-19. Their tremendous growth in terms of number of content creators, brands, as well as ads on these apps, was led by changes in people's emotions, choice of media platforms and other emerging trends,” she observes.

A large part of ALTBalaji’s organic reach comes from short-video apps. The platform has carried out various promotional activities with the likes of Josh (‘Cartel’ and ‘Girgit’), ‘Chingari, Roposo, Moj (‘Pavitra Rishta) and Firework.

Sharing the impact of these campaigns, Dixit states, “Our collaboration with MOJ for ‘Pavitra Rishta’ and Josh for shows like ‘Cartel’ and ‘Girgit’ helped in generating eyeballs for various show assets like songs, trailers, and dialogues that were amplified by the creators on their respective platforms via UGC push. It gave us reach in the hinterland markets, thus indirectly impacting the engagement numbers.”

The Q COO Krishna Menon notes that while the pandemic made entertainment a bit of a challenge for most broadcasting houses and digital production houses as well, short video apps proved to be a boon for creators. “These creators are mostly the GenZ/millennials. Not only have they taken engagement on the platform higher, but are today setting day-to-day trends for people. Because The Q’s basic DNA is to work with the best of digital creators, short video platforms become like a strategic alliance for us as a source of content.”

A recent example was the channel’s partnership with Chingari wherein it carried out digital auditions for its recently launched show ‘Jurm Ka Chehra’. Close to a million entries were received through the collaboration.  The Q runs multiple VOD platforms on Snap where the best of linear programming is cut into VOD episodes and made available for viewing. Some of the prominent platforms include ‘Daraawni Kahaaniyaan’ which has grown from few thousands to one million subscribers in the last year itself, ‘Khaao Gali’ and ‘Comedy Centre’.

Elaborating on the significance of short video format for the Q, Menon shares, “Most broadcasting houses have their own digital storefronts. We haven’t created one for us because we want to go with those in the market. They are an additional source of revenue for us, and of entertainment for people.”

Chingari started its collaboration journey with promoting all OTT content and moved on to launching exclusive trailers on the app, promoting web series/ music albums to now launching its own IPs.

The app’s co-founder & COO, Deepak Salvi says, “We saw a huge surge in the time spent and engagement by users on the app during the pandemic and this is exactly what is needed by brands to promote themselves and their content. Knowing that a large population of the audience that belongs to their TG is spending time on Chingari, media companies like TV channels, OTT platforms, music labels and even production houses started associating with us for the promotion of their latest content.”

Some of Chingari’s latest brand associations include Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd, Alt Balaji, Hoichoi, and Radio City.

Due to the growing accessibility and affordability of the internet and the digital boost experienced in 2020-21, people in the tier 2 and 3 towns are now not only consuming content but are also very actively creating it. Salvi shares, “One of the main focus points for Chingari therefore is to create a very strong network of creators and consumers in the tier 2 and 3 cities. We are trying to reach out to the remotest areas of India by conducting events, partnering with regional content creators, OTT platforms, and music labels.”

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