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Seen a webisode lately?

Aminah Sheikh  |  Mumbai 

Portals jostle to entice users away from television by putting up three- to five-minute video capsules online for free.
The webisode craze is catching up in the online video segment, and players like Rediff, Nautankitv.com, and Rajshri Media are bullish over its future.
A webisode is an episode of a serial that is aired as an Internet download or stream. Each capsule lasts roughly 3 to 5 minutes. A webisode could cost anything between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 50 lakh, according to industry estimates.
Indian online portal Rediff, a few weeks back, uploaded a 15-capsule webisode on www.i-share.com as a pilot. The objective of the initiative, says Manish Agarwal, Rediff's vice president (marketing), is to increase the time spent buy users (on its portal) and also to lure users who are shifting from television viewing to Internet video viewing.
"It's this behaviour shift that has led to the success of YouTube which has around 3.5 million Indian users. Rediff currently has around 1.5 million users and in the coming months with webisodes we intend to take over YouTube," added Agarwal.
Rediff isn't the only one in this space, Barjatyas' promoted Rajshri.com "" an entertainment portal "" too plans to launch webisodes on its website in the coming month.
"We have created original content for the new distribution medium. It is a humour webisode of 90 capsules of 3 minutes each. As of now, it is in the Hindi language, we plan to dub it in other languages later," said Rajjat Barjatya, managing director, Rajshri Media.
Portals are jumping on to the webisode bandwagon as it is one way to ensure stickness on the website. Creating original content is also what increases the user base, according to industry experts.
However, webisodes need to be kept short because of the attention span and also broadband issues that still need to be overcome in India.
While Rajshri and Nautankitv.com have their own in-house production to create content, Rediff has outsourced its first webisode 'Ram and Ria' from a production company Pixel Kraft.
However, the challenge it has is to get on-board production houses that are willing to experiment with a new medium that is still at a very nascent stage.
"With eyeballs shifting from television to new media platforms, there is a need for content creators to climb up the ladder and showcase content on the new platforms like the Internet, mobile phones, and so on," said Siddharth Kumar, director, Pixel Kraft.
Big production houses like Balaji Telefilms and Creative Eye, though, are shying away as of now. "The return are low currently. A strong business model needs to be in place before large production companies jump in. Once that is set, big production companies will churn out much more in terms of content than other production companies. Till then one prefers to wait and watch," said R Karthik, CEO, Balaji Telefilms.
Agrees Dheeraj Kumar, chairman & managing director, Creative Eye, "Creating exclusive content for the new platforms is not difficult since we have the infrastructure in place but the returns are not very attractive."
The webisode on Rediff is free to view. Agarwal said the that they will certainly not look at a subscription model. The main revenue stream will be advertisements. Currently, portals that host videos feature pre-roll and post-roll advertisements. In future, advertiser-funded programs will also catch on for online video viewing, say experts.
So will users get to see top rated television actors play a role in webisodes? No, say industry players. "The top ten television actors are not available. Also, when one casts a known face in a webisode he/she carries a baggage and the personality usually overshadows the character. For webisodes, one needs to create interesting characters so that a user comes back to watch another capsule," said a source.

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First Published: Fri, January 25 2008. 00:00 IST
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