The Viral Fever (TVF), known for hit shows like panchayat Y kota factoryis in the process of becoming a full-fledged film production company as it launches a film division.
Registered as TVF Motion Pictures in April, the company will be headed by Arunabh Kumar, according to Tofler data. The film division has between five and six projects in the pipeline, which could be in three formats. These include big-budget movies with A-list actors, mid-budget movies, and movies for streaming platforms.
“Making movies is the absolute ultimate dream of every content company. This is a natural progression for us,” says Vijay Koshy, president of The Viral Fever. Your history in an interaction.
Run by Contagious Online Media Networks, TVF was founded in 2012. The journey began when Arunabh Kumar, an IIT-Kharagpur graduate with a background in film and advertising, and a few other IITians started posting videos on YouTube. The first, a parody video called inglorious seniorswhich was inspired by the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglorious Bastards.
The turning point for the YouTube channel came that year when troublemakersa parody of the reality show roadieswent viral.
This was the time when India’s digital ecosystem was taking shape. Bangalore saw the birth of numerous tech companies. These include e-commerce giant Flipkart, beauty retailer Nykaa, and taxi aggregator Ola, all of which have found their place in the emerging digital space.
These companies helped TVF grow, as many tech startups sponsored videos for YouTube-based content creators. After creating multiple parody and parody videos, TVF launched its first web series, Permanent roommates (2014), which was supported by CommonFloor (acquired by Quickr) and Ola Cabs. This was followed by pitchers (2015), a show based on Indian start-up culture.
The content company continued to release at least one show every year on YouTube.
The team also expanded to include Sameer Saxena, who left behind his comfortable job as a consultant and became involved in directing Permanent roommatesand Nidhi Bisht, a former lawyer, who was appointed as the casting director and made cameo appearances in many shows and videos.
In 2015, TVF launched a free streaming platform, TVF Play.
“We did shows on YouTube, but we felt that the platform’s feed didn’t show our content well,” says a TVF employee, who seeks anonymity. “People couldn’t remember the name of our production house when they thought of Permanent roommates. The mark was missing.”
digital entertainment ecosystem
By now, the digital entertainment ecosystem was taking shape in India. Streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video were laying the groundwork and launched their services in 2016.
The potential for streaming services in India seemed immense and TVF seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
The company soon attracted institutional investment, raising $10 million in its first round led by Tiger Global Management in 2016.
The same year, TVF also opened an office in Delhi for more local North Indian content. Led by a team that included Apoorva Singh Karki in the creative director’s chair, the division produced multiple shows with Delhi as a backdrop. These included middle class comedy drama. Aam Aadmi Family (2016), teen romance calls (2018) and coming-of-age drama applicants (2021). applicants it currently has around 50 million views, according to YouTube.
Eager to grow further, the company set its sights on releasing content on streaming platforms.
An underdevelopment show about a family’s journey in the ’90s was featured on Netflix and Prime Video, and was set to be sponsored by State Bank of India (SBI).
However, TVF’s plan was undone in March 2017 after an anonymous post on Medium called out founder Arunabh Kumar for sexual harassment in the workplace. The company initially denied the allegations, which generated some very bad press.
An FIR was registered against Arunabh a week after the anonymous post, with multiple women coming forward with allegations of workplace misconduct.
The web channel’s CEO resigned from his position, posting an open letter on Twitter and arguing that the company will “always be bigger than just one individual.”
Arunabh was succeeded by Dhawal Gusain, who is currently at Disney+ Hotstar, as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and also joined the company’s board in 2015.
But the accusations had created ripples. The company’s image suffered and SBI also withdrew its sponsorship deal. An inquiry sent to SBI garnered no response until the publication of this story.
The problems continued to worsen. Queue please! a show launched in the month the allegations surfaced, suffered from poor ratings and reduced viewership.
After SBI pulled out, TVF was in talks with Amazon Prime Video to Yeh Meri Family, according to a former employee. The platform had even worked on subtitling, among other things, but left the show.
“We had finished doing the show. Everything was done. So, we finally decided to only publish it on YouTube,” says the former employee who requests anonymity.
Yeh Meri Family premiered on YouTube and TVFPlay in July 2018, with the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) as the title sponsor.
”Sometimes, situations arise where multiple brands want to partner with TVF on a particular show. But to maintain the sanctity of the content, we prefer to have a partner in a program. In the case of Yeh Meri Family, the collaboration with the Association of Mutual Funds (AMFI) made more business and creative sense, so we went ahead with AMFI as a brand partner for that program,” TVF said in an email response.
The show was picked up by Netflix after a few episodes aired, becoming the first TVF production to move to a streaming platform.
Since then, TVF has attracted patronage from top players, including edtech platform Unacademy for kota factory Y applicantsboth of which have won critical acclaim. Gullak, Cheesecake, cubiclesY Daze Hostel have also found their own audiences, with GullakThe third season of is being very well received.
panchayatwhich was released during the pandemic, is currently in an exclusive licensing agreement with Amazon Prime Video.
TVF, which now employs 175 people, currently has more than 20 shows and multiple YouTube sponsored videos in development. The videos provide analysis and help the platform generate concepts for new programs.
Arunabh may have left the CEO role, but he never left the creative chair. Most of the shows mentioned above have you as a producer, creator, or both.
However, there has been a massive restructuring at the company since 2020.
Core member Sameer Saxena, who led Permanent roommates and was executive producer of the first season of kota factory, gullak, Y panchayatleft the TVF umbrella in June 2020 to start his own production house, Posham Pa Pictures Pvt. Limited.
Other senior members of TVF including Biswapati Sarkar, creator of the show and host of Barely talking to Arnub; Amit Golani, writer of many TVF videos and shows including cubicles; and Saurabh Khanna, who wrote Yeh Meri Family Y kota factoryjoined Sameer.
TVF is entering the movie space in the post-pandemic world, at a time when mega stars, marketing dollars, studios, and even “decent” storylines have failed to draw audiences into theaters.
The company is aware of the current market and public sentiment.
“Movies with A-list actors will be more difficult because of the stakes. Also, the industry is going through a rough patch right now. The trust level is not very high,” says Vijay from TVF.
That is why the company plans to produce its A-list projects with other production companies. “We are currently in talks with some big names in the business,” says Vijay.
TVF plans to release at least one project in theaters by the end of 2023.