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Social TV Has Started Buzzing In India As This Start-up Brings Tweets On-screen

<b>Social TV Has Started Buzzing In India As This Start-up
Brings Tweets On-screen</b>

Do you still gather around the coffee machine to talk about what’s brewing at Bigg Boss? How about getting some live tweets about what you love or hate on TV – bang on the TV screen? That’s right, no need to fiddle with your smartphone to check out what others are saying. Bangalore-based BrizzTV makes sure that you can do that and even more, right from your TV screen and (here’s the topping on the cake) without any Internet connection.

BrizzTV Media Lab has been around for 3 years now and focuses on bringing all formats of content onto the television screen. Its first product was iExam, an interactive test preparation service on TV. Next came Freemium Movies on pay TV – a unique concept where viewers can watch the latest Bollywood movies for free and without a single ad break. But you see it on 75% of the screen space while the remaining 25% screen is used for an L-shaped ad.

The latest from the BrizzTV stable is Twitter on TV, which brings all social conversation around a TV programme bang on to the TV screen in real time. A US study shows that 95% of the public social conversation around TV happens on Twitter. In India, there are around 15 million Twitter users while television viewers throng almost every household. That amply explains why the start-up decided to come up with this new initiative last month. Here is a snapshot that captures BrizzTV’s vision and viability.

Who runs BrizzTV: Three co-founders – Amarendra Sahu, Jitendra Jagadev and Krishnan Varadarajan – who call it a college dorm start-up because it was incubated at a set-up run by IIM Bangalore. An alumnus of NIT Karnataka and IIM-B, Amarendra has specialised in Computer Science and worked with Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper Networks, Cisco and Avendus Advisors for 5 years. Jitendra was Amarendra’s batchmate at NIT-K and worked with Philips and Cisco for a span of 7 years. Krishnan is Amarendra’s friend and holds a BE in Computer Science from Madras University. Earlier, he had worked with Philips and another start-up called Prysm Inc.

What inspired the venture: The zeal to spread the digital revolution. Both Amarendra and Jitendra come from Orissa. But nothing seems to have changed in that state over the past 10 years in spite of the digital revolution around the globe. “Internet could be empowering but only when it reaches people in a way they can use and benefit from it,” observes Amarendra. “But we saw three main obstacles to mass Internet adoption – affordability, accessibility and ease of use. Hence we thought of provisioning some digital content on TV, so that millions of homes can access it on their existing television sets without spending a single penny and without learning how to use a PC. As long as you know how to operate a TV remote, you are good to go,” he adds.

What’s the pitch: BrizzTV is a ‘first screen’ company that has pioneered next-generation TV viewing. It puts all relevant social buzz alongside the TV programmes on the same screen – so that you won’t require any other companion device.

How it works: The digi-media technology firm is catering to the B2C segment upfront and it’s just click-and-go for everyday users. However, the real business lies in exploring the B2B segment. For Twitter on TV, the company only needs to tie up with DTH service providers and it will reach their customers in no time. “We don’t require broadcast partners since the service is user-invoked,” explains Amarendra.

Once the tie-up is in place and BrizzTV installs its system, it works in three steps. The firm curates interesting tweets about TV programmes from the Web (based on majority algorithm). Then these tweets are made broadcast-able in a TV network. On the TV side, it overlays these tweets received via broadcast with the TV programmes on viewer opt-in (you can do that by pressing the green button on your remote).

Since tweets are converted to broadcast-able format, TV sets or set-top boxes need not be connected to the Internet for receiving the tweets. “That’s how we are available on all 8.5 million set-top boxes that Airtel has in India,” clarifies Amarendra.

The market size for Twitter on TV will be the entire country, according to the founders. The start-up is also targeting a chunk of the print ad pie in India, estimated at over $4 billion, by bringing display ads directly to TV via digital platforms. In a way, that’s creating a new market – digital ads on TV. The firm has already tied up with Airtel DTH for all its products in a bid to reach millions of homes across India.

Claim to fame: BrizzTV claims to be the first company to bring contextual tweets directly to a broadcast TV network and that too, in real time. It is also the first company to introduce permission advertising/freemium advertising for pay TV. But the founders believe that the real claim to fame lies in throwing open a market that would get bigger every day. “Imagine our reach with Twitter on TV – 8.5 million homes (over 30 million individuals assuming 4 per family) with just one DTH operator. And it’s on six premium channels for at least 2 hours every day. That kind of reach isn’t available even at large destination websites in India. Our reach and time with users are an unparalleled opportunity,” says Amarendra.

Show me the money: Currently, its revenue model is a mix of product subscription (for iExam) and advertisement earnings from Twitter on TV and Freemium Movies. BrizzTV is yet to sell ads on Twitter on TV but for Freemium Movies, it has on-boarded some big clients such as ITC, Nestle and Maruti. However, the company has not reached break-even yet and continues to burn cash on R&D and technology development.

The start-up raised an undisclosed amount in Series A from Ojas Venture Partners back in 2011. Prior to that, it had raised a debt grant of Rs 25 lakh from Nadathur S. Raghavan Center for Entrepreneurial Learning or NSRCEL (a joint set-up of IIM Bangalore and the Department of Information Technology) where it was incubated.

Biggest challenge: Striking new partnerships with TV service providers. “Until we are able to do that, social media can’t invade every home or occupy the first screen,” feels Amarendra. According to him, BrizzTV’s key competitors will be middleware companies like Cisco, Nagravision and Irdeto. The start-up also anticipates competition from destination websites and smart TV/device players as they try to grab the attention of TV viewers.