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Excl: Video content aggregator iStream to introduce pay-per-use monetisation by Dec, scripting online news studio

Online video content platform iStream is planning to introduce a pay-per-use model for video streaming in India by the end of this year. The Bangalore-based company, which raised $5 million from private equity firm SAIF Partners in November 2011, is also setting up its own news studio for live streaming in what could arguably be the first of its kind – an 'online only' news video content venture.

"We know that the subscription model is a bit early in India. Actually, it is a big challenge, but we are betting big on the huge response we get for our videos. Given the huge acceptance for our digital content, we have no reason to believe that the Indian viewers will be unwilling to pay as per usage," iStream's co-founder and CEO Radhakrishnan Ramachandran told Techcircle.in during an exclusive interview (watch this space for the full text of the interaction).

However, the company is not going to introduce a general subscription model in line with what Netflix does in the US.

"In the US, the general subscription model works as there are millions of viewers who are always on the internet. But in India, it is not viable as we are still in the early stages. So we are specifically looking at providing exclusive premium content to introduce this model in India," said Ramachandran.

While users can currently view the content for free, the company and its content partners operate on a revenue-sharing basis. "As of now, we earn revenues from advertisements and sponsorships as of now. We put partners' ads on our site and the revenues are split between us," said Chellappa Dhanukodi, co-founder and CTO of iStream.

iStream is also in talks with original video content providers to set up a separate news studio like in a television news channel. "This is something which nobody else in the world has experimented with. But we have decided to give it a shot. We haven't fixed a time frame for this project but it is going to be our biggest USP in the future," the CEO added.

The online venture, run by A2 Media Pvt Ltd, is also planning to launch an in-built video app while extending its free Windows 8 app to iOS and Android platforms. "A few mobile phone makers have already contacted us, requesting us to build an exclusive app for their smartphone platforms. Talks are in progress and we will soon introduce that," said Ramachandran.

Only last week, iStream has tied up with Ten Cricket to live-stream the Pakistan-Australia One Day International (ODI) cricket series and the T20 series in the UAE. iStream will also facilitate live chat among fans via in-built social media tools. A couple of weeks ago, the company also partnered with Ten Sports to live-stream the US Open tennis tournament.

Launched last December, iStream.com has already grown to 2 million unique users per month, translating to over 8 million video views a month. The company claims to upload close to 500 videos a day and has uploaded about 120, 000 videos so far. By December 2013, it is targeting 5 million unique users and over 20 million video views per month. It streams 26 news channels in English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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