KARACHI: When a friend wanted to watch the popular drama serial Humsafar in Canada, she did not have to wait for relatives to bring her DVDs of the show. Instead, she logged on to the internet and binge-watched all 23 episodes within a few days. With Pakistani viewers sick and tired of unannounced loadshedding and consequently missing their favourite dramas, cooking shows and sports matches on TV, most were turning to the web to catch up on these shows. Noticing this trend of online television viewing, Khawar Hassan launched Tune TV, Pakistan’s legally licensed online entertainment content on August 14, 2014. To celebrate its year-long successful run, well-known celebs from the world of TV, music and cinema gathered at Cafe Flo on Friday evening.
“I live abroad and whenever I wanted to watch Pakistani content, I would go online. But I was irritated by the low-quality pop-up ads, malware and drama episodes broken into different parts,” said Mr Hassan, explaining his motivation to launch digital TV content while sitting at the restaurant that was being ornamented in white and purplish-red daisies, with fairy lights draped over potted plants and white candles.
The success of internet TV streaming services such as Netflix and Onyx gave the former advertising professional an idea “about how to replicate the model locally”. But Mr Hassan and his team wanted to do it legally and approached TV channels such as Geo Entertainment, Geo Kahani, Hum TV, Hum Masala, Express Entertainment, Ten Sports Pakistan and Toffee TV who were receptive to the idea and directly gave content to Tune TV. They were also amenable to the idea because brands were turning to digital advertising. “Thus by monetising the content and giving channels a share of the ad revenue, it was a win-win situation for all.”
“Between 1992 and 2014 there were only 3.3 million internet users in the country. With the introduction of 3G and 4G in Pakistan, the number of users has risen exponentially to over 14 million in just one year,” a fact which is, according to Mr Hassan, another reason for the rising shift of watching TV content on the internet.
The electricity crisis, ironically, has also greatly benefited the popularity of internet-based TV. “We discovered that most of our viewers belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who, due to prolonged periods of loadshedding, were forced to watch missed cricket matches, such as between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, on the internet,” said Mr Hassan.
Other interesting findings shared by the CEO of Tune TV were that tablets are popular devices for watching internet TV followed by mobile phones and desktops. And 10pm to 2am are peak hours when viewers log on to the web to view their favourite shows.
As guests walked into the cafe fashionably late, Mr Hassan discussed the future of TV and the web. “Webisodes of 10-15 minutes are going to be the next big thing. It will be specifically created for people on the go. It is too early for this but this is what is most likely to happen.”
The soiree concluded with gigs by Siege, who will be featuring in season eight of Coke Studio, Hassan Hayat Khan and Zamad Baig, winner of Pakistan Idol.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2015