Is the unprecedented growth in VoD, witnessed over the past year, here to stay?
By Harish Bijoor
India is the fastest growing OTT market in the world today, and BCG estimates it to be worth $5 billion by 2023. Video-on-demand (VoD) is manna from heaven, served just in time, in homes and on a complete choice basis. In a country hitherto starved for global content at will, VoD is the new candy to chew on. Plain old television looks so yesterday… so 2019!
The timing is just right. OTT streaming platforms had just about gotten their early-entry act together in India as the pandemic struck in 2020. People got locked indoors. The world is not our oyster anymore. The oyster is our world, and the home is our oyster. Into this oyster then, comes the streaming platform seamlessly with its array of choices, at a price of course.
What was not so long ago a niche segment of play — which had the younger segment in the market streaming live sport content that was just not available on their television networks — is, today, as mass as it can aspire to be for now. Even as you read this, the pandemic time streaming business is clocking a 15% growth y-o-y, with a robust prognosis of a scorching 21% growth on current numbers in the year to come. Stakeholders then are excited. Out here, you have the existing OTT players, broadcasters of every genre (and not sports alone), telecom operators looking for a piece of the pie and content creators from every digital platform jumping in.
As the businesses I work with on the OTT space are busy crafting aggressive business plans for themselves, the key question everyone is asking is whether this is a ‘flash in the pandemic pan’ kind of thing, or is it here to stay?
The current frenetic growth rate being seen by streaming platforms in India is due to the big nudge of the pandemic and the bunker-in effect it has created. There are moments when everyone is immersed into their personal mobile devices for work and study, and entertainment of every kind just streams in as well. There is a seamless interaction between work/ study and entertainment today. Even as you are on a meeting in mute mode, you are possibly catching up on the latest UFC action.
And then there are times when the family sits together to watch its Breaking Bad moments. Streaming and its consumption is, today, both individual and group-led. Every genre therefore gets probed by different folks.
Watchers of habit
Digital and digitalism have grown as habits among Indians today. Online digital payment platforms are booming with participation, just as online-everything is on a roll. Digital streaming is one of these as well.
Live sports is a big success. When cricket took a hit with the pandemic, and all live-cricket content dried up, even as viewers were looking for more, other sports stepped in. Even as that dried out, in stepped entertainment content of every kind in every language. This is, today, a habit as well. Streaming is much more than live sports today. SVoD is on a rampage. It promises to continue blazing its tracks as it enters newer geographies in India. For OTT, geography is history!
The climb into streaming in its early days is really on the model of AVoD. As audiences tire of content that is not exciting enough for their interest here, we will see a climb onto premium services from the same broadcaster: in comes SVoD. Expect a cusp of the three eventually, with TVoD jumping in with a pay-per-view mode. I would, of course, bet on a DTR (download to rent) model out here for India rather than the EST (electronic sell through) model which is that much more ownership driven. We live in a generation that is all about renting, not about owning.
One important point not to miss is the fact that the lockdown had theatres closed down and homes opened up. Video streaming platforms attracted the best of content from cinema in India, as new releases in every language opted for an OTT release. This gave a big content fillip to streaming. As long as OTT is able to continue attracting the best of new releases in India, the future is bright.
Streaming platforms are here to stay, pandemic or not. As the Covid pandemic blows over, expect the streaming pandemic to thrive and grow.
The author is founder, Harish Bijoor Consults