Global gamble: Why Indian OTT platforms are heading to global markets

Published: April 8, 2019 12:49:38 AM

Indian OTT platforms are headed to global markets in an attempt to target the Indian diaspora

Zee5, Voot, Eros Now, Hoichoi, Indian OTT, International and Z5 Global, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, ZEEL, industry, news

By Sonam Saini

There are approximately 30 million people of Indian origin residing outside India as of December, 2018, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. Considering the market potential this presents, Indian OTT players such as Zee5, Voot, Eros Now, as well as regional players like Hoichoi, are aggressively going global.
But is their overseas journey going to be smooth sailing?

Going places
Zee5 entered the Indian OTT space in 2018, and is now expanding to other countries. The network has partnerships with Dialog Axiata PLC, a Sri Lankan telecom service provider, and with telecom service operator Celcom in Malaysia. The Dialog Axiata partnership provides Dialog ViU app users with over one lakh hours of regional content.

“The idea is to get into markets where we have local partners, and grow from there,” says Amit Goenka, CEO, Zee International and Z5 Global, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL). Partnerships in Australia, Singapore, Bangladesh and Thailand are on the anvil, he adds. The platform is also eyeing the MENA, Europe and Africa markets.

Zee5 is primarily targetting international viewers who understand Indian languages — like Bengali content for Bangladesh and Tamil content for Sri Lanka. There is no original content planned for any of these international markets.

Meanwhile, Eros Now, which has a presence in over 100 countries already, announced two new partnerships in the UK recently — one with and another with Virgin Media. It has also partnered with the US-based OTT player Roku.

Like Zee5, Eros Now, too, partners with local players to ramp up distribution and boost marketing in these markets. Ali Hussein, COO, Eros Digital, says, “We work with core distributors of video services to become part of a larger distribution network, which essentially becomes a conduit to take the Eros Now service to customers around the world.” The platform ties up with brands outside the video space to promote its content. “We are mapping the South Asian diaspora in countries like North America, the Middle East and certain parts of Africa,” adds Hussein.

Content from Viacom18’s digital platform, Voot, is available in the UK on Virgin TV. The Desi App Pack offers Virgin TV customers access to two Indian entertainment apps — Eros Now and Voot. SonyLiv, Sony Pictures Network India’s (SPNI) digital platform, is planning its international foray. “Initially, our objective is to launch in some of the Middle East markets, in April-May. By 2020, we hope to expand to multiple countries,” says Uday Sodhi, business head – digital, SonyLiv, SPNI.

Most OTT apps are exploring the subscription-based model in international markets that are more mature, compared to India. But the advertising-driven model is also in use.

Goenka says that Zee5 is exploring the subscription model in markets like Canada, the UK and Europe, whereas in countries like Malaysia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the AVoD model could be implemented, owing to interest from local advertisers.

The average revenue per user (ARPU) is high in markets like the US, Canada and the UK. “The international market contributes a good chunk to Eros Now’s overall business. The largest share of revenue and subscribers come from India and South Asia,” informs Hussein.

Unfamiliar terrain?
In some of the international markets that Indian OTT players have ventured into, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already have a strong presence. The challenge then, says Shamsuddin Jasani, group MD, Isobar South Asia, is to “get time from a consumer who is already watching content on other platforms, and also to maintain the kind of value that is being delivered to those consumers.”

Evidently, customer acquisition overseas will become the key hurdle that these companies will have to overcome. “Discovery and customer acquisition are tricky and expensive. While there is a demand for Indian content, reaching out and incentivising consumers to download and view the content is, basically, where it gets difficult,” says Girish Menon, partner, and head – media and entertainment, KPMG India.

According to industry estimates, 5-10% of overall marketing spends by OTT players is going towards international markets, particularly on digital, radio, and tie-ups with music concerts and events — the kind that Eros Now did with Salman Khan’s International Dabangg Tour 2018. For distribution, the focus is more on partnerships to minimise investment and reduce customer acquisition costs.

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