OTT players have resorted to a new method of bringing more customers - the low-cost sachets
The growing consumption of streamable content has catapulted OTT players in the country to the level playing field where they are engaged in a neck and neck competition. The entry of the world’s biggest streaming company Netflix into India flagged off the race that saw many indigenous companies jumping on the bandwagon. Hotstar, ZEE5, and SonyLIV are a few of them that thrived over time. However, there is still a largely untapped market that has been hesitatingly away from streaming platforms because of the paid subscriptions.
Netflix starts at Rs 500 per month, which is pricier than the regular cable TV subscription. Amazon Prime Video is a part of Prime membership that costs Rs 999 – a price tier for other major streaming platforms as well. SonyLIV, ZEE5, and Hotstar have annual memberships in the ballpark. There are monthly subscriptions available as well that the customers have not practically welcomed.
But in rural areas, the penetration of OTT platforms has been comparatively higher, despite the fact that data speeds are not optimally efficient. According to TV Ramachandran, Head of Broadband India Forum, as cited in an IANS report, 65 per cent of the consumption of OTT content is coming from rural areas as Reliance Jio made Internet available for less.
Although Reliance Jio widened the use cases of the Internet on mobile phones, thanks to the dirt-cheap tariffs, users from rural areas still needed an introduction to OTT platforms, but who, in the absence of which, moved to what is easily available on Android phones – YouTube. YouTube is preloaded on Android phones, which covers 90.68 per cent market share at the end of March 2019, according to StatCounter. This is also the reason why Amazon has partnered OEM companies to preload its Prime Video app on handsets for the sake of convenience.
But the companies have not given up yet. Besides the local players, who have a better understanding of the non-urban markets, Netflix is rejigging its strategy to proliferate into more areas in India. Their best bet now is the sachet-like subscription packs – something most prepaid mobile customers relate to, as opposed to the billing model.
SonyLIV has launched its first shampoo sachet pack, costing Rs 29, that gives access to the premium content for 7 days. This comes close on the heels of other local OTT platforms slashing the annual prices of their subscription tiers.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had earlier quashed the speculations centring the affordable plans that the company might introduce for markets like India. The proposition of ‘cheaper Netflix’ could never seem to come to fruition until a few weeks ago. In a first, Netflix began testing a low-cost Rs 250 monthly plan for mobile and tablet devices. Besides, the company is even piloting as many as five weekly prepaid tiers that start at Rs 65. This is an attempt to align the services with the local players.
Hotstar, which is another leading OTT platform and equally popular among the users in India due to its catalogue that not only comprises live streams of major cricket matches but also a variety of shows and movies from Marvel and Disney (Hotstar is owned by STAR India, a Walt Disney Co. subsidiary). In addition to the Rs 999 plan that is valid for a year, Hotstar has a dedicated subscription that offers uninterrupted access to just the live cricket matches, costing Rs 25. Hotstar recently introduced Hotstar VIP subscription for Rs 365 that gives early access to TV shows from the bouquet of channels of STAR India, in addition to original programming.