The deluge of OTT platforms in India undermining cable TV

New Delhi | Updated: January 24, 2019 9:00:14 AM

OTT is only going to pick up the pace set in 2018 which was a fascinating year for streaming service providers as well as viewers

By Kaushik Izardar

With the advancements in technology, there have been many changes in the infotainment sector in the past decade, and the best has been the Over-the-Top (OTT) content. For the uninitiated, Over-the-Top (OTT) refers to the content provided through streaming over the Internet by various service providers or media platforms. Viewers now have an obvious fondness for this streaming, as it offers entertainment anywhere, anytime. Besides, consuming the content has become easy as it can be accessed from a number of devices that support streaming services, such as smartphones, smart TVs, desktops, laptops, gaming consoles and set-top boxes. Additionally, streaming boxes and sticks have grabbed the lion’s share of the fragmented OTT device market. The only reason is that these are explicitly designed for streaming which enables better viewing experience.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, ALT Balaji, Voot, and many other OTT platforms have set up shops in India to capture the boom in the infotainment sector. Viewers are now spending more time and money on the streaming media than cable TV subscriptions or other forms. Thus, they want value for their money, and don’t wish to settle for anything that doesn’t live up to their expectations. Thus, the companies are modifying their business models, and ramping up their offerings to lure more and more viewers. They are leaving no stones unturned to woo the audiences to increase viewership and to have a sizeable market share.

The increasing competition between OTT providers to grab more eyeballs is only proving to be beneficial for the viewers. The companies are coming with new strategies from time-to-time as per the changing behaviour of viewers. They are even using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to study the viewer preferences, and accordingly create better video streaming experience. For example, all of us know that advertisements are integral to traditional, linear television – TV shows have regular commercial breaks – but that’s not the case with OTT. The new generation of viewers won’t spend 16 minutes per hour watching commercials; rather they will just switch to another screen. Taking the cue, the global giant Netflix offers ad-free entertainment, while YouTube has limited commercials to enable no or minimal disruption while watching. Other companies are following suit, and offering ad-free or more targeted and less-interruptive ads. Companies are thus rethinking the OTT ad-model to ensure that the viewing experience isn’t interrupted because of ads.

Furthermore, the past few years have been fascinating as various experiments have been done by OTT players to lure viewers. Original content has been the real game changer for the streaming service providers like Amazon Prime Video, Voot and Netflix. The OTT behemoth, Netflix, is perhaps the best when it comes to original content as it streams some of the most popular shows being watched by viewers globally. 13 Reasons Why, Money Heist, Orange is the New Black and Black Mirror are some of the Netflix shows that entertain millions of viewers worldwide. Also, Amazon Prime’s Breathe, Inside Edge and Laakhon Mein Ek, Netflix series Sacred Games, ALT Balaji’s The Test Case and various other shows have rocked millions of Indian households.
OTT Platforms Continuously Push the Envelope to Woo the Viewers

Everyone is now talking about the original content, and its popularity can be judged from the fact that there are so many shows that are not aired on TV now, but streamed only on the OTT platforms. Many even believe that the popularity of an original show on a particular streaming app translates into more viewers (read subscriptions/business). Thus, more and more companies are now focusing on original videos on their apps. The biggest OTT player in India, Netflix, plans to invest around Rs 5-6 billion on original content, while Amazon Prime has set a budget of Rs 20 billion for the same.

Another popular marketing tool that these companies are using to attract viewers is free trials. The free trial period enables viewers to see what the platform has to offer, and whether or not they want to subscribe to it. This has become crucial for conversion (free to paid) as it’s been observed that more than half of the viewer’s subscribe to the app after signing up for the free trial. Once, they subscribe, viewers look for flexible payment options that give them value for their money. Besides the popular subscription video on demand (SVOD), viewers have the option of advertising (or ad-based) video on demand (AVOD) and the transactional video on demand (TVOD). In fact, companies are working on alternate monetization models as per the evolving viewer behaviour.

As we all know that the biggest advantage of streaming content is the flexibility it offers. Viewers can watch the video anywhere, anytime; but if there is disruption of any sort, then the overall viewing experience is hindered. The biggest problem that viewers encounter is the unstable Internet connection because of which the video gets paused. To overcome this problem, OTT platforms offer viewers the option to download their favourite shows. This way, viewers can pause, rewind and watch the show anytime without any hassle or disruption in Internet connection. So, whether viewers are travelling by air with no Internet connection or by metro where there is sporadic connectivity, they can easily watch the downloaded videos.

OTT key players also acknowledge the fact that the audience base is too large; and thus, they need to offer content that caters to differentiated interests of a millennial, a homemaker, an executive, a retiree and others. For this, they offer a plethora of programme choices to viewers – action, drama, romance, thriller, tent pole stories, etc. Besides, live streaming has also gained immense popularity in the past couple of years as its more engaging. With so many options available to the viewers, OTT has become a preference for them and they are not hesitating in spending more time and money on OTT streaming videos. Above and beyond, the streaming partners are going all out to adapt as per the changing viewing patterns of the audience and are working on strategies to give the best entertainment options to the viewers.

OTT in 2019

In 2019, OTT is only going to pick up the pace set in 2018 which was a fascinating year for streaming service providers as well as viewers. Some of the things that can be expected this year are live streaming with low latency and better quality, convergence of digital advertising and e-commerce, content regulation, cloud-based video processing and delivery ,among others. Irrespective of the changes that will take place in the future, catering to the demands of the viewers will continue to remain decisive for OTT players to thrive in this highly competitive environment.

(The author is COO of Asia TV and a global entertainment industry expert. Views expressed are personal)

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