Covid-19: OTT platforms go over the top amid pandemic

December 14, 2020 2:40 AM

Increasing penetration of affordable broadband and smartphones, customised OTT apps with innovative pricing models, along with the sheer convenience, have made OTT platforms popular

Now, OTT and other platforms, including digital news websites, are expected to fall within a governmental framework of rules and regulations. Representational image

By Vidya Hattangadi,

Covid-19 led to a situation like a house lockup initially, and slowed down the economy like never before, taking its toll in the form of business closures, sweeping unemployment, increasing death toll, isolation and overall slowing down of all things.

But this strict lockdown boosted media consumption. The over-the-top (OTT) platform saw an immense boom, and it became a major source of entertainment for viewers. In India, Arre, Disney+ Hotstar, Eros Now, BigFlix, Hooq, Netflix, Hungama Play and some 30-odd platforms have mushroomed and are being watched by majority households. A recent news story in a national daily noted that there are currently about 40 providers of OTT services, which distribute streaming media over the internet.

There is no doubt that OTT has disrupted the entertainment sector. It has made watching films convenient and handy. Anybody with a mobile phone and an internet connection can watch a film, sitting anywhere in the world.

Not all households have PCs and laptops for each member; the pandemic has restricted movements of people, making social life difficult. To add to that, shopping also means buying from one of the many apps that offer home delivery services; from videoconference calls with family, kids learning via online education to streaming online workouts, a lot of things have changed. Post-pandemic, some of these habits are likely to stick. Companies that had been grappling with integrating technology have had to act quicker.

When life has turned topsy-turvy, what would you expect the people to do? Well, the world is busy binge watching TV shows and films. A recent study showed that mobile data is cheapest in India and this has played a key role in mushrooming of OTT platforms.

OTT pricing is also quite affordable, and delivered over the affordable internet, and it does not require a traditional broadcast or cable video infrastructure for distribution. For telecom, cable, media and content businesses, OTT video subscriptions represent a new business model built around ongoing customer relationships.

Some factors that have helped grow OTT platforms are:

Increasing penetration of broadband: This has played a key role in accelerating the growth of the OTT video segment worldwide. Covid-19, especially, has made governments realise the value of fast connectivity and its applicability in use cases such as advanced telemedicine and remote working, and this has played through augmented and virtual reality. It seems that 5G has the potential to power mobile technology through increased mobile adoption and expanded high-speed broadband internet access via fixed wireless access (FWA). Therefore, governments all over the world are investing in high-speed broadband to amplify broadband coverage and adoption. These initiatives have been playing a crucial role in the success of OTT videos.

Accessible high-speed smartphones: By simply connecting their smart devices with the subscribed OTT services, viewers gain access to content anytime, anywhere, and on their device of choice. This is also aided by the fact that mobile network operators (MNOs), particularly in emerging countries in the APAC and the MENA regions, have accelerated the rollout of mobile broadband, making MNO partnerships and designing of affordable packages. Customers have started gaining access to even more content on their mobile devices. Therefore, the mobile channel is quickly emerging as the most preferred video delivery platform as well as the predominant service distribution channel for accelerated growth.

Innovations in media streaming technology: OTT video was born out of convenience in watching programmes at any given time. People did not want to be tied down to specific times to view content. Instead, they wanted to view content at any time, any place, and on any device. This is the main reason for the rise of OTT platforms. Technology has played a pivotal role in the propagation of OTT video services. Complimentary features such as streaming services being cloud-based, support to live-content with video-on-demand (VOD), a large content repository, zero buffering, and adaptive bitrate streaming taking only a few seconds.

Customised OTT apps: Localisation of content, a gamut of choices with regards to genre, titles, personalisation, and flexibility of viewing on any device at any place and anytime has provided a seamless experience to viewers. From an OTT services provider perspective, such deep consumer insights gleaned from OTT apps helps them tailor their offerings by making data-driven decisions.

Innovative pricing models: Amazon Prime Video is one of the most affordable OTT platforms in India. The service is priced at Rs 999 per year and at Rs 129 per month. Under these plans, the company offers customers access to 4K content, unlimited downloads and access to a huge library of content. Innovative pricing techniques adopted by several OTT players have helped attract and retain customers.

Conclusion: OTT seems to be the new alternative to watching films in theatres and many filmmakers are rethinking their distribution strategies for releasing films and reaching out to a wider audience in a hassle-free manner. During the pandemic, due to the health scare, OTT gained popularity. Filmmakers seem to be quite happy with the deal they are getting from video-streaming platforms. One membership is all that is needed for the entire family to watch several films, and that too within the confines of their homes, saving them a lot of time and money.

The author is a management thinker and blogger

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