‘Content, data, voice search, and tech will be four growth drivers for OTT in 2019’

Faisal Haq

If one were to assume that the shrinking size of the screens we consume our visual content on is parallel to the size of the growing entertainment industry today, one would be completely wrong. This age is being known as the era of peak TV, more content is being created than ever before, and different kinds of content than ever thought of. Considering our country’s multilingual and diverse audience, it’s not just quality that needs to be taken care of, it is the sheer quantity required to cater to every kind of audience.

Among all the OTT platforms, some clearly ruled the roost. Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, ALTBalaji, Zee5, Voot, Eros Now, and SonyLIV proved to be a blessing for the audience, the operators, as well as visual storytellers and content creators. As a direct result of this, 2018 saw a number of big names creating headlines and completely changing the viewing habits of Indian consumers. Taking the viewing experience from the living rooms and cinema theatres and shifting it to portable screens which could be watched whenever and wherever, OTT platforms produced a variety of content like Sacred Games, Mirzapur, Smoke, Ghoul–all of which kept the audience in its thrall.

We saw acclaimed cinema actors like Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui walk into our mobile screens with Sacred Games, keeping us glued to our screens to see how the Mumbai policeman would save his city from an attack, while it became the year of Radhika Apte as she stunned in performances like Ghoul and Lust Stories. Even R. Madhavan gave us a stellar performance in Breath, another series created just for the web, as did Pankaj Tripathi and Ali Fazal in Mirzapur, the tale of a lawless land with enough action to keep any action-film lover happy.

For those who wanted something different, there was the story of internet sensation Sunny Leone’s life, Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story of Sunny Leone. For those looking for good, simple, lighter fare, the platforms did not disappoint. Selection Day, based on Aravind Adiga’s 2016 novel and season two of Mithila Palkar and Dhruv Sehgal-starrer Little Things showed people that there is beauty in simple, ordinary lives.

However, to believe that it is star power that led to the success of these shows would be completely wrong. In promoting these shows, distribution models have changed completely, with cable networks and distributors, who used to be the biggest disruptors on television, now facing the brunt of these newer streaming sites, and joining the OTT platforms themselves.

Reports say that the online video audience is set to touch 550 million by 2023, as compared to 225 million in 2018, showing us the rapid rise in the change of the consumer’s viewing habits. With this rise in audience, one can also assume that there will be a rise in the revenue models of the OTT platforms, as their consumer base also rises. The growing demand for good, quality content is obvious which leads to the clear market growth opportunities available.

Another factor that contributed to the incremental traffic and user base on these OTT platforms is the Internet speed going up with the introduction of 4G, and network providers like Reliance Jio releasing tariff plans that were incredibly beneficial on the pocket. This has shown a substantial increase in video streaming on mobile phones, with video consumption accounting for 70% of the total data usage.

The popularity of each of these shows on these platforms proves that India has welcomed this change in the visual medium and even though the content was extremely hyper-local, it was viewed and enjoyed by a global audience. As the saying goes, content is king and based on the viewing behaviour, and good content emerged as the undisputed king.

With these platforms allowing creativity to shine unbridled, digital mediums are seeing some of the best and most creative shows, and also managed to get rid of the looming threat of censorship. Based on what we have seen, we can safely conclude that OTT platforms are the future of the television and entertainment industry, and regional content will be the primary driver of this growth.

If we are to look at 2019 and foresee what it holds, the four main pillars that will drive the growth of these platforms are Content, Data, Voice Search, and Technology, with regional content helming this rise. Voice Search will play a significant role and will dominate the market going ahead, with advertisers getting the opportunity to work with the best syndications and provide the audience with advertisement formats they are most comfortable with.

For content creators and the audience, OTT platforms have provided a place where one can take risks with the medium, and with no risk of censorship, creativity knows no bounds. Historically, that has never been a bad thing. 2018 was a precursor to the great content India can produce, and 2019 will only carry forward that legacy.

(The writer is VP Operations – North, WATConsult. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of TelevisionPost.com)

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