The rise and ‘desification’ of Indian OTT

Divya Dixit

If the year 2018 made audiences stand up and take notice of the OTT storm, 2019 was arguably the year where everyone witnessed its true potential. In their endeavour to understand the consumer better, major players in the industry flooded the market with original content, innovative marketing strategies, new alliances, and business models.

Through an enhanced distribution network, these platforms forayed into untapped territories and languages leading to a resounding rise in viewership. Of course, the same also has to be credited to Indian Government’s initiative of ‘Digitisation’, and ‘Jiofication’ of the country.

According to a recent report by PwC, the OTT market is set to grow at a rate of 22% to reach Rs 12,000 crore in the next four years. The soon-to-arrive 5G networks will only work as a shot in the arm for OTT platforms.

Driving the businesses are five key elements that include, uninterrupted connectivity, going local as mobile devices become the primary source of content consumption, the requirement to explore new experiential options, value pricing for the end-user and personalised content offerings for the end consumer.

GOING VOCAL THROUGH LOCAL

The audience has an inherent interest in seeking content in their native language and OTT players need to understand the needs and preferences in order to expand their audience base. According to an industry report by KPMG titled- Unravelling the digital video consumer, 64% of India’s digital video consumers prefer consuming content in Hindi. The remainder of the viewership pie sees Tamil (5%), Telugu (4%) and Bengali (4%) as the top regional languages. As these dialects are the first language of conversation for a large audience, Voice search in these languages will be the next big thing. The success of the voice-search technology will be determined by how fast they adapt to the wide variety of dialects and how they improve the platform’s accessibility. Further tapping into regional content, OTT players are now commissioning quite a few regional shows alongside Hindi ones. After all, it is important to recognise the nuances of these communities and be able to tell stories that matter to all.

AFFORDABILITY RUNS THE SHOW

Apart from content experimentation, creators are exploring with pricing to cater to a wider audience. Through penetrative and strategic competitive pricing, OTT players provide their offerings at an affordable rate to lure in the new users. They are also increasing their viewership by roping in more audiences while offering them account-sharing options. By providing unlimited access lasting a few days to a week via sachet packs, OTT platforms increase their subscription base as trial users get converted into permanent subscribers. Testifying the fact is the exponential growth of SVOD platforms as witnessed in the last couple of years. The segment has grown significantly with viewers adopting this model faster.

As per the 2019 eMarketer report, from having just 28.7 million SVOD users in 2017, deeper penetration, data affordability and the rising demand for premium content resulted in incremental growth of 310.6% to 118 million users in 2018. With more subscribers willing to adopt this viable model owing to the unrivalled offering provided by these leading OTT platforms, the figures are expected to grow to 159.7 million by the end of the year.

Ecommerce players have paved the way for Indians getting familiar with online payments. With the increasing penetration of affordable internet and the convenience offered by various e-wallets and other online payment options, people are happily adapting to an e-cash economy by transacting online. E-commerce players have taken a page from traditional retailers’ playbook in offering deals and discounts during festive occasions and this has further been adopted by OTT platforms as well, as Indians love a good deal.

Various platforms are experimenting with multiple approaches to find the sweet spot to attract more viewers and subscribers to their respective platforms. A large majority of Indians also love using different payment options and keep some balance across digital wallets, for both convenience and security. It becomes important for OTT players to recognise this insight and act to provide more convenience for their subscribers – as people appreciate being given choice as opposed to being limited to one payment mode. These insights have also led to retail payment options like LazyPay where it offers the subscriber the option to buy immediately but make a payment at a later, at a more convenient date.

CONTENT EXPANSION THROUGH COLLABORATIONS

Keeping in stride with the digital revolution, major industry players are getting inclined towards leveraging the opportunities that collaborations have to offer. For instance, last year, adding fuel to the growth of the industry through innovative avenues, ZEE5 and ALTBalaji joined hands to co-create original content made available on both platforms.

Telcos are joining hands with OTT content providers and are providing immersive and relevant experiences like free subscriptions and unlimited video streaming to increase their audiences. As everyone tries to grab eyeballs, interesting partnerships and aggregations are being explored. Times Internet acquired MX Player already has content tie-ups with SonyLIV, Arré, and Hoichoi. To address India’s television and video streaming audience growing parallel to each other, we saw Bharti Airtel launch a converged digital entertainment platform, XStream last year.

Such promising alliances, allow these major platforms to expand their already-existing content library thereby elevating their aim of providing an unmatched viewing library to the end-user.

TAILORING EXPERIENCES THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

Major OTT players in India today are driving engagement via innovative offerings such as gamification that harness the potential of content and technology. This offers brands hyper-personalisation and the ability to integrate an engaging message like no other medium. Riding this wave, OTT platforms can monetise such offerings as the consumer actively uses these apps in the lure of winning discounts, rewards, etc.

Catering to the diverse tastes of the growing audience, Indian OTT players are committed to understanding them on an extremely personal level. Virtual and Augmented Reality has slowly entered the OTT space as a new way of viewer engagement. With the power to impact and engage, the use of these two tools has led to the content consumption experience being more experiential and immersive. AI too has come to the fore as it helps these platforms understand the viewer’s consumption patterns and tailor their recommendations accordingly.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Through laying impetus on localised content, affordable pricing, enhanced accessibility delivered through immersive experiences, major OTT players are providing immense relevance and adding value to the customer. Continuing to grow from strength to strength, the Indian OTT market is poised to rank among the top 10 markets globally.

(Divya Dixit is Senior VP, Marketing, Analytics & Direct Revenue at ALTBalaji. 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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