Dec, 2021 - By Nilanjana Chakraborty
Since decades, India has been a television set household. For as long as one can remember, the television set was somewhat the nucleus of a family. Members of the family would crowd in front of a television and watch shows even if they were not of their choice. Television has been a primary source of entertainment in Indian households for a long time and often has a lot of emotional value attached to it. When was the last time you watched something on television? How many television channels do you end up paying for every month? It is ironic that we pay for numerous channels even though most of us spend do not spend more than 10 minutes watching one channel. However, the demand of the day is to watch only favorite programs at preferable times. To make things easier, this is what OTT offers: Over-the-top delivery of television channels. Gone are the days when TV or movie theaters were the only way to absorb video content. India has seen a tremendous rise in the consumption of video content on various platforms in the past couple of years. With rapid advancements in technology and increasing levels of internet penetration across India, patterns of consuming media are changing. The emergence of over-the-top media services has changed the media space significantly. Cheaper and efficient data and connectivity have permitted both rural and urban populations to consume video content at an alarming rate. Whether you are in the metro, waiting for someone, traveling to work, or on a flight, chances are high that you will be hooked to your phone’s screen catching a new episode of a series or a movie; or watching your favorite show again. That’s how OTTs have crawled into our lives, with the content just a click away.
Let us understand what OTT stands for “over-the-top” media service. It is an online content provider that offers streaming media as a standalone product. In technological language, OTT is offering video content through fixed or mobile broadband internet connections instead of the broadcast TV spectrum, fiber, or satellite networks. There are many ways to access OTT services such as computer, phone, tablet, smart TV, or gaming console. Unlike TV, you don't have to carry remote and set-top boxes with you to enjoy your favorite video content. You don’t need a subscription to a service provider—but depending on the OTT service, you may need a subscription to the platform. This is the case for services such as Netflix and Amazon, where users can access curated content at any time with a monthly or yearly subscription. These services are replacing traditional media distribution channels such as telecommunications networks or cable television providers. These services are typically monetized via paid subscriptions, but there are exceptions. For example, some OTT platforms might offer in-app purchases.
OTT platforms give you the freedom to watch the movies and TV series you want at your own convenience. While majority of the population of the country uses television, we can see a shift towards OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar.
OTT is growing like never before. With rapid video streaming, improvement in internet speed, and addition of improved over-the-top (OTT) video technology like adaptive bitrate streaming, conditions for the advancement of OTT video streaming service providers like Netflix, Amazon and many others have never been better. Internet data consumption per minute has also come down. Sometime back, streaming a two and a half hour movie required 1GB of data for 360p quality. Nowadays only 800MB is sufficient for the same movie in 480p quality. Thus, quality has improved and data consumption per minute has come down. People can now watch two movies at a go by consuming just 1 GB or 1.5 GB of data.
For many of us watching television means streaming on platforms like Netflix. It is as if TV and Netflix are synonymous to each other. Well, there is nothing as comforting as binge-watching your favorite shows for hours rather than waiting for them to be aired. OTT platforms offer many distinctive characteristics and features that are not possible with over-the-air, cable, or satellite distribution. These include the breadth of content available, flexibility of time and place for viewing content, and the flexibility of consumer offerings and price points that companies can offer and from which consumers can choose. The litmus test for any entertainment is that it should appeal to the sensibilities of the audience. Today’s millennial cannot watch soap operas. They want content that is profound, logical and meaningful. Also, freedom, comfort and flexibility are valued a lot in today’s age. With extremely busy lifestyles and hectic routines, the traditional TV watching as per fixed slots is becoming obsolete, especially among millennial. Compared to television, OTT platforms provide exceptionally creative content across diverse genres and languages such as Sacred Games, Delhi Crime, House of Cards, Friends, Game of Thrones and many more. It has opened an ocean of opportunities for the passionate and talented craftsmen. Besides, the user-friendly interface of these platforms is the cherry on the cake, providing a seamless customer experience.
There have been out-of-the box synergies in this sphere. For instance, Amazon has synergized its e-commerce market space, Amazon Prime, with its OTT platform which is called Amazon Prime Video. This has helped in multiplied Amazon’s user base and created a pool of loyal customers.
OTT platforms garner a huge customer base by providing free monthly trial packs at the onset in order to increase their subscribers. This has made OTT an unconscious yet indispensable part of the millennial lifestyle. From football and cricket to Formula racing, almost all sports are available on OTT platforms.
According to a report by Scroll.in, online IPL viewership crossed the 100 million mark in 2016 in India.
One no longer has to wait for the highlights to catch up on those cricket sixes. Sports can be accessed anywhere today. Shows on such platforms are usually ad-free, making it a pleasant experience for the viewer. Users don't have to see the same advertisement again and again and can enjoy the show without any interruption.
As per reports by The Indian Express, India will have 371 million internet users by June. There are about 66 million unique connected video viewers in the country, and about 1.3 million OTT paid video subscribers.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has propelled the growth of OTT platforms, a segment that was already booming. The closure of cinema halls has led to the emergence of OTT as the new big screen.
Well, digital video growth will be the second or third screen as 97% of India is still single TV homes. Traditional mediums like television and print still dominate when it comes to advertising in India, and brand building will continue through television. This is because of the huge viewer base that TV has garnered. From an advertiser’s perspective, TV viewership is more valuable than a similar viewership on digital video. When it comes to the overall split of OTT viewership, the majority exists in urban India. The major drawback lies in the fact that they require a steady internet connection to operate, which is still a luxury for many rural parts of India. In addition to the lack of internet, the lack of digital literacy also adds to challenges faced by OTT platforms. Many people in India are not well versed in accessing content on their devices. Television, on the other hand, is an age-old device that people have become accustomed to operating and thus requires less technical knowledge. When it comes to regional content, OTT content cannot replace television content. Moreover, television is not very expensive compared to OTT platforms where one has to subscribe exclusively to each platform. Subscription to various OTT platforms along with a steady internet connection ends up costing more to the consumers. Thus, Indians are reluctant to completely switch to OTT.
In the coming years, we will see TV, as well as digital video, grow in a parallel manner. OTT platforms will continue growing as Amazon, Hotstar, Netflix and many other platforms are coming up with Hindi content to attract Indian audiences. However, it will grow as a second screen. Advertisers will be spending more money on the medium, though, television will still get the major share of ad spend compared to the OTT medium. Furthermore, with less costly and attractive data plans by mobile network providers such as Jio, there will be a rise in the consumption of OTT content. However, television will continue to maintain its dominance.
Boost in infrastructure and digitization is to provide abundant opportunities to OTT platforms and it is likely to further shift the way media is consumed across mediums. Television, as well as OTT platforms, will find a perfect platform to co-exist in India.