May 19th, 2021.
Television viewing is fast changing in India. With the world witnessing a deluge of online streaming video services, India is not far behind. Albeit slow, India witnessed a huge surge in online streaming video services, even before people were confined to their homes due to COVID 19 pandemic. Dubbed as OTT (over-the-top) media, these platforms are quickly becoming an important part of our lives.
One of the major reasons for the popularity of OTT is that it can be accessed directly by the viewers. All that one requires is an internet connection and a compatible hardware device. There is no need for any broadcasting station, a cable connection or a satellite television platform. The OTT content can be delivered through the internet and smart TVs PlayStation, Chromecast, Xbox, FireStick and more. Though OTT is not limited to smart TVs and can be accessed through other compatible hardware devices such as mobile and desktop devices, they aren’t considered true OTT devices (Endavo, 2021).
Besides the convenience of receiving, the media has certain other advantages too. It has opened up the possibility of streaming ad-free contents and undisturbed viewing. Also, the customer is truly the king here; he or she can watch what they want and when they want.
The OTT Market
The pandemic compelling people to stay indoors has spurred the growth of the OTT market. No wonder that the OTT market in India is one of the highest growing markets in the world. Considering the size of the market in minutes of consumption, it has, in the last twelve months, increased from 181 billion minutes to 204 billion minutes (Consultancy.in, 2021). Surprisingly, the variance in monthly consumption didn’t follow the pattern of the lockdowns imposed by the government.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers or PwC’s Media and Entertainment Outlook 2020, India’s OTT market is on the way to becoming the world’s sixth-largest by 2024. It is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 28.6% over the next four years to touch revenues of $2.9 billion. However, these figures may stand revised because of changing pandemic scenario, rising affluence, increase in penetration of data in rural India, the introduction of 5G mobile networks, changing consumer behaviour, and adoption of OTT media by different segments such as women and older generations.
Impact of OTT Media
A few decades ago, every Sunday, family and friends would gather to watch programmes such as Mahabharata and evening movies. All that has now undergone a sea change. Technology has disrupted this pattern and along with it the culture of watching together. Viewers, now have the liberty to choose and watch from a plethora of genres from several different OTT platforms and that too at one’s own convenience. It is no surprise then that the OTT media has grown by 30% in the number of paid subscribers from 22.2 million to 29.0 million between March and July 2020 (IBEF, Knowledge Centre, 2020).
The established players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are facing stiff competition. A large number of other OTT players are set to disrupt and diversify the market with their innovations and contents. Also, the flourishing and growing multi-crore industry seems to be challenging the very survival of cinema halls and traditional media platforms such as cable or satellite television. The Data Sciences Division of Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) India, in a report on the popularity of the OTT services in India, finds that “Binge Watching” as a culture is on the rise as a result of boredom particularly among Gen Z (ETBrandEquity, 2020). Also, Indians spend more time watching videos on the go and OTTs are eating into their travel and sleep time. According to the ‘State of Online Video 2020’ report by Limelight Networks, Inc., Indians spend on an average 11 hours (10 hours and 54 minutes to be precise) per week watching videos online whilst the global average is 8 hours (7 hours 55 minutes) (Sheth, 2020). The same report also finds that price is one of the major factors in consumer decision making and as per the report, 46 per cent of Indian viewers, said that they will cancel a streaming subscription due to high prices. This is in line with the global figure of 47 per cent. Price i.e. subscription is going to be the main issue.
According to MICA Ahmedabad, in their “Indian Over-the-Top (OTT) Platforms Report 2020”, the highest amount of OTT content in India was used up by men in 2020. The number of male viewers is almost double of female viewers for Netflix. The same is true for Amazon Prime and Hot Star. “The least audience traffic is in the female age group 25-45,” as per the report. The exception is the homegrown OTT platform Voot which saw close to 51- 52 per cent of the female audience.
For a country like India, with a diverse population and demographics, contents too need to be right. The OTT platforms and the producers of the web shows are turning their attention to the choice of targeting family audiences. The recent controversies around web series such as Tandav and Mirzapur 2 and the government and court reactions have made the creators wary of bold contents. They have chosen to steer clear of controversies and play it safe. They prefer to remain with the time-tested contents, at least for the while. Amazon, for its web originals, has pulled in Bollywood stars such as Akshay Kumar and Shahid Kapoor who have mass appeal. Nationalist or patriotic subject has always been a safe bet as Bollywood hits such as Border and Gadar show.
To increase the market share and its viewership, Prime Video, much like its competitor Netflix which had no free content streaming service, apart from its one-month trial window, has now made selected kids and family content from its library free for consumption. Other players are also poised to come with contents specific to children.
The MICA report also analysed the gaming trends in India. Here again, as expected, men outdid women. Indians on average, in 2020, spent 63 billion minutes on playing games, against 42 billion minutes in March 2019, a 49 per cent increase. Consumers also clocked 4 hours 5 minutes of gaming consumption in the week of April 25, 2020. “The clear leader among all the players goes to the male members between 18 and 24,” the report said.
Gamification, not games, is one of the strong mechanisms to boost engagement on the platform. On OTT platforms, gamification is not limited only to mainstream gaming. Movies, contents can be gamified; even watching experience can be gamified. The list is long but impressive. It can increase viewers’ stickiness and would transform viewing into an interactive two-way process. If this is true, would the brands be left far behind? They are sure to step in. We have to wait and watch if this would spoil the joy of uninterrupted watching. Only time will tell.
Typically, the industry life cycle consists of five stages — startup, growth, shakeout, maturity, and decline. These stages can last for different lengths of time. We have seen these phases in the Insurance and airlines industries where we witnessed the entry of huge numbers of players when the sectors were opened up initially and during shakeout, many fell apart and disappeared. Similarly, we see a large number of players entering this industry now. Surely, one can expect a shakeout sometimes in future and only a few competitive players are expected to remain.
The OTT media is impacting our lives in more than one way. One should ponder on the following:
- Its impact on the family
- Is it creating distancing in the family?
- Is family harmony in jeopardy?
- Are children safe under unrestrained OTT media?
- On the society
- As one of the reports noted that comedy is the highest genre watched followed by sex and crimes, how will it impact society as a whole?
- Under the guise of social distancing in the pandemic will OTT media lead to a permanent distancing of the people?
- On the individual
- How will it impact one’s health?
- What will be its effect on the professional/career advancements?
- How will it affect students’ life?
It would be worth the effort to answer the above questions. The literature is flooded with information on OTT media except for its impact on society, family and individuals. The author has initiated a study to answer the above questions empirically.
With the COVID pandemic playing havoc, it is OTT’s time. Unwittingly, OTT is also enabling the family watch the programme jointly thereby increasing the family bondage. Thus, in, my opinion, OTT is having both positive and negative effect on the family.
Another important feature of OTT is its impact on movie theatres. Because of people preferring to watch content mostly on OTT platforms and less in movie theatres certain movies producers and distributors are electing the OTT media to reach its target customers (Varghese & Chinnaiah, 2021). In the present circumstances, it is difficult to judge its effect on the theatres though, generally it is felt that it will have some but may not lead to their closure.
- Consultancy.in. (2021, February 15). India’s over-the-top streaming (OTT) market continues growth. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from Consultancy.in: https://www.consultancy.in/news/3551/indias-over-the-top-streaming-ott-market-continues-growth#:~:text=India’s%20over%2Dthe%2Dtop%20streaming%20(OTT)%20market%20remains,minutes%20to%20204%20billion%20minutes.
- Endavo. (2021). Endavo media. Retrieved from What is OTT?: https://www.endavomedia.com/what-is-ott/
- ETBrandEquity. (2020, September 11). Binge-Watching culture is on the rise in India: DAN report. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from Brand Equity.com: https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/digital/binge-watching-culture-is-on-the-rise-in-india-dan-report/78051528
- IBEF, Knowledge Centre. (2020, October 15). INDIA’S OTT MARKET: WITNESSING A RISE IN NUMBER OF PAID SUBSCRIBERS. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from IBEF: https://www.ibef.org/blogs/india-s-ott-market-witnessing-a-rise-in-number-of-paid-subscribers
- Sheth, H. (2020, November 5). Indians spend nearly 11 hours per week on video streaming: Report. Retrieved from Business Line: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/indians-spend-nearly-11-hours-per-week-on-video-streaming-report/article33027753.ece