The Rise of OTT platforms in India, and the fall that may come soon

OTT platforms in India are growing rapidly in terms of subscribership mainly due to a number of factors. Digital India plays a major role in promoting the use of OTT platforms to stream diverse content from all over the world. A youth oriented population has led to the increase in the viewership of OTT platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, etc. The drop in prices of smartphones and cellular data has enabled a large chunk of the population to gain access to online platforms.India currently has about 220-250 million smartphone users which is expected to hit 500 million by 2020.

There are also platforms like Saavn, Wynk, etc. that have become more popular due to its wide variety of choices in music. YouTube is the 4th most used app in India, as the number of smartphone users increases in India, there is scope for an increase in viewership. 

One of the major challenges that OTT platforms face in developed countries is competition like HBO, CBS, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, etc. The production cost that is incurred to cater to niche audiences are also high. Entertaining content is a prerequisite to drive subscription and grow consumer affinity. And mainly, the market in developed countries like the USA is saturated which leads to expensive marketing budgets to push for viewership.

“The last couple of years have seen a boom in the OTT space. While initially there were independent players acting as content curators, today broadcasters have their own digital platform to cater to the internet-savvy audience. There is no doubt that the platform is being aggressively marketed, be it in the form of TV ads, hoardings or free subscription offered to subscribers.” Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India.

Platforms like Voot, Sony Liv and Zee 5 are OTT platforms developed by existing broadcast channels to remain relevant and to cater to the shift in audience from TV viewership to OTT platforms. However, most of their content on these platforms are the same as the ones broadcasted on TV. 

OTT platforms’ business model would blanket subscribership with sponsored content. Their revenue would be mainly generated from advertisements. “Netflix is positioning itself as to how in terms of video content Netflix is the thing to do. Others are using content marketing strategy to show their exclusive content as differentiator against others. But they end up looking similar to each other. Netflix and Amazon are standouts as they know how to market themselves and are able to bring in content outside TV. Hotstar is riding on cricket in a big way.” Rajiv Dingra, Founder-CEO, WAT Consult. 

OTT Stats
OTT Stats

 There are 30+ OTT players in India in different languages targeting different audiences depending on what content they roll out. 40% of viewership on OTT platforms is mainly regional content. 

The target group of major OTT platforms should ideally be  “millennials” or the age group of 18-35 years. This number, however, is largely contrasting due to the Digital India campaign, increasing number of smartphone and data users and is also an effect of globalization which has led the population to be more aware. With major data service providers like Jio bringing down data costs, there has been a significant shift in viewership in India with number of Indian users growing at the rate of 4-8%.. This essentially means that there is massive potential for rural India to subscribe to such platforms on a large scale – making rural India also a target group for platforms.  

In 2017, OTT platforms in India generated Rs. 2019 crore, this is expected to increase to Rs. 5595 crore by 2022. Digital streaming platforms overtook film entertainment to rank the third-largest Indian Media & Entertainment sector in 2019, according to the latest EY-FICCI Indian Media & Entertainment Report.

When most OTT platforms made an entry in the Indian market, they mainly had catch-up shows. However, with the entry of global players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, users are offered a plethora of original content. Hotstar is currently the most popular OTT platform in India according to data from a mobile advertising and Internet service provider. Although in my opinion, Netflix will be the market leader in the medium term among millennials as it is a giant global player and it entered India powerful, mainly due to the youth inspired by western culture.

Netflix also wants to indulge itself in the Indian market by creating original Indian content which may prove to be an extremely profitable move. Shows like Sacred Games and Ghoul have already left audiences wanting more from India. Netflix has also confirmed that it is going to experiment with ads for its original content between episodes, this will increase its revenue exponentially. And lastly, there is a “cool” factor to using Netflix, a privilege Voot or Alt Balaji does not have yet. However, such platforms are garnering more attention due to the content they have been posting. 

In July this year, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, while citing the poor portrayal of India, asked the entertainment industry to self-regulate their content. The rapid growth in viewership and popularity of OTT platforms like Netfllix, Prime Video, Hotstar, etc. among others due to their raw and unfiltered content. The Indian government, as we all know, is quite big on moral policing – from banning beef to their obvious dislike towards PDA and couples hanging out on Valentine’s Day, it is apparent that anything that they don’t like, they’ll ban in “public interest”. Therefore, the ministry may try to justify the existing laws to cope with “objectionable content” but it is not adequate.

The Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board) was set up under the Cinematographic Act, 1952. The Act, along with Rules (1983) and guidelines (1991), have set out the manner in which films are to be certified by the Censor Board. The Act states that “a film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of, inter alia, decency.” Additionally, the guidelines stipulated that the certification must ensure artistic expression and creative freedom and that the certification is responsive to social change.

The Indian audience that enjoys raw content is extremely unsure about the censorship of content on OTT platforms simply because they do not want saas-bahu serials on such platforms too, they are looking for great content, which, let’s get real, these serials can never be. The audience seems to be extremely disappointed by this move and we are all hoping that OTT platforms will find a way to put out their content without having to go through the entire process of censorship!


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