Akamai Media Summit: The importance of content, data and technology for OTT

Karan Bedi, Tarun Katial and Avi Himatsinghani explored the topic 'Asia Pacific Thought Leaders Huddle: Paths to Value Creation for Digital Video'

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Sep 18, 2020 8:58 AM

As part of the Akamai Media Summit APAC 2020, Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player; Tarun Katial, CEO, Zee5; and Avi Himatsinghani, CEO, Rewind Networks; explored the topic 'Asia Pacific Thought Leaders Huddle: Paths to Value Creation for Digital Video'. The discussion was moderated by Nurul Ali Gan, Strategic Sales Director at Akamai Technologies.

Consumption of OTT has undeniably gone up in India, now even more due to the lockdown. OTT players are at their top game now. Speaking about its audience base and content, Karan Bedi said “Our audience profile is reflective of the Indian market. There are a lot of other towns apart from top metros, which are huge growth drivers for India, where most of our growth comes from."

MX Player follows an ad-led model, which is a combination of content and product technology. “Our content has resonated very well. We have come up with a lot of originals in the past one and a half year since we’ve been live. We have a product and technology investment which is very relevant to our conversation and enables our users to have a buffer-free experience through their phones. That’s our success,” he added.

The OTT player came up with a web series last month that has worked extremely well for them, and which, they claim, is probably the biggest series India has seen.

Speaking about the operations of ZEE5, Tarun Katial said “We are currently in about 190 countries in the world and have a large base in India. Over the last two years, we’ve been doing premium content and investing heavily in this. On the free side, we have been able to build on many used cases. We have a fairly big news service with over 60 news channels. We now have a short-form app called HiPi which has seen a fair early success.”

ZEE5 has been focusing its investments towards building greater tools so that users can do more stuff with video themselves, with an attempt to look at new used cases and give users what they want more than what they have, he said.

Getting to consumption patterns, Avi Himatsinghani believes that although technology & digital is one of the greatest enablers of what’s happening in the world, fundamentally, the consumer is all about ease. “The business has always been measured in two ways, i.e., number of viewers and number of subscribers who pay. Linear is a curation of what brings stuff to consumers. There are creators, curators and aggregators. Today you can have your own app and be on any screen you want. There are certain forms of consumption that happen better in a linear environment. We are still in 20 million homes that pay for a basic service in the region. More and more digital aggregators and providers will play a role at chipping this away. Getting more viewers to build subscription and have consumers pay through their wallets is how we’re all playing within the same ecosystem,” said Himatsinghani.

Every player has a specific focus area that they believe is necessary to reach their goal. For Bedi, it is the ability to deal with data. “We collect billions of data points every day and use it actively for two parts. One is the content to be delivered to users, and delivering contextual advertising to them. The quantity of data used is important. These are our two biggest focus areas.”
The bank of content is so much that you need to be able to analyze your data and engage the audiences in both long and short format videos.

For Katial, Machine Learning is the backbone for a platform like ZEE5, which unless personalized at every stage of consumer journey, won’t be able to retain consumers for a long time. “Right from deploying AI on the payment funnel to quality of video experience, we keep looking at different formats to avoid buffering. We have to work constantly to make sure that the content is optimized,” said Katial.
As content gets richer, balancing it becomes the challenge. He believes that it is important for the OTT fraternity to fight piracy and is working on it to make sure that their content and data built is safe.
Whether you’re inclined towards a subscription model or an A ward model, in the end, it largely depends on the dynamics of each market. In India, it is a subscription play which is ad-driven, whereas in South East Asia, it is largely subscription driven.
“As more and more people leave that system and go directly to the consumer, traditional pay TV is under tremendous pressure, but for the right reasons. The challenge for the industry as a whole, from a subscription driven standpoint, is how to be keep the consumer spending. We need economically viable models to keep that industry is thriving,” Himatsinghani added.

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