‘Original & quality content in different price points to give OTT widest possible reach’
The Gupshup-e4m webinar saw industry heads deliberate on building OTT brands through personalized conversational messaging
Powered by Gupshup, the recently-held e4m Webinar on ‘Building OTT brands through personalized conversational messaging’ saw an illustrious collective of industry heads debate and discuss what goes into building a successful OTT brand.
On the panel were Girish Dwibhashyam, VP, Strategy - Docubay; Kinnari Dave, Deputy Vice President - Product & Innovation, ShemarooMe; Lokesh Chauhan, Chief Technology Officer - ErosNow; Omkar Shende, SVP, Head - Product, Digital Business, SonyLiv; Sathyajith Divakaran Nair, Senior General Manager - Digital - ManoramaMax; Suryadeep Basiya, CEO – OHO Gujrathi; Tarun Sawhney, Head of Partnerships - Global - Shorts TV; and Sanjoy Roy, Co-Founder and CEO – AskSid. The session was chaired by Vineet Shah, GM - Madison.
Shah began the discussion with the introduction of OTT in India in 2008 by Reliance Group’s BigFlix. He spoke about how 2013 saw the space take a huge jump forward with the launch of players like Hotstar, SonyLiv and others.
“Today, this revolutionary technology has become a mainstream media vehicle, where there are more than 45 OTT platforms in India, and their unique consumers total up to more than half of the internet population of India,” said Shah, adding that apart from the main players in the space, regional platforms with vernacular content were also gaining popularity, and that the entire ecosystem was growing on the back of GEC content.
Addressing how OTT consumption patterns had changed after the pandemic, SonyLiv’s Shende said, “The compulsion of having to stay at home obviously led to more consumers opting to watch more content across a wide choice of OTT platforms, and we went from a 0.8 million subscriber base to 18.7 million. So, this huge growth has been driven by consumers opting and ready to pay for more original and exclusive content.”
While noting that sports is also a big driver, Shende said it was SonyLiv’s original content that had provided the biggest impetus to the increase in the subscription model.
According to Shah, there are a lot of snackable web shows along with movies mostly from the 90s and early 2000s as primary content.
Chauhan opined that it was evident there was going to be an upshift in viewer numbers, but the pandemic accelerated it tremendously. “It allowed us to better understand the consumption patterns from the data and invest more in developing web series and shows. And we learned how to cater to different age groups and geographies better.”
“We know that having a great library of content that has great re-watch value is always going to be our strong point, as the Indian diaspora has a huge attachment for movies, and that’s what we bank on,” he added.
Noting that habit creation by the big OTT players had made consumers accustomed to paying for video content, Dwibhashyam said that once that habit is created, it opens the door for more types of content to be pushed into the household, and that helped niche platforms like DocuBay to gain and grow their audiences.
Sawhney agreed that even niche content was seeing aggressive growth, noting that ShortsTV had entered India in 2018 without too many expectations, being unsure about how the market would pan out for them.
“We always knew there was a market for different content in India and so were pleasantly surprised by the number of subscribers who were signing up. And, of course, the whole matrix has changed post-pandemic as people have started valuing their own time more. As people work from home more, that thin line between working and not working has faded, and we've found that short format content fits into that very nicely,” observed Sawhney.
In the case of OHO Gujrathi, as with any other platform, Basiya said the final metric for performance was subscriptions, but given that it was the new kid on the block, having only debuted a year earlier, it was concentrating heavily on content reach and the amount of time spent on the platform. “These are two metrics we’re observing closely and obviously over time it’ll reduce the churn and increase our subscriptions in the long run,” he said.
As for Manorama, which had already built its credibility over a long period, Nair said that the platform ManoramaMax had viewers coming in for news and entertainment content while others came in for the web series created for the platform.
“Earlier there wasn’t a lot of traction between these different groups of viewers and so our success now is in engaging our viewers internally. The viewer coming in to watch news is also introduced to the cinema and other entertainment, and if we are able to engage them across those segments, then that is our measure of success for the time being,” Nair pointed out.
Indeed, as content and communications become more localized and consumer-focused, OTT brands across the board are using their platforms to directly engage with their subscribers in meaningful ways. The panellists agreed that there is a need to provide a range of original, high-quality content across different price points and for different audiences in order to have the widest possible reach.
As to how conversational AI for platforms will be able to engage with consumers in a country with as many languages as India, Roy, while noting that he represented OTT content more from a consumer’s perspective, said that this, like any other industry, would evolve.
“From the backend, teaching a machine a language is hard and that’s what we as technology guys have been trying to solve. The good thing is that things are evolving at a very rapid pace. Till two years ago, how AI used to handle this conversation problem was all through translation. Now, there has been a tremendous amount of investment by governments, educational and private institutions and others in language models that are trained in the local languages,” said Roy.
“There has been significant improvement and things are only going to get better in the OTT space and how we engage with a range of consumers,” Roy concluded.
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