OTT regulation: Justified concern or exaggerated fear?

Experts weigh in on the decree to bring OTT content under MIB’s ambit – some alleging censorship while others supporting government oversight

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Dec 22, 2020 8:16 AM  | 10 min read

Ever since the government brought over the top (OTT) content under the purview of the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB), there have been concerns in the streaming industry that the ministry will introduce curbs on OTT content through its own set of regulations.

Currently, OTT content is unregulated, unlike the TV broadcasters who have to comply with the programming code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. TV broadcasting is also a licensed activity, unlike OTT platforms.

Compared to TV channels, OTT platforms have much more creative freedom due to the absence of any regulation. The OTT players, particularly the content creators, are worried that any move to regulate OTT content will impact the growth of the industry.

What also compounded the industry’s fear is the fact that the MIB has rejected a self-regulation code formulated by OTT players under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). With the code rejected, an IAMAI committee is planning to come out with another one called the 'implementation code'.

OTT sector has been growing at a breakneck speed with the entry of new players and backed by content investments running into millions of dollars led by the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, ZEE5, Voot, ALTBalaji, and SonyLIV among others.

According to a PwC report, India is the fastest-growing OTT video market growing at 28.6% CAGR and is expected to become the sixth-largest OTT market with revenue of $2.9 billion by 2024.

In recent times, there has been a surge in the launch of regional OTT platforms to cater to audiences who want to consume digital content in their own language.

The fears of the OTT industry were articulated by Siddharth Roy Kapur, the Co-Chairman CII National Committee on Media & Entertainment and President, Producers Guild of India and Managing Director Roy Kapur Films, during the recently-concluded CII Big Picture Summit 2020.

Roy urged that India needs to have a light touch regulation to make sure that creators and audiences are given the very best of content.

“Today, at the click of a button, you can access all kinds of content from around the world on the internet. So, I think our regulatory regime should really be able to reflect that and make sure that we give the industry a massive push,” he said.

In the same event, top ministry officials allayed the fears of the industry by stating that the government has no intention to thrust more regulation on the M&E sector.

MIB secretary Amit Khare noted that the decision to bring OTT content under MIB was to bring "semblance to the online and offline media content".

"The idea behind the change, which was done in the month of November, was to bring the online and offline content in one place. In the past summits and in various media circles, particularly in the print circles, there used to be a discussion that online and offline content should not be treated differently. It was done in order to bring some sort of not parity, not uniformity, but some semblance," he averred.

He further clarified that the government seeks to play the role of a facilitator to help the industry grow. "The role of government in this sector is mostly as a facilitator."

MIB Joint Secretary Vikram Sahay in a special address at a session titled ‘Under Scrutiny: Will OTT be Able to Get Over It?’ said that the OTT players should have a ‘credible mechanism’ of self-regulation to protect consumers, particularly children, from inappropriate content. He also said that not all OTT platforms follow specifications like age-classification and content descriptors.

“Government is a partner and will work with the industry to support the long-term growth of the sector. There have been several apprehensions expressed regarding the Centre’s move to amend the allocation of business and give the ministry the mandate to look at matters related to content on OTT platforms and digital media. This should not in any way lead to any sense of scepticism,” Sahay said.

He also noted that the concerns that the ministry has are uniform across the world and has nothing to do with India. “Specifically, it is concerned with protecting children from content not suitable for them. And therefore, we have been in touch with the industry and we will continue in touch with the industry to work out a model that is acceptable to all of us.”

He also lauded the OTT platforms for providing a huge opportunity for young artists, directors, actors, singers, musicians, and technicians to come up and present their skills to a larger audience.

Experts, exchange4media spoke with, also stated that some of the fears of the OTT industry are unfounded. One expert noted that it is premature to speculate on content regulation when the ministry itself has not come out with any guidelines.

Media consulting firm Ormax Media's CEO Shailesh Kapoor noted that the ministry first needs to define what OTT content is rather than rushing into the issue. "First of all, they have to define OTT. They have not defined it properly. Video content available on Facebook and YouTube also qualifies as OTT. What will they do about that? The move is not well thought through. They have rushed into it without getting into the depth of the matter. They will now look at all aspects of the issue."

Kapoor also said that the ministry might not want to get fully involved in OTT content regulation since it is a vast area. OTT platforms host thousands of hours of on-demand content and it is nearly impossible to monitor each and every piece of content that is put out on the OTT platforms.

"It will take some time before they come up with guidelines. But contrary to popular perception, the guidelines might be much more liberal. They will not want to get into this because OTT content is vast and virtually impossible to regulate. In the past, they have asked TV channels to go off-air in case of content violations what will they do to OTT players? Ask them to closed down their service? So, OTT content regulation is not that easy to implement," he questioned.

Kapoor feels that the government might come out with broad guidelines for OTT to bring some order to the industry. "What they might do is ask OTT players to provide some sort of a disclaimer or some kind of a rating guide that this content is not suitable for so and so. They might come out with certain broad guidelines that everyone will have to follow."

He also stated that the OTT industry doesn't mean only Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. There are new platforms that are launching in the regional space. Therefore, there is a need to have content code that everyone complies with. While big OTT players have a fairly robust security policy in place there are many platforms that don’t pass the test.

"A lot of regional OTT platforms don't have the necessary checks and balances in place. Some platforms have content that might be deemed inappropriate or fall under soft pornography. There is unnecessary fear among OTT players because till now OTT content has been virtually unregulated."

Kapoor said that the OTT players should worry about price regulation that has crippled the broadcasting sector rather than the content regulation. "Rather than worrying about content regulation, OTT players should worry if the government comes out with price regulations like in the case of TV channels. That will prove to be a bigger challenge than content regulation."

Eros Now CEO Ali Hussein said that the OTT industry is going through an evolution. The regulations change as technology advances, he adds. He also said that the industry will have to follow whatever new regulation comes into force.

"Regulators who are working towards this are aware that this is OTT, it is on-demand and it is not exactly the same as TV. They will figure out what is the best regulation to promote the digital ecosystem. It will be too premature to speculate what those regulations will be. Whenever the implementation happens, all stakeholders will follow that," Hussein said.

He is also hopeful that the OTT industry will make some progress on the regulation front in the new year. "In 2021, there will be some semblance of what that regulation is looking like if there is a regulation that comes into play and that I feel will be very conducive to business objectives."

Hussein said that Eros as a company has decades of experience in entertaining audiences while taking care of public sensitivities. "We have been in the content business for the last 40 years. It doesn't bother us how people react but we need to be conscious ourselves of our customers in terms of what we put out as content on the platform keeping in mind the larger sensitivity. That has been our practice since we produced our first theatrical film. We understand our responsibility to our customer whether it is in the movie hall or digital.”

Digital strategy consultant and Kurate Digital Consulting senior partner Uday Sodhi feels that there is exaggerated fear among OTT players over government regulations. He noted that the OTT industry needs to create a safe viewing environment to win the next 400 million customers. Family-viewing of OTT platforms is the next big growth area for the OTT business, he feels.

"If we create a safe viewing environment on OTT then OTT will enter homes. The next 400 million customers are going to come from there. They are not going to be individual youngsters who are going to be watching OTT content on their phones. OTT content will be consumed by the family," he stated.

Sodhi, who is the former head of SonyLIV, also said that the OTT industry should welcome regulations as it is a sign of a mature industry. "Every industry as it matures has to have some government oversight over it. You cannot run away from it."

He also pointed out that most of the popular content on OTT has nothing to worry about regulation. "The minute you reach this kind of penetration and reach, government oversight is bound to happen. You have to take it maturely. OTT is a big industry and they have to manage the environment to be able to do what is good for the larger audience and be part of a larger ecosystem."

Sodhi noted that the OTT industry will need government oversight to be able to create a big ecosystem. Government, he said, will only create an environment that will ensure that the industry grows

"They will put in place systems, which will ensure that each one follows the same regulation. It will set standards to create a good environment and services for the consumer. You can't be running it in an unstructured and unregulated format. The government is not proposing censorship of any sort. Even in TV, there is no censorship there is regulation. They are not saying you have to look like TV. There are different rules for different mediums," Sodhi elucidated.

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Mark Zuckerberg announces new WhatsApp app for Windows

The app will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 3:25 PM   |   1 min read


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new WhatsApp app for Windows, which will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people - all from your desktop.

Making the announceemnt on Facebook, he wrote, “Launching a new WhatsApp desktop app for Windows. Now you can make E2E encrypted video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people.”

“The new Windows desktop app loads faster and is built with an interface familiar to WhatsApp and Windows users. You can host group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people. We’ll continue to increase these limits over time so you can always stay connected with friends, family and work colleagues.

Since introducing new multi-device capabilities, we’ve listened to feedback and made improvements including faster device linking and better syncing across devices, as well as new features such as link previews and stickers.

As we continue to increase the number of devices which support WhatsApp, we’ve just introduced a new WhatsApp beta experience for Android tablets. We’re also launching a new, faster app for Mac desktops that is currently in the early stages of beta,” he wrote further.

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MarTech can brilliantly answer the ROI question: Hareesh Tibrewala

The Joint CEO of Mirum India spoke to e4m Editor Naziya Alvi Rahman on a host of questions with respect to the India MarTech Report 2023 that will be unveiled at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit today

By Naziya Alvi Rahman | Mar 23, 2023 2:41 PM   |   1 min read


Hareesh Tibrewala spoke to e4m on a host of issues related to MarTech while delving deep into the India MarTech Report. He started by addressing the roadblocks in the implementation of MarTech in the country.

He also explained the point about MarTech explorers in terms of the sectors, which is invested in this marketing technique.

Tibrewala further spoke about how martech was critical in the role of a marketer and how it could be extremely significant for calculating ROI.

The conversation also veered toward the importance of MarTech in the cookie-less world and the advent of Web3.

Watch the entire conversation here.

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Google opens up access to Bard

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 1:07 PM   |   1 min read


Google has said that it is opening up access to Bard, the ChatGPT competitor, as per media reports.

The tech major will be expanding the access to Bard in more countries and languages.

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts.

Google unveiled Bard in February. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the soft launch of the AI to "trusted testers". 

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MarTech no longer only about marketing, it needs to drive sales: Mirum India report

The survey for the report shows 88% of respondents expect to increase spending on MarTech over the next 3 years

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 12:43 PM   |   2 min read


Mirum India, a Wunderman Thompson company, has put together a report on the emerging MarTech landscape in India.

The report captures how MarTech solutions are being utilized by brands to effectively communicate their brand messages to the right set of audiences at the right time.

The report highlights that while the global spend on MarTech solutions is around 25% of the total marketing budget, in India, majority organizations spend less than 15%, indicating significant potential for growth. With MarTech spending set to increase across company sizes and sectors, 88% of respondents expect to increase their MarTech spending over the next three years. The report also emphasizes the need for brands and organizations to work with growth partners as preferred by MarTech HEROES, focusing on ROI, and delivering value to the brands.

The report will be unveiled on March 24, 2023, at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit in Mumbai. The summit will see India's most reputed brands and top management coming under one roof to interact and share insights on their game-changing success stories.

Speaking on the report, Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO – Mirum India, said, "The estimated size of the MarTech industry in India is expected to be between $35bn and $50bn by 2026, presenting a sizeable opportunity for businesses. Our latest report highlights how brands are using MarTech solutions to effectively deliver the right brand message to the right customer at the right time, creating fabulous customer experiences and increasing brand loyalty. It is interesting to note that marketers globally spend 25% of their budgets on MarTech solutions, and our report shows the emergence of MarTech EXPLORERS, who are keen to leverage the power of MarTech. This presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to grow and thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape."

CVL Srinivas, Country Manager – WPP India said, "To succeed in the rapidly evolving tech and data driven world, organizations need good marketing automation tools and diverse skill sets. The report highlights the need for growth partners, preferred by MarTech HEROES, to ensure strong ROI for clients. It brings clarity to the ecosystem and presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to create fantastic customer experiences and increase brand loyalty. At WPP, we've invested heavily in building our tech and data practices, creating a comprehensive ecosystem where value is delivered at every touchpoint."

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Why contextual advertising is making a comeback

As part of e4m TechTalk, Dimpy Yadav, General Manager - Xaxis India, writes contextual advertising is re-emerging for delivering relevant & targeted messages to India’s audiences

By Dimpy Yadav | Mar 23, 2023 9:18 AM   |   4 min read


For years, contextual advertising has taken a back seat in favour of hyper-personalised behavioural targeting. But with tightening regulations and deepening concerns around data privacy, contextual advertising is reasserting its place within India’s marketing ecosystem. And it’s about time too.

Contextual advertisement placement is a proven marketing strategy that dates back to the very origins of the modern industry. In today’s digitised world, this tactic involves showing ads that are directly relevant to the content that a user is viewing or even to the user themselves. They can align contextually with anything from a web page to a geographic location or even the weather.

So why is contextual advertising making a comeback in India in 2023? And how can the nation’s marketers and agencies rise to this new digital challenge?

The right context

It’s been seven years since the Indian government launched its digital India campaign and the nation’s digital economy has grown at a phenomenal rate – 2.4 times faster than the overall economy between 2014 and 2019.

Meanwhile, smartphones have become more affordable, internet infrastructure has expanded, and data has become significantly cheaper. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the adoption of digital interactions has accelerated even further, with food deliveries, telemedicine, and online gaming surging in first-time usage.

For marketers, digital and mobile media have become more accessible and cost-effective mediums. This year, advertising spending on mobile is expected to comprise 78 per cent of India’s total digital media expenditure. According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending in India grew YoY by 35.9 per cent in 2021 and is forecasted to grow by 28.4 per cent in 2022

India’s digital explosion comes amid a tectonic shift away from the third-party data collection that marketers have relied on for years. Consumers have become more cautious about the data they share online while global regulations around data collection like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have constrained brands’ unfettered access to personal data. In this climate, contextual advertising, which leverages the content of the environment instead of the personal data of its visitors, serves as a privacy-friendly alternative.

A loyal audience

One of the key criticisms of social media over recent years is the potential to miss or misuse key contextual information. Although social media gives brands access to massive audiences, campaigns can easily fall flat if they aren’t executed in just the right context. Even the best creative cannot drive engagement when it appears in an irrelevant or inappropriate environment.

But that dependence on its environment is also one of contextual advertising’s greatest strengths. When utilized in partnership with established publications, it capitalizes on the built-in trust and loyalty that those outlets already enjoy with their audiences. When a receptive audience is combined with the modern capabilities of global scale, digital precision, and algorithmic efficiency, the results can be powerful.

Trust in context

Improvements in targeting capabilities and data analysis have also made it possible for advertisers to target audiences through keywords and topics as well as demographics and interests. Marketers can meanwhile be selective about the types of content they want their ads to run alongside, reserving their investments for audiences that are more likely to take an interest in their products and, therefore, more likely to engage with them. For these reasons, they can feel confident that their content will be well received and their investments will be profitable.

Still, marketing based on context may be a difficult transition for industry leaders who are more familiar and comfortable with behavioural targeting. But it’s hard to argue that the shift towards a contextual mindset will be anything short of necessary and more than likely fruitful. Recent research by Integral Ad Science (IAS) revealed that Indian consumers are more likely to positively receive and remember contextually relevant ads.

Last but not least, contextual advertising will aid marketers in the desired outcome from their campaign. According to a study conducted by IAS and personal computer manufacturer HP, purchase intent was 14 per cent higher among consumers who viewed the in-context ad. In addition, consumers reported a 5 per cent increase in positivity toward the HP brand after seeing an in-context ad

As third-party personal data is becoming less accessible, contextual advertising is growing more sophisticated, giving marketers the power to meet receptive audiences with relevant content. That’s a fundamentally sound path to success that benefits both brands and consumers alike.

Most significantly of all, it has the potential to transform digital media investments into real-world business outcomes. Although the value of premium publishing has always existed, marketers are now able to prove its success with clarity and maximum return on expenditure.

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Brands can be the real winners as gaming firms hit the jackpot with innovative games

Indian gaming firms received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years. This opens up huge opportunities for advertisers

By Kanchan Srivastava | Mar 23, 2023 8:55 AM   |   4 min read


The Indian gaming ecosystem, which boasts of more than 1,100 startups and a 40 crore-strong gaming communities, is thriving like never before.  With their unique offerings such as NFT-based games, fantasy sports, real-money games and cash prizes, home-grown firms have gained popularity across the globe. Over 86 Indian firms have received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years, including two unicorns and seven soonicorns, according to a latest report of the research firm Tracxn. 

Globally, gaming firms received $20.4B funds over the past five years. Of this, India’s share is roughly 6.8%. The United States (42.2%) Chinese (18.3%) firms got the lion’s share. 

Fantasy sports platform MPL ($150 million), which is a unicorn, is among top 10 funded companies globally over the last 2 years. Games24x7, another Unicorn from India, also received $75 million. 

Soonicorns like Zupee ($72 M), WinZO ($65 M), Hike (NFT gaming, $261 M), JetSynthesys, Octro, EloElo and Games2win also bagged the jackpot. Even four early stage startups-Bombay Play, One World Nation, Studio Sirah, Awon Gamez-have also managed to win their first rounds of funding over the last year. 

Even as the cryptocurrency sector across the world tanked, Venture capitalists have shown keen interests in Indian Web3 gaming startups that offer play-to-earn (P2E) entertainment and use crypto coins and NFTs for transactions. Companies with blockchain-based offerings pocketed $620 mn in 2022. Gurugram-based Rario, Bengaluru-based and Delhi-based Hike are among them, Tracxn data says. Hike pivoted from instant messaging to social, gaming, and crypto in 2021 only. 

“Indian gaming companies have been building local products with capabilities to cater to mobile-gaming markets across the world. Gaming as a category has shown itself to be driven by a highly monetizable audience base: one that tends to spend a lot of time on content and online engagement, is likely to be a trend-setter, has the propensity to spend and is often the chief purchase influencer in his/her family and friend circle,” opines Piyush Kumar, Founder & CEO, Rooter - Gaming and Esports Content platform. 

He further noted, “Indian gaming startups have been quick to encash this opportunity. Gaming content platforms like ours are building scalable, tech-driven, revenue-generating models that have garnered interest from marquee global investors.”

According to Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus,

“Since gaming is an industry that is completely digitally led, there is an almost infinite reserve of digital content that can be converted into NFTs. Also, the gaming audience is more tech-driven and understands the concept of NFT quite easily. These two factors give the NFT-based gaming industry a big advantage.”

Karan Taurani, senior VP of Elara Capital, echoes the sentiments.  “Indian gaming companies have quickly realized the shift of casual gamers towards real-money games. Web3 gaming is a far more sustainable ecosystem for both players and gaming companies and hence there are huge growth opportunities. Investors know this fact.”

Big opportunity for brands 

Such overwhelming investment in the Indian gaming startups opens up a huge opportunity for advertisers. Most of the gamers are young and have a significant purchasing power. 

The Indian online gaming industry is estimated to grow to more than Rs 15,000 crore in 2023, representing a CAGR of nearly 22%,  as per the latest 'India Online Gaming Report' of GroupM. 

“Most of the potential of this platform is still unutilised”, an advertising executive said. He added, “Gaming platforms offer tremendous scope such as in-app advertising, brand integration, rewards and advergaming. Brands can also reach their target audience through communities, e-sport tournaments, team associations, NFTs and influencers.”

The in-game advertising market globally is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7% to reach about US$220 billion by 2027, almost two-fold compared to 2020, according to a report of Research and Markets.


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How Nikhil Gandhi led strategic growth for MX Player

Gandhi, who has stepped down as COO, had three focus areas to drive the platform’s evolution when he took over the role two years back

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 8:24 AM   |   2 min read


Nikhil Gandhi, who stepped down as the Chief Operating Officer of MX Player on Wednesday, has the credit of leading the OTT platform for two years with a specialised business strategy.

Gandhi made a mark with his team leadership, brand management, and strategies for generating revenue through digital content.

When Gandhi joined MX Player from TikTok, he was clear on three key areas for growth. The first was to grow users in India and internationally and expand MX Player’s markets by increasing the watch time on the app. Secondly, he spoke of deploying data in creating strategies for content and the third area was to identify new business areas. Gandhi had spoken about these key focus points in an interview with e4m in May 2022.

With Gandhi at the helm, MX Player emerged as the fastest-growing OTT platform in India. As per’s “State of Mobile Report”, released in January this year, MX Player was India’s most-downloaded OTT app and the third most-downloaded worldwide in 2022.

Industry observers shared that Gandhi had bigger plans. “He has been striving to take the AVOD model to the next level and crack the Bharat market, which largely relies on cost-free entertainment options,” an industry expert said.

He was also instrumental in acquiring the Lionsgate library for international content, industry sources said.

MX Player has over 650 advertisers on its platform, Gandhi had said last December, explaining how his “team goes into smaller markets and gets new advertisers”.

Under his leadership, the platform was able to launch several new initiatives in the last one and a half years. Among them was MX Advantage, the self-serve ad platform targeted at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It allows new advertisers to log in and place ads on the platform. MX Player also helps brands design their ads.

Another feature, launched in October 2022, was MX Live. It helped creators monetise content. MX Live works on a D2C model that allows content creators to interact with fans through live sessions. Users can even buy MX coins and MX tokens.

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