‘OTT sector in India will continue to grow even in 2022 despite uncertainties'

Guest Column: Shailesh Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Ormax Media, outlines how the OTT sector in India will fuel the content ecosystem

e4m by Shailesh Kapoor
Updated: Jan 20, 2022 8:52 AM  | 4 min read
Shailesh Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Ormax Media

If there’s one thing we have all learnt amid the Covid crisis over the last 21 months, it is to expect the unexpected. We are amid uncertain times, and it is safe to (ironically) predict that 2022 will be no different. For the Indian Media & Entertainment sector, the definitive story of 2020 and 2021 came in the form of growth in the user base and consumption time on digital media, including the streaming (OTT) category.

OTT platforms and social media apps benefited from the lockdowns and the work-from-home scenarios that were in effect for large parts of 2020 & 2021. The expected growth in paid subscriber base of OTT platforms in India from 2019 to 2021 is 65-70%, or a CAGR of about 30%.

While such high growth rates are not sustainable over time, the OTT sector has enough headroom for growth, with only about 110 million Indians having access to paid content. That’s only about 15% of India’s pay-TV audience base, which puts in perspective why OTT is still a niche medium, its huge growth notwithstanding.

Over the last year and a half, analysts have been quick to write the obituary of all other media, including cinema and television. Uncertain times fuel anything-goes type of predictions too, and these obituaries fall under that category. It just took two films, Sooryavanshi and Annaatthe, in the Diwali week, to prove that the cinema business will continue to thrive. Earlier in December, the Spider-Man film did exceptional business at the box office, sealing that argument. The kind of films that work in the movie theatres may change, but the medium will continue to stay relevant, serving the need of outdoor entertainment, vis-à-vis the more intimate, at-home nature of OTT platforms.

Filmmakers are now making the streaming vs. theatrical choice at a project conceptualization stage. The understanding that some genres and subjects are more suited to OTT, and must hence be casted and budgeted in a certain way, while others are more aligned to the big-screen experience, is an evolving understanding. Companies like ours, are playing an important role here, helping studios and producers make the right choices, relying on our intensive data analytics to forecast the likelihood of the success of a certain type of story at a certain budget in these two media options.

The series business on OTT doesn’t have any such competition, with television content being in a very different family-led, lowest-common-denominator space. This is certainly because all platforms, national and International, are looking for growth in their subscriber bases. Due to this, there has been a surge in demand for original content. More than 200 web series were launched in India in 2021, across languages of which about 15 received any traction from the audience at all. All these years, critics have lamented about the quality of our television content. But at less than 10% success rate, isn’t our digital content even worse?

The silver lining comes in the form of that odd show like The Family Man 2, which simply raises the bar a few notches. And then, there’s the International content, of course, ranging from Money Heist to Squid Game to Sex Education to My Girlfriend Is An Alien, which has developed a solid fan-base in India, aided in no small measure by the dubbed audio feeds, not just in Hindi, but also in languages like Tamil and Telugu, among others.

This breaking of the language barrier is perhaps the only real, enduring change emerging from the lockdowns and the quarantines. Be it Jai Bhim or Spider-Man or Squid Game or RRR, there is an audience for good content across India when it’s made available in a language of choice. This could fundamentally alter the nature of premium entertainment. In 2019, only about 25% SVOD audience in India were consuming foreign-language content. This proportion has increased to nearly 40% now, even though the medium has grown beyond the metros and the mini-metros, where prior exposure to such content is less likely.

The OTT business, thus, finds itself at the center of the content story in the Indian entertainment industry. It will be incorrect to call 2022 as the defining year of the OTT sector in India because irrespective of how things go, the sector will see growth, and continue to remain a formidable force, fueling the content ecosystem in ways that television and cinema never managed to, on quantity, if not on quality.

Can one really plan or prepare for 2022? It’s almost a foolhardy thought, given how things have been of late. I’m sure there’s a twist or two round the corner that no one has seen coming. We may not be in for the best times, but there isn’t going to be a dull moment anyway.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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