OTT viewership unlikely to plunge post lockdown

Players say the Stay-At-Home traffic getting used to OTT options and the library of rich content will be key in keeping the numbers steady

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Apr 28, 2020 9:04 AM  | 5 min read

Just like television, the OTT medium has seen a sharp rise in consumption in this lockdown period. But is this trend here to stay?

According to experts, even after there is a bit of relaxation in the lockdown most of corporate India will continue to work from home and the OTT medium will not immediately witness any sudden drop in reach and viewership.

Data from the latest edition of the BARC-Nielsen report backs the growth story of OTT in India during the ongoing lockdown. The report says there has been a 67% growth in streaming share (in the second week of April) vs the same week last year. The figures further highlight how the COVID-19 period viewership has been strong across all segments of OTT with Live TV, movies and original series being on top on the viewers’ OTT itinerary.

A research report by Emkay Global said all major players in the medium, including Zee5, MX Player, Voot, Eros Now, Hoichoi, Hungama, Voot and Alt Balaji, each have shown a significant rise in viewership - ranging between 75% and 150% - as compared to the pre-COVID period.

VOD (Video On Demand) players are not expecting any sharp drop in numbers even post the lockdown as the Stay At Home traffic is getting used to the medium. The lack of other options post the lockdown is being cited as another major reason why OTT would still be the preferred medium for consumption, when it comes to fresh content.

Ali Hussein, CEO of Eros Now, attributes this understanding to the reality that even after the lockdown is lifted movie buffs will not be thronging the theatres like before. “There will not be any major attrition from the platforms because even when businesses open up post lockdown, places like movie theatres will not open anytime soon.”

The platform had seen 200% growth in paid subscribers on a daily basis just a week after the lockdown started.

Regional apps too are witnessing similar numbers and are not expecting to see any difference in the trend anytime soon. Bengali streaming app hoichoi, for instance, has seen a whopping 200% to 300% spike on most matrices and this includes parameters like Average Time Spent on app and downloads. The promoters of hoichoi too do not foresee the numbers falling in the coming months.

According to Vishnu Mohta, Co-founder of hoichoi, “We cannot expect the same level of growth immediately after the lockdown. However, this phase has accelerated the move to digital consumption as well as sampling of content on our and partner platforms. The network affect will kick in post-lockdown and will help sustain healthy growth.”

Ferzad Palia Head at Voot Select, Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, seconds Mohta. “The lockdown has certainly triggered much higher demand on OTT platforms. We’ve witnessed unimaginable growth both in terms of subscribers and watch time. This has been further propelled by the lack of fresh original episodes on TV since no shooting is taking place. When things begin to get back to normal in a few weeks, there will be a rationalisation of this demand, to an extent. However, one thing is for certain. This has been a milestone period for the OTT segment and demand will certainly be way higher than pre-COVID levels post lockdown,” said Palia.

While viewers keep experimenting with the kind of content they want to watch on OTT platforms, the platforms stand a stronger chance of launching variety content and earn user loyalty in the process. “A promising increase of the traffic on the platform is also a sign that people have welcomed a library of rich content that is easily accessible,” Mohta added.
Research backs Mohta vision on expansion of content library by OTT players. Emkay Global research says that the total number of hours of original OTT content produced in India increased by 33%.

Every player in the segment is banking on quality content to keep the growth curve of OTT viewership going northwards.

“Viewers exploring the platform might lead to an overall surge in consumption during the ongoing lockdown, but sustainability is going to be driven by the quality and frequency of fresh content. Keeping this in mind, we are releasing 2 -3 shows every week to keep it going. Our latest shows ‘4 Thieves’ and “Dark destinations 2’ have received great response. We are also in the process of shortlisting interesting properties from various genres along with Musicals and Gaming content and all these will be premiered on Wactho pretty soon,” said Sukhpreet Singh, corporate head -marketing, Dish TV India and Watcho, the OTT platform of Dish TV India.

Watcho has witnessed a record 50% surge in content consumption leading to a steep hike in subscriber base and adding 1 million new subscribers in a month bringing it up to approx 4.0 Million. Dish credits most of this spike to their latest snackable content.

Like Watcho, Voot Select is also banking on their content menu to keep up with their traffic. “Originals like Asur helped us attract a massive audience base to the platform and subsequent releases like Marzi and The Raikar Case have helped us sustain and further build that viewership. New launches within the international and regional content segment are now enabling us to widen the audience base as well. Shark Tank, which is one of the most popular shows globally has made its new season debut in India on the platform on 25th April,” said Palia.
According to Palia, the platform’s digital-first approach of launching the new season of Shark Tank on Voot Select is going to further accelerate the growth of audience base for them.
Strong double-digit growth seen across various segments of OTT are thus here to stay for at least another quarter as players strengthen their content library to retain the stay-at-home traffic even after the lockdown rules are relaxed across the country.

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