Quality over quantity will be the theme for OTT players in 2020

As 2019 ends on a promising note for the Indian OTT market, 2020 will belong to regional markets, quality content, consolidation and more, say experts

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Dec 30, 2019 9:22 AM

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OTT

Despite the economic slowdown dragging down the overall market sentiment, 2019 has given India’s Over The Top (OTT) digital media space much to cheer about. Most OTT players reported an impressive increase in their user base as India’s binge watching video appetite showed no signs of waning.

Some developments underlined the immense potential India holds for any ambitious OTT player. While Netflix introduced its exclusive mobile only plan at Rs 199, the cheapest ever for the streaming giant in any market, its CEO Reed Hastings announced plans to spend Rs 3,000 crore on content programming in India this year and the next.

Apple TV+ debuted in November, putting pressure on niche market players in the market. However, the wait for Disney+ in India got longer with no clear announcement yet from the content giant. Hotstar continued to rule the roost with time spent on its platform doubling in 2019. Other players like ZEE5, Alt Balaji, Voot, SonyLiv and MX Player upped the ‘Originals’ game as the scramble for consumer attention intensified.

New entrants like MX Player, ShemarooMe also joined the OTT bandwagon, while Viu closed operations in India. Interestingly, e-commerce player Flipkart too decided it was time to take on Amazon Prime Video. Meanwhile, Amazon continued its focus on building the local language library. Food delivery app Zomato added food related originals content on its app as well. Thus, video has been the undisputed hero in 2019 and regional the focus.

While regional has been the buzzword for some years now, in 2019 it took centrestage. As the focus turned to Tier 2-Tier 3 towns, vernacular content became mainstream. Bigger budgets were set aside, quality of regional shows improved remarkably. It was also a year that saw technology get stronger, more content collaborations between platforms and interactivity with screens evolve.

Growth studies published in 2019 too painted a pretty picture. Global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) stated that the over-the-top (OTT) video industry was set to grow at a CAGR of 21.8 per cent to reach Rs 11,977 crore by 2023. The KPMG India report stated the country will have around 500 million online video subscribers by financial year 2023.

Overall, the year did conclude on a promising outlook for the New Year. We spoke to industry insiders for their view on what 2020 holds for the flourishing OTT market in India.

Giving us a holistic view of what one could expect from the various stakeholders, Karan Chaudhry, COO, The Viral Fever shared, “Amazon and Netflix are expected to make huge investments. MX Player is consistent with its mass strategy. Hotstar has also thrown their hat into the ring. Sony combined with Viacom18 is also planning big. TVF will continue its focus on creating the best long-form originals in the country. It will be a great time for creators. Users will also have a lot of great offerings to choose from. We expect quality becoming a priority over quantity in 2020.”

The theme of quality over quantity and focus on regional content was a recurring one in most conversations. This would also be a year of multiple disruptions, out of which quite a few will be technology-led, believes Divya Dixit, Senior VP, Marketing, ALTBalaji. “For example AR/ VR that we have for the first time as an Indian OTT platform ALTBalaji created for Ragini MMS Returns Season 2 this year as an immersive experience. Over and above the fact that slowly platforms will also enable multiple shows in immersive experience, surround content will also become extremely important and take Gamification ahead fairly well.”

Dixit also has faith in the regional growth story but explains how content creators need to focus on producing content for regional markets in their own language and local flavours, not dubbed versions of existing content.

She says, “In 2020, ALTBalaji will see innovative narratives along with stories from Bharat picking up pace. As internet penetration increases in India, as fibre speeds along and as India adds close to 10 million daily active internet users every month; interestingly, nine out of every ten new internet users are exploring the online content only in their native language. This base wants stories in their language, not English, not dubbed. They want stories made in their flavor and lifestyle. Along with pure content offerings, innovative ways of storytelling are also being explored to build stronger and deeper connections with our audiences.”

She further addresses the quality over quantity discussion by pointing out to their own business model and believes the coming years will see consolidation pick pace. Dixit adds, “ALTBalaji moving out of a partnership model with multiple freemium telco platforms to a single partner model behind a paywall, ALTBalaji has demonstrated a shift from quantity to quality of subscribers accessing their content with its industry-first alliance. The coming years will only witness more consolidations among the increasingly crowded OTT landscape as mergers, takeovers, collaborations and content production deals.”

Deloitte India Partner Jehil Thakkar too draws attention to the focus on quality in the coming year. He says, “The battle for quality content will continue to escalate and the regional space will become more important than ever.”

However, while knowing what and who to produce for is one part of the OTT game, the biggest challenge, according to Gautam Talwar, Content Head, MX Player is going to be managing the supply chain. “I think for us, it’s important to grow that supply pipe to making sure that the content is easily available for all of us to put out there. I think that’s where the challenge lies.”

The Indian OTT market has successfully experimented with its freemium business model, a combination of AVOD & SVOD. At one time no one believed that Indians would be willing to pay for content, the growth in subscriptions has definitely made marketers rethink.

However, advertising still remains a big draw for most players therefore no discussion for 2020 can be complete without some crystal ball gazing for the advertising trends.

According to Taranjeet Singh, Chief Revenue Officer & Business Head, ZEE5 India, “Relevance will grow substantially as audiences move on consuming on demand content. Secondly, measurement and transparency would be key AAK’s from advertisers especially on incremental reach. Thirdly, there will be a convergence of CDP with DMP to build better audience cohorts and a single customer view.”

The other two trends to watch out for in 2020, predicts Singh, are programmatic for connected TV and video commerce.

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