We support the next wave of the OTT space: Country Sales Manager, Media, Akamai Technologies
Sandeep Reddy, Country Sales Manager, Media, Akamai Technologies spoke to exchange4media about the company’s main focus areas, content trends and more
Akamai Technologies is fresh out of the successful implementation of Dynamic Ad Insertion on SonyLIV during the India-South Africa cricket series held over January and February 2018. According to the data shared by Akamai, the partnership with SonyLIV achieved a near 100 per cent ad fill rate.
Speaking to exchange4media, Sandeep Reddy, Country Sales Manager, Media, Akamai Technologies, said that Akamai wishes to fuel the growth of the OTT (Over-The-Top) space in India. “We already have five of the top five media companies and all the largest OTT platforms on board. We have so much of expertise sitting with us, we want to support the next wave of the OTT space - which is regional and smaller players who are looking to make that transition. It is crucial to aid smaller players. The largest players have kind of found the formula, but there is a lot of complexity for newer entrants who have traditionally used shared platforms and now want to shift to their own platforms. It is not as simple as getting an app together,” he said.
Reddy spoke to exchange4media about the company’s main focus areas, content trends and more.
The internet and OTT space has grown by leaps and bounds in 2017. What do you expect to see in 2018?
2016 revolutionised the industry with low-cost data plans and that gained momentum in 2017. This led to a huge growth in internet users, and by June 2018 we will have 500 million internet users in India. Around 44 per cent of these users are mobile internet users and that’s growing rapidly. For Akamai, this is a huge tailwind. In 2018, we don’t expect a hockey stick growth like we saw in 2017 but more consolidation in the market. 2018 poses an opportunity and a challenge in terms of offering better services to our end consumer.
What kind of challenges do you face?
India is a vast country, there are a lot of ISPs but the better speeds are concentrated in the metros. There is demand outside the metros but the infrastructure is not there yet. Users are maturing and getting used to the idea of consuming content on a mobile device or via the internet. They are now looking for better quality - on par with a television broadcast. The infrastructure is getting better constantly. Our First Quarter, 2017 State of the Internet Report found that broadband speed has improved 87 per cent YoY. We are currently at about 4.9-5 MBPS mobile data. This is a good place to be in; 4-5MBPS can enable a reasonable quality stream.
The OTT space is booming and the SVOD model has seen limited success in India. Given this, what are the opportunities that you see for OTT players?
On the traditional broadcast, it is harder to target marketing campaigns to users within a home. The internet has vast opportunities for personalisation. If our client knows that a user watches a certain kind of content, and if there is an option in the ad inventory to feed an ad relevant to that user, then it is that much more valuable for the advertiser to show that ad. That is the opportunity this OTT wave presents.
While subscription has not taken off in the true sense, like a mature market like the US, there are still takers for Netflix in India. It is not that the Indian consumer is not ready, it will take some time. OTT will have to be a combination; we can’t rely on one alone.
If the OTT player is producing original content, production costs are high. So they will have to charge for premium content and still give some content for free.
Brand safety concerns on digital video sharing platforms and social media sites is a growing concern for advertisers. Is the OTT space well-poised to offer targeted advertising without the worry of brand safety?
I do think that advertisers are taking note of the better ROI on OTT platforms with better-curated content. The environment that an OTT app provides is more controlled. Advertisers are recognising that and you will see many video publishers moving entirely to their own platforms. There is a premium that advertisers are willing to pay for the controlled environment of an OTT platform.
Social media will be instrumental in driving audience engagement and taking audiences directly to the OTT platforms.
What kind of content has higher fill rate on OTT platforms?
Fill rates are obviously better for sporting events; especially if it is cricket. Fill rates are improving, I don’t think an ad slot for cricket will go empty.
What other kinds of content have high demand?
There is more interest in the regional and vernacular content. Currently, urban internet penetration is around 65 per cent, and rural is around 20 per cent (this was 18 per cent a few months ago) Internet penetration is increasing with more affordable devices and affordable data plans and increasingly, more rural folk are consuming content over OTT platforms. This means that the biggest growth will come from non-English speaking users. It is estimated that by 2020, the amount of non-English content will be 2.5x of English content.
What will be the main focus areas for you in 2018?
Quality broadcast scale and quality streaming experience are two primary focus areas. We are working on improving content delivery at prime time. The other is authentication. We are working to ensure strict anti-piracy safeguards on OTT platforms that work on the premium model. We are also working on securing OTT platforms against threats like hackers. We will look at improving monetisation models for OTT players.
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