With OTT market growing at 35% YoY, players sharpen marketing strategy

How OTT players are deploying their marketing strategy with respect to their brand messaging and building, original programming and loosening their purse strings for same

e4m by Madhuwanti Saha
Updated: Feb 1, 2017 8:44 AM
With OTT market growing at 35% YoY, players sharpen marketing strategy and loosen purse strings

According to Frost & Sullivan research director Vidya S Nath, OTT video market was nearly USD 210 million in 2016, driven predominantly by advertising and is likely to grow at a CAGR of over 80 per cent till 2020. Let’s not forget India currently has around 220-250 million smartphones and is expected to touch more than 500 million by 2020. So with rising smartphone sales, falling data tariffs, 4G rollout and improvement in payment gateways, OTT market, an important growth driver in India’s digital space, is growing at a dynamic pace of 35-40 per cent year-on-year.

 The last year got more active with the entry of global players like Amazon Prime Video India and Netflix in OTT’s space. After that stakes have only got higher for existing local players who are sharpening their marketing strategy and even loosening purse strings for the same.

Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India, which is geared to launch digital measurement, says, “The last couple of years have seen a boom in the OTT space. While initially there were independent players acting as content curators, today broadcasters have their own digital platform to cater to the internet-savvy audience. There is no doubt that the platform is being aggressively marketed, be it in the form on TV ads, hoardings or free subscription offered to subscribers.” 

Rajiv Dingra, Founder-CEO, WAT Consult, gives us an overview on the space, “OTT is getting aggressive. Earlier they were looking at digital videos. Now the focus is to increase their user base quickly. Netflix is positioning itself as to how in terms of video content Netflix is the thing to do. Others are using content marketing strategy to show their exclusive content as differentiator against others. But they end up looking similar to each other. Netflix and Amazon are standouts as they know how to market themselves and are able to bring in content outside TV. Hotstar is riding on cricket in a big way.”

Number talk

Industry sources confide that big OTT players like Amazon India Prime Video and Netflix’s yearly marketing budget ranges around Rs 40-50 crore and can go up till Rs 100 crore. Meanwhile, smaller players spend between Rs 10 crore and Rs 30 crore.

Amazon Prime Video India’s account was reported to be won by ad agency Leo Burnett and as per reports the size of the business is estimated to be over Rs 300 crore.

Hotstar since its launch in January 2015 has reported to mop up advertising revenue of Rs 138.6 crore. Marketing has always been in its prime investment with advertising and promotional cost standing at Rs 154.6 crore according to reports.

The numbers are only going to go up.

What’s working?

Netflix has mostly restricted itself to digital platform. Its first marketing campaign for India, launched last July, was a digital brand film titled Commitment, under its social campaign #LifeWithoutNetflix.  This was followed by several digital ads featuring stands up like Tanmay Bhatt, Kanan Gill and even Bollywood filmmaker Anurag Kashyap which used tongue-in-cheek humour to communicate its brand message. So far it seems to be working as its latest campaign #TryThisAtHome which takes a dig at New Year revelries racked up more than 3.2m views on Facebook alone in a week, striking a chord with thousands to receive more than 8k shares, and more than 98k reactions on Facebook.



Amazon Prime Video India, on the other hand, is testing every other marketing channel to create awareness. Its first digital campaign launched last December, #BeTheFirst with the collaboration of Only Much Louder and East India Comedy released a video named ‘Audacious Ones’ with a humourous touch. Nitesh Kripalani, director and country head of Amazon Prime Video India, said it was well received on social media. He claims, “Engagement was high. It exceeded all our expectations.” 

He also points out that the location of the customer drives the marketing strategy, apart from the content and its language. “For instance, for Tamil blockbuster ‘Kaashmora’ the marketing was restricted to Tamil Nadu with print and TV ads and hoardings. That worked extremely well for us as it turned out to be the top performing content in the service.” 

Viacom18’s Voot clearly leveraged its network’s mainstream channels for its campaign ‘Wanting Wanting’ launched last May. Later it extended its campaign to Voot Kids (a significant driver to the OTT service’s growth) with a special TVC. Akash Banerji, Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Voot, attests the success of the campaign with figures, “On the back of these two campaigns in a span of 6-7 months we have had 20 million downloads. Voot Kids campaign and addition of new categories to the product catalogue helped us achieve 100 per cent growth in OND quarter in viewership over previous quarters.” 



On digital front, it partnered with YouTube last June for a day-long interactive campaign to showcase the diversity and depth of their library on the latter’s masthead.

So what works? Banerji explains, “While all screens can achieve brand building tasks they all individually play specific roles. Mobile ads perform well on communicating message and driving activation.Viacom18’s network plays a critical role as it drives reach and helps us target TV audience. That’s a luxury only few players can enjoy. What works is the digital campaign on our platforms, YouTube, display sites (where money is being spent on CPC and CPI) and Ad words. Google search is a huge source of traffic for us. Marketing in digital world is ROI driven.”

Star India’s OTT service Hotstar which claims to have 140 million downloads, also follows a similar route with their brand message communicated through mainstream mediums besides digital. For IPL 2016, it offered brand integrations in programming and sponsor placements on the product. An ad campaign titled ‘Screen Chota Hai Par Dil Bada Hai’ ran on air to promote the IPL streaming on Hotstar. Similarly, to promote its coverage of Rio 2016 Olympics, the broadcasting network launched a campaign 'Life Gives You Tough Choices' which was well-received.

Sony Pictures Network’s OTT platform, Sony Liv, recently went for a brand overhaul with a 360-degree campaign which Uday Sodhi, EVP and Head – Digital Business, Sony LIV describes as ‘one of the biggest campaign on digital.’ He adds, “The brand film got us 10 million views on YouTube in no time. Over the last three to six months we have seen tremendous uptake and significant amount of consumption on platform in terms of refreshing content, bringing in new genres, refreshing our brand logo and positioning ourselves as entertainment destination in India. All the above has helped brand building.”

Dingra is extremely vocal about digital being the formula for clear cut formula for success, “When it comes to TV ads there’s no co-relation that it will bring downloads or subscription.”

Banerji adds, “TV is here to stay. Spending money on digital whether it’s activation or retention is going to be the mainstay.”

Differentiated marketing for original programming

Most of the experts we spoke to were unanimous about the need for differentiated and in-depth marketing for original programming. Dingra points out, “For a new show with new stars you need to create interest and try and build a following.”

According to Banerji this piece of content requires specific targeting to bring in early adopters to the platform. He explains, “More than mass game you need to find people with whom that particular piece of content is going to resonate. That actually drives in huge conversation.”

He shares marketing strategy of one of their popular shows ‘It’s Not That Simple,’ (INTS) “For the show aimed at women aged 25 plus, we deployed a strategy of targeting them across digital ecosystem juxtaposed with those who have already seen Voot Originals.”

Kriplani voices his thoughts, “For any content you need to build awareness. That applies to originals as well. We need to focus on the subject matter and accordingly use the right marketing channels.”

Sodhi agrees strongly, “It requires more marketing because it’s related to the product itself. The way the product is offered and its characters will determine the nature of marketing. A lot of these things are being experimented currently. For instance, for our Marathi webseries, Yolo, we put out the first episode on Facebook to see the response and then we moved that traffic to our platform through our second episode. So this is a form of content marketing. For ‘Married Women Diaries’ aimed at larger audience, we had spent a fair amount on outdoor and print. So the kind of marketing required for that is different from that of Marathi show.”

He also takes into consideration the scale of the show, “If the scale of the shows is bigger advertisement will have to be more mainstream with inclusion of TV and radio. You have to add outdoor and print for those with mass appeal.”  

Only set to grow

With the pace of OTT’s growth, investment in marketing by the players is only going to get bigger. Touching upon the paid users’ point, Dingra points out, “In three years regular paid user base (which stand at 5-8 million) may double to 10-20 million. But it also depends on the content and stickiness. So undoubtedly, there will be more marketing campaigns for the next three years. OTT platforms are investing to increase their user base to millions.”

Sodhi signs off, “New players will enter and existing players will get aggressive. Therefore this space will be a large segment for marketing spends.”

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