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Guest Column: End of Facebook and Google duopoly even before it began? asks Rahul Vengalil

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Guest Column: End of Facebook and Google duopoly even before it began? asks Rahul Vengalil

If 2017 was the year when we were introduced to Google-Facebook duopoly in digital advertising, 2018 would be the year when we will hear the last of it in India.

It is almost 365 days since I was first introduced to the concept of the duopoly at AdTech 2017. Few reports came in last year which estimated that 90 per cent of the digital spends in SE Asia and up to 70 per cent of the digital investments in North America to be on Facebook and Google. It was a worrying sign for me at multiple levels.

Duopoly or monopoly is bad for business, diversity and innovation

Thousands of livelihoods are at stake if other ad platforms aren't able to scale or hold on their own. Marketers were getting lazy to look beyond Facebook and Google, which is inherently bad for the ecosystem

All the reports which led us to the concept of duopoly were based on the learnings from 2016. That was the year Reliance Jio was launched in India, which changed the paradigm beyond our wildest imagination. From a data-starved country, we became data gluttonous country. By end of 2017, India became the Numero Uno consumer of mobile data. Yes, we consume 2,360 petabytes of data, which is more than the US or China and Amitabh Kant claiming that it is more than US and China combined. While this was triggered by Reliance Jio, the incumbent also soon followed suit and today, data has finally been democratised.

Why India story will be a cakewalk against Google and Facebook

Depending on the report that you are referring to, India has anywhere between 450-500 million internet users and growing, primarily from mobile devices. The urban centres hit the plateau sometime back and a new set of growth has either come or is coming from smaller towns and villages, who aren't well versed in English. This is also the reason why most of the mobile phones have introduced Indic text.

Growth is happening in smaller towns 

Facebook claims that over 97 per cent of their daily active users are on mobile. This should hold true for other platforms as well. As a nation, we are catching up with the world in our data consumption and the only way we are doing this is by video across gender, geography and social status. No amount of networking, shopping and chatting will lead to 11GB of data each month per user. The latest Hotstar report claims 3GB of data per user on its platform, which is hardly surprising. The advertisers will then go after video for their investments.

Growth in video

When the native language speakers come to internet, they are looking at languages that they are comfortable with and in a country which is as diverse as India, it isn't English or Hindi. YouTube has added over 10 languages in India to browse in, which is an effort in the right direction but a lot of content that is available on YouTube is still in English and Hindi, the descriptors at-least. That is the prerogative of the creators.

Growth in regional content

YouTube and Facebook don't really create any videos. They rely heavily on content creators to create content, which increases the stickiness on these platforms. The creators are then paid a certain percentage of the advertising revenue that the behemoths get. The recent article in E4M which says that content creators have seen a dip in revenue by 50 per cent is also a worrying sign in getting more and more content created for the users.

Google and Facebook rely on content creators

2017 was not the best year for Google and Facebook. It started off with Marc Pritchard's war cry on having cleaner supply side system, Youtube losing out millions of dollars due to the brand safety issue and finally the ask for HUL to create a cleaner eco-system failing which they will pull out of Facebook and Google. Everything remaining the same, the key challenge that Google and Facebook may not be able to address in the short term is that of brand safety. The system can be gamed with a good understanding of how search tagging works. There was a report in 2017 which states that over 65 per cent of the consumers change their perception about a brand depending on where they see the ad.

Google and Facebook can't fix brand safety issues easily

These are real challenges that have the ability to put a break to the duopoly story. Now let us look at the story of the challenger, the OTT ecosystem.

There are many OTTs in India today, which serve different consumer needs. The OTTs are from traditional networks like Zee, Star, etc. from production houses like Balaji Telefilms, new age players like Amazon, Netflix and telecom majors like Airtel, Vodafone and Jio. Over the past one year, the avenues to consume video content has exploded for the consumers who initially had to rely only on YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp. What's even more interesting is that consumers are getting content in their preferred languages on these platforms.

Jio TV has tied up with live channels and is streaming over 500 channels on their app, cutting across multiple languages. Jio Cinema, another app, provides movies in 10 languages including English. Between these two apps, a lot of consumer needs would be taken care of ideally. The other aspect is that of sports, which is highly popular on Hotstar as well as SonyLIV. Hotstar's own report states that there has been 5x, 3.5x, 10x and 9x growth respectively for watch time of ODI, ISL, Premier League and ProKabbadi. In India, where single TV households are the majority, OTTs provide a solution.

Live TV is a big draw for consumers

Let us take another example of Zee5, the newly launched app from Zee TV. It has content in over 15 different languages which are easy to access on their app. This content serves almost every geographic divide in India. This is a combination of both owned content and bought content. Take the examples of ALTBalaji, Amazon Prime, etc. which are not just buying content but are also investing in original content in multiple languages, reducing their dependency on external parties.

They do not rely on external content creators

All the content that is published on any of the OTT platforms (Live, recorded or created) has been put through the initial test for quality, i.e. brand safety. These are managed and controlled by the OTT platforms and not external content creators. While advertising on these platforms, the big worry of brand safety doesn't exist in the advertiser's mind.

OTT platforms have the most brand safe environment
When one looks at the challenges that Google and Facebook have and compare it with the inherent opportunities that exist in OTT platform, the conclusion is simple. OTT has the capability, content depth and stickiness to give the former a run for their money.

Rahul Vengalil is the CEO of What Clicks, India's leading digital media audit firm.

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

Tags Balaji Telefilms ALTBalaji Amazon Prime Facebook India Google Hotstar JIO TV Netflix SonyLIV YouTube ZEE5 What Clicks

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