Indian media consumers, particularly young Indians, “spend nearly four hours watching television per week as compared to 28 hours on mobile, of which 45 per cent of time spent is dedicated to entertainment”, according to the report The Digital journey – How OTT (over-the-top) platforms can remain on demand ready. The report, compiled by FICCI-LAIFC-KPMG, was released at the second edition of the FICCI knowledge series held in Mumbai on October 4 in association with the LA India Film Council.
Video occupies nearly 50% data traffic currently. “While sharing online videos on social media and consumption of short-form video content has been the first wave of data consumption, long-form content consumption is now seeing rapid growth on the back of improved connectivity and lower data costs,” the report said. “The consumers are moving from ‘what’s on TV’ to ‘what do I feel like watching’ mind-set.” The report also goes on to quote the popularity of such series as Game of Thrones and Bigg Boss as evidence. “Heavy spends by Amazon Prime Video and Netflix for acquisition of Bollywood movie rights also points to the potential of long form content viewing on OTT platforms,” added the report.
OTT video viewing is only likely to increase by 32% annually by 2020, it predicted.
More original and regional content in the digital space
While platforms such as Netflix were initially focused on English-speaking audiences from urban areas, the focus is now shifting to regional audience, argued the report. “The next 200 to 250 million VOD users are likely to come from the middle class, the masses and regional languages,” it said. “Consumers today spend 50 to 60 per cent of average time on Hindi videos, followed closely by 35 to 43 per cent on regional content videos, with a 5 to 7 per cent on English.”
Most digital platforms have already begun investing heavily, therefore, in regional and content that has ‘mass’ appeal. “Once known for niche content such as select movies and catch-up TV, the OTT market is now creating content for the mainstream audience, with shows such as The Timeliners, the Aam Aadmi Family which is aimed at appealing to the average middle-class Indian household...Major platforms such as Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon are also investing heavily in building local movie libraries and original content designed with a wider and more mass appeal. The recent high levels of bidding for Indian Premier League’s digital rights also follows the same trend.”
A platform like Alt Balaji is attempting to position itself between Netflix and the hugely successful prime-time Hindi soaps, added the report.
Platforms are also allocating separate budgets for original content, which can be seen as a move away from being mere licensing platforms. According to the report, out of an allocated budget of Rs 2,000 crores for original content, Amazon Prime Video has spent only around Rs 500 crores so far with tie-ups with production companies such as Excel Entertainment and Phantom Films. The budgets of Sony Liv, Voot, Eros and Hotstar for original content are under Rs 400 crores.
Reality shows and live-streaming particularly of sports tournaments are highly popular. Through Hotstar, IPL for instance reached close to 80 million unique users in 2016. The count was 35 million in 2015.
The challenges faced by digital players are manifold, making it clear that there is still a lot more ground to cover: the inability to arrive at a measurable return on investment from digital advertising, digital advertisement frauds, brand safety and most importantly, piracy. “The shutting down of some of these torrent websites has proven to be ineffective, as with the closure of one, many more emerge, as has been the case with sites such as KAT, Piratebay, Rapidshare, Megaupload, etc,” said the report.