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Indian market has scope for niche OTT platforms despite several challenges

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MUMBAI: OTT platforms offering niche content is an emerging trend in the global market. Dedicated content offers brands an opportunity to differentiate themselves in an over-congested market. Currently in India, there’s one such example Veqta, an OTT platform offering sports content. While it is too early to predict such trends in the Indian ecosystem, such a concept definitely offers an opportunity in the market.

With the rise of streamers worldwide, content available on OTT is also evolving gradually. The primary challenge for OTT players is to provide viewers with compelling content, especially when it comes to the SVOD model. When a platform offers niche content, it overcomes the primary challenge of differentiating its position in market.

FishFlicks, an Australian brand, comes with recreational sporting content like fishing and hunting. Such content was picked knowing Australian people's passion for fishing. Before launching, it was understood that fishing enthusiasts would be excited by the offering. Along with potential in national market, an interest in Australian fishing also fetches certain amount of global subscribers.

Like FishFlicks, there’s another platform called Cyberobics which is basically a virtual fitness world. Today, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a challenge to people across world. Every now and then people browse how to be fit. In such a scenario, Cyberobics offers not just something unique in the entertainment segment but also relevant content of public interest.

“If you are getting a sizeable amount of aggregated audience for a particular niche and then is a potential possibility to look at if there’s a focused platform-specific strategy or brand-specific strategy for that particular niche,” Eros Digital COO Ali Hussein said.

It’s also easier for viewers to find content that interests them since they are already enthusiastic about the content catalogue offered. The bouquet of dedicated content ensures that users don't give up browsing the platform too soon. Vishnu Mohta, the co-founder of Hoichoi, says that content discovery is less of a challenge on niche OTT platforms as the content is customised to cater to the user's interests along with the app offering recommendation on what to watch.

A big advantage these platform have is that they evoke a sense of loyalty among users. Since the audience consuming the content is already passionate about the content topic, the affinity for the brand grows easily. Initially, if these platforms opt for the SVOD model, the audience is unlikely to mind paying for the content. However, these platforms have to go a long way to secure sponsorship or get advertisers on board.

While brand loyalty may be easy to acquire, raising awareness about the brand can be a daunting task. Vishnu Mohta says marketing and reaching out to people is always a challenge for these platforms. The advantage, he adds, is that marketing strategies can be focussed on target groups alone. However, with limited amount of subscription revenue, it’s not possible for these brands to bombard customers with great advertisement. 

OTT platforms offering sports content will easily have a bigger market, Mohta says. In India, the OTT market has started picking up only in the last two years. It’s very early to predict if it could emerge as a trend. Spuul content head D Girish says, “There has not been enough data to conclude that there’s an upsurge of popularity of such content. Even on television niche content viewership is less than 7%, definitely less than 10%.” He adds that that there is enough scope for these platforms to grow, but it’s still too soon to predict if it will play a significant role.

Hussein and Mohta echo that it will take a few years for the Indian ecosystem to tap into the full potential of the platform. “I think there is an opportunity for niche content because digital video allows niche content to get consumed and discovered. But I think people have to be smart in terms of why they want an OTT strategy, why it is different compared to running a channel on YouTube or Facebook,” says Hussein. “Niche platforms have their USP also. People have a stronger loyalty to these platforms. Niche OTT have a play. I’m not sure about all genres will work or not. There are specific genres like spirituality, devotional can have a play,” he adds.

It will be a challenge for these platforms to survive against larger platforms. Eventually, they may even consider consolidation to ensure a longer innings. Alternatively, larger platforms may acquire the niche platforms if they offer interesting content to attract a wider audience. Perhaps the solution to evading shutting down may depend on the choice and quality of content.

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