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OTT players up the ante with niche content

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MUMBAI: With the digital era progressing at a geometric rate, India’s media and entertainment industry has seen the proliferation of a number of over-the-top (OTT) players, including many international players. As a result, several niche genres of content are finding a place to grow. Viewers are coming to associate each platform with a type of personality represented through its content.

According to FICCI’s 2018 report, digital subscription in 2017 grew by 50 per cent, riding on the back of niche content. Global content, sports and, increasingly, OTT-only content are also other factors behind the whopping growth of rising viewership on digital.

India’s burgeoning OTT market already has more than 40 OTT players according to estimates. To draw viewers, each platform has to make a separate identity for itself. Subscription-based video on demand has, however, a long way to go as only three per cent of Indian households are paid subscribers of online video-streaming services. To attract more paying subscribers, the video platforms need to come up with content which users will think are worth paying.

Despite making inroads into several developed countries, Netflix is yet scraping the surface of the Indian arena. Its major international competitor, Amazon, has left it far behind here. However, Netflix has created its signature with its large number of original series such as The Crown, House of Cards, Bojack Horseman, Stranger Things etc. Moreover, other than the originals, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Rick and Morty, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Sherlock are streaming on Netflix attracting a large number of binge watchers. A report by Netflix stated that 88 per cent of its Indian viewers are binge watchers, the third highest in the world. The country finishes series in three days compared to the global average of four days.

But the country lacks in good local content. Though it has added some famous Hindi movies to its library, it does not have enough regional content to offer. Realising the demand, Netflix announced a new multilingual original series in partnership with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment.

Compared to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video is doing good business in India. According to App Annie’s February report, Amazon Prime Video had 13.4 million active users but Netflix had 6 million active users. One of the main reasons for its success is that Amazon has a brilliant movie library for India’s Bollywood crazy fans. The e-commerce major has potential deals with five big long production houses-Yash Raj Films, Excel Entertainment, Dharma Productions, Vishesh Films, and T-Series. Data shows that Indians don’t mind consuming longer content on data connections. Viewers love to watch Hindi movies on the platform. Amazon realised early on that in multi-lingual India, you can’t make do with just Hindi and so delved into regional content as well.

Star India’s OTT arm Hotstar is sprinting here with its large content library. The live streaming of sports matches is one of its best features. For multi-lingual audience, it offers a wide range of catch-up content in several languages while urban folks can watch shows from HBO, Disney, Fox such as Game of Thrones and Westworld.  

IPL streaming on Hotstar is one of the biggest boosts for it. This year, it will be telecast in six languages - Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Bengali. 

Among other platforms, Voot has youth-centric TV shows including Big Boss, MTV Unplugged, Roadies, Splitsvilla. Gaurav Gandhi’s successor as Voot COO is likely to bring some change. Sony Liv also has exclusive rights of cricket matches from several countries.

Amidst a huge number of OTT platforms and a long list of contents, content discoverability is a major issue. In this context, almost every platform is unable to satisfy audience with proper suggestions despite having a large variety of contents. To enhance their recommendation engines, the platforms have to implement artificial intelligence and machine learning. However, a recent study showed that none of these are yet able to beat good old word of mouth.

OTT players have the work cut out for them here. From branding themselves to ensuring there’s something for everyone, the challenges lie spread out.

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