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Decoding the Indian online video watchers remains an enigma

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MUMBAI: Perhaps the biggest challenge for programmers on online media is to define and segregate the online viewers who will take to OTT mediums in India.

Following the presentation on OTT trends in the APAC region by Media Partners Asia executive director Vivek Couto at VidNet, this question expectedly assumed importance.

Indian Television Dot Com’s founder CEO and editor in chief Anil Wanvari flagged off the discussion by asking Isobar India MD Shamsuddin Jasani to define who is a customer for him?

“A person who is consuming digital content through any medium be it TV, mobile, YouTube, Facebook, etc is my customer. I would spend dollars on a person who is consuming content via digital platforms, what is he consuming, time spent on that piece of content,” said Jasani.

Adding his perspective on defining a digital customer was FoxyMoron co-founder Suveer Bajaj. He seconded the definition of an OTT consumer and added that he was one who migrated to the digital medium. “I have come across consumers who are consuming three hours on digital. There is a very powerful change that we are seeing right now. These people are plunging on digital than TV.”

Citing example from his own personal experience, Jasani highlighted how his 6-year old kid consumes around six to seven hours of video content on various platforms like Voot, YouTube, etc. He opined that this is a powerful change that he is witnessing from TV which happens through demand. Bajaj further added that it is not just on demand but also on the go.

dittoTV business head Archana Anand strongly believed on the platform’s subscription model. Underlining the success of ditto TV’s campaign and aggressive pricing, Anand believed that she and her team had grown the pie by reaching out to people who are not internet savvy audience and is very clear on not getting content for free. “We have marked the people who perhaps are not typical OTT audience to whom TV is being provided at a subscription of Rs 20. There is a huge audience who is alien to OTT in India and we are trying to get them on board by handholding them throughout the entire procedure of getting our app by just a missed call.

Arre co-founder Ajay Chacko was sure he did not intend to become an OTT platform. “The way we are defining our consumers is not just through access and comfort but by creating new forms of content to drive change.”

Voot, the AVOD platform from Viacom18 which is often credited with bolstering kids and originals apart from content from the various channels falling under the network, has targeted their digital natives. Their Head marketing and partnerships Akash Banerji dissected consumers into different categories depending upon-access and comfort, demographics and content business offers.

Discussing the first point, he explained that there are 180 million TV households in India with an average of at least two persons in every house, meaning 350 million subscribers on Internet who are not necessarily active users. “In India, we have 120 video consumers out of which 20-30 million are native digital who are consuming videos online. It is up to a platform whether they are targeting digital natives or getting internet consumers who are not consuming videos or are looking at growing the pie of digital.”

The discussion went a notch up with the panelists enlightening the audience on the regional content that the content providers have created so far.

Even the consumers come from varied backgrounds. At the base of the pyramid is the young, college or office going people who are mostly from the metropolitans. The older males and women who are consuming on mobile and desktop are not consuming high velocity content like the youth comprise the mid level. Banerji said that in the past 18-24 months, he has also seen consumers evolving from tier 2 and tier 3 markets primarily consuming content on mobiles. “Rural consumers which are about 200 million i.e 80 per cent of India are also coming up on board in the next few years.”

Voot follows clear cut understanding of content and is leveraging on its popular content library of TV shows from market. Kids content and Voot originals are the other two important key factors for the platform. “Our Voot originals do not have to follow any format or template. They have to resonate with the consumers”, he added.

Banerji strongly believes that it is a myth for any business to chase app download numbers. “The players should work on active users and the video watch time.”

With the second most important driver being content, focusing on just the demographics is not enough. Yash Raj Films Head of content and development Nikhil Taneja said the digital audience is primarily between the ages of 18 to 34. “We are not targeted at providing entertainment to the audiences through effective storytelling and providing emotions through content.”

He also spoke about the different gender differences by sharing some interesting statistics about the traction and viewership of YRF’s shows. The platform, being a YouTube channel, manages to get some revenue from their channel but also has various other ways to make money. “We launch our own talent and if that talent gets picked by an advertiser, we are benefitted. Our show Love Shots has been picked up by airlines. It is definitely early for advertisers to invest but that does not stop us from creating good quality content.”

Adding to that, Jasani said, “The customers are agnostic in accessing content and consume digital data through Wi-fi and other services available to them. The offline viewing space is also brewing up rapidly in India. If we are putting an advertiser on every stage of digital consumption, there is no need for him to be on TV.” With various service providers launching 4G, Jasani opined that within 18 months the data is going to become cheap. “Adding to cheap data rates is the launch of smartphones for Rs 2,000 which is also going to grow in the future.”

Banerji also shed light on how the viewing dynamics are changing and why that change is happening. “With consumers in control of what they consume and content being the king, the need for quality content is just going to grow. The illusion that most of us have on the content that can go on a digital platform has to be broken”.

The panel discussion also concentrated on the discovery of content in various languages which is currently difficult. The players said they were collectively working on the challenge.

One thing that all the panelists accepted was to keep innovating and experimenting with content.

Anand spoke of how asked how she is facing a challenge from payment gateways as they are in English which majority of the Indians do not understand. “Even if there is a potential customer, he has to be guided to pay for my subscription and so.80 per cent of my potential subscribers cannot be captured.” She opined that all the players in the eco-system and various payment platforms have to think in this direction.

But are there advertisers willing to get on board? Bajaj said that it is no more about ads but content. Selective content will attract specific advertisers.

“Advertisers are squeamish to put money. We decide after evaluating how it will help the brand after a year. We are no more selling a product but brand through its content,” said Taneja.

“We are not finicky about not putting ads on dittoTV. There is an ad replacement technology through which I can have two different ads on TV and digital for the same content,” added Anand.

Jasani said the digital advertising pie is small as the major audience is not yet online. The consumers are not ready to pay for content but the fact that innumerable content creators are evolving cannot be sidelined. With both AVOD and SVOD having their own perks and challenges, there is no tangible answer that any player can provide currently.

It is an exciting space where everyone is experimenting and innovating. The panel discussion concluded by citing that both the models will co-exist at least for 10 years down the line.

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