MUMBAI: Live streaming technology has come a long way since its inception, and live stream viewers in India are on the rise. From conventional mainstream sports to e-sports, gaming, and online entertainment, live streaming has been used successfully in India in order to bridge the gap between new technology and traditional formats. There are about two dozen streaming services in India like Twitch, Mixer, YouTube Gaming and Hitbox, to name a few; digital subscriptions had risen by 50 per cent to Rs 3.9 billion in 2017, and are expected to hit Rs 20 billion by 2020.
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During GEMS 2020, industry leaders and experts – Pocket Aces founder Anirudh Pandita, Rooter Sports Tech founder & CEO Piyush Kumar, game caster Raman Chopra and The E-sports Club co-founder Ishan Arya – discussed the future of live streaming in India.
The rise of live casting
Live streaming took off when Hotstar began streaming the IPL live in 2016. It has quickly gained ground since then, with the rise of popular game casters like Dynamo, CarryMinati, ScoutOP, and others. What started as a hobby for these YouTubers soon helped them rack up millions of followers, while also spreading the live streaming bug far and wide.
Raman Chopra started doing live streams by watching gamers on YouTube and Twitch. From being on the platform just two days a week, he started playing games every day. Initially, the gamer had a minuscule audience but it grew quickly and today, he has over 2 lakh 74 thousand followers. Just like Chopra, there are many gamers in India who have made live streaming a fully-fledged career.
With the growing popularity of live streaming, digital entertainment companies like Pocket Aces are helping streamers build their careers and make a profit. Founder Anirudh Pandita said the company has witnessed a whole new breed of content creators cropping up. For instance, there has been a marked rise in the number of game casters on YouTube in the last few years.
To cater to this segment, they’re focusing on building interactivity between gamers, streamers, and audiences through their digital streaming platform Loco. The challenges are many, but so are the rewards, and the team’s developing features and tools around it, said Pandita.
“We know talent very well; we have built some of the biggest live streams on our platform. We also know how to monetize the content, that is how we have built Pocket Aces. It was a very natural offering that we could provide to game streamers,” he further added.
Boosting viewership and scaling
In the live streaming industry, tournament organisers play a big part when it comes to promoting competitive multiplayers. E-sports platform The E-sports Club believes in building an ecosystem where gaming is conducted in a sustainable and scalable manner that is ideal for both sponsors and players.
The Esports Club co-founder Ishaan Arya highlighted that the viewership and excitement level around game casting has increased. As an e-sports organizer, Arya found out that the only way to encourage gamers to participate is by giving them real-life experiences. The company has grown from one event at a time to organising events on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Arya said: “The daily-weekly engagement for our content is growing massively. For instance, a campaign we did six months ago fetched us over half-a million views, and on the other hand, for another campaign that we did three weeks ago, we have already touched a million views.”
‘Live streaming next best option to real-life experience’
On similar grounds, Rooter Sports Tech is a social platform that connects sports fans and engages them during live sporting events. It launched its audio and video feature with the start of IPL and world cup matches in 2019. And for the company, the streaming business has been building up for the past 18 months.
Rooter Sports Tech founder & CEO Piyush Kumar said 2019 was a challenging year as the company was deciding to move into sports content. He focussed on building a technology that works in real-time and streaming appeared to be the best option. The reaction of fans that happens in real-time is altogether a different experience because the maximum reaction comes when the match is live.
“YouTubers and Instagrammers used to do commentary here and there to develop some audio-video content so they reached out to us. We built a set up where there are ten languages and different sets of commentators, which has now grown to 100 current commentators while the match is ongoing. It all happened with the help of UGC (User Generated Content),” he explained.
The Covid2019 pandemic led Kumar to think that the logical extension of this product would be to get into the gaming content. He pointed out that 70 to 80 per cent of content in gaming comes through streaming. He built the entire technology in the month of June, and in the last three months, it has scaled massively. The company has added 1.5 million users on its app on a monthly basis.
Monetising content: Experts debate
In Kumar’s opinion, streaming has a well-developed monetisation model. 90 per cent of the revenue made by all the key players is through monetization and the rest 10 per cent is through advertising.
“The system works by paying good publishers to create content for your platform. Firstly, we monetise through advertising which we started last year. So, we have a certain pipeline, brands and partnerships. Post this you provide them the distribution model; it could be on both apps and websites. Like Paytm and Samsung are some of your partners so we decide how to distribute them there. Eventually, take them to a level where they can monetise their content,” he said.
He went on to say that though YouTube has lots of features, it is not customized for Indian audiences.
Reports state that in the next three years, streaming will become 10 to 15 percent of revenue share of the overall gaming market. But more than monetisation, it is important to create engagement that attracts advertisers, put in Pandita.
In a similar vein, Arya said that he believes it is about giving value to sponsors who are investing money. In fact, he has increased the prize money of players by 33 per cent to motivate them.
The panellists came to a common conclusion: that e-sports and gaming is completely different from entertainment, where content could be published weekly. But when it comes to live streaming, the content needs to be created on a daily basis.