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India's OTT paid video subscribers pegged at 1.3 million: Frost and Sullivan

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MUMBAI: OTT (over-the-top) was the buzzword in the Indian media and entertainment sector in 2015 with multiple players firming up their game plan to tap into the lucrative and booming digital space. With the emergence of numerous OTT service providers in the past two years coupled with the entry of Netflix in India, the space is poised to grow at a fast pace in the years ahead.

According to Frost and Sullivan’s market insight on the OTT video market in India, there are about 66 million unique connected video viewers in India every month, and about 1.3 million OTT paid video subscribers. Growth in the space can be attributed to increase in smart-phones penetration as well as the improvement in Internet speed in India.

Despite facing several challenges today, the OTT market growth will be fuelled by various disruptive innovations in technology and business models over the next five years, as per Frost and Sullivan. 

“With an increase in the use of smart devices in India, content owners and aggregators are using non-TV platforms to improve reach and generate revenues through subscription and advertisement. However, it’s hard to woo the Indian consumer. Success in OTT video distribution will depend on the ability to offer variety of content, new content, at a reasonable price and impeccable user experience,” said Frost and Sullivan research director Vidya Subramanian Nath. 

While today a few broadcasters such as the Star TV Network and Zee Entertainment are driving services as well as viewership for OTT video with Hotstar and DittoTV respectively, over the next five years, there will be more broadcasters as well as cable and DTH operators expanding their OTT services. However, inadequate bandwidth speeds and the incumbency of YouTube in the market have challenged market participants.

“India may have over 225 million Internet users, but for consuming video, one needs high-speed broadband access and only about 35 per cent of these users have access to it, informed Nath. “OTT video subscription numbers fluctuate dramatically every month. We find that advertising video on demand (AVOD) is the most preferred mode of OTT video delivery in India currently,” she said.

Among content types, there is an increasing demand for short duration video content. This is primarily attributable to the average low Internet speeds and changing preferences of many Indian viewers. It is common to find online viewership peak during major sports events like the IPL, elections, or breaking news.

Platforms such as YouTube offer opportunities for independent content creators who can publish their videos online without the hassles of negotiation with large networks. Now, with the entry of Netflix in India, independent professional content production will continue to grow. Broadcasters who have their own content or video platforms with a variety of publishers are driving the market. While Viacom18 is all set to launch its service called VOOT next month, Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms is also burning the midnight oil to launch its OTT platform - ALT Digital by June this year. Balaji Telefilms CEO Sameer Nair has huge expectations from the platform and expects ALT Digital to have a whopping four million paid subscribers globally by 2020. 

With substantial investment being pumped in by companies like by Star India (Hotstar), Sony Pictures Networks India (Sony Liv), Zee Enterprises (dittoTV), Eros International (ErosNow) and Singtel, Sony & Warner (HOOQ) amongst others, the competition in the OTT space is set to intensify with the key differentiators being user experience and variety of content offering.

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