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Access, language variety, local partnerships to drive next billion subscribers

Content discovery, distribution in far-flung areas till now remain a challenge.

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MUMBAI: Despite the overwhelming growth of the OTT sector, players still need to pay more focus on issues such as content discovery, distribution, partnerships across verticals.

The Future of Video India 2019 organised by Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) hosted a session on “Capturing the next billion subscribers”. ZEE5 India CEO Tarun Katial, Amazon Prime Video India director and country general manager Gaurav Gandhi, Viacom18 Digital Ventures marketing and partnerships head Akash Banerji and Discovery digital business and partnerships director Issac M John participated in the panel moderated by TriLega partner Nikhil Narendran.

Gandhi pointed out that screens and connectivity are the routes to the next billion users in the sector. According to him, the next important aspect is the hunger for content. Going against the common notion that Indian consumers are price conscious, he said that they are, in fact, value-conscious who will not mind paying for the right content at the appropriate price point.

“Then there are questions of access and distribution. How easy is it to get these content or service by virtue of mobile phones, apps and then is the option of easy payment. Another important part is bringing the ecosystem together whether it’s cable companies or telcos trying to make sure they are able to offer customers the service,” he added.

Discovery’s John spoke about the importance of content in regional languages as the next wave of consumers is coming from rural India. He also added that short-form content is going to drive content consumption citing the popularity of TikTok videos. According to John, offering unique content can create a clear demarcation of value.

Banerji said that the next billion subscribers are not certainly going to come on the back of OTT videos only. It’s going to be multiple industries spanning retail, travel, etc. Banerji emphasised on the role of technology so the streaming services work seamlessly in tier II and III markets. He opined that ensuring the product works even in patchy network is a necessity, especially for someone who is possibly coming to the internet universe for the first time.

Terming the present phase an exciting period, ZEE5 CEO Katial said everybody knows video, vernacular and voice search are going to change the game. He added that India will have an ad-supported model along with premium content behind a paywall but both will keep evolving.

Gandhi pointed out content discovery, getting customers to see value in content and making them pay for it, and piracy as the hurdles to overcome. In addition to that, the media veteran spoke about the unsatiated demand for content which is a challenge for creators to fulfil in relevant languages. Katial agreed with Gandhi’s view giving an example of the demand for returning seasons of popular shows. In addition to that, he threw light on the need for personalisation and segmentation on the platforms with proper technology.

While Banerji said that content is going to be a key differentiator for further growth, he cited the example of the FMCG industry for sales, distribution and brand building. For ensuring distribution in far-flung places, he thinks to work closely with local partners, local broadband players and local cable/DTH players is important. From the marketing aspect, he mentioned how FMCGs do micro marketing by working with local radio stations and print mediums. He even raised the question of attracting those not in the internet universe or older audiences.

However, the experts reaffirmed the co-existence of linear TV and digital content at least for the next five to ten years. Demand for all types of content is increasing even as the TV becomes more accomodating to TV and non-TV content.

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