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Connected TV viewership growth: OTT users going beyond six-inch smartphones

Connected TV is expected to reach over 40 million homes by 2025.

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KOLKATA: Indian viewers consume content only on smartphones – the market has matured enough to move on from this notion. With more and more premium content offered by leading streaming services, consumers don’t want to limit their viewing experience to six-inche screens anymore.

It is undeniable that a large chunk of Indian consumers still watch content on mobile devices but their preference for the larger screen has increased by leaps and bounds, especially while they were homebound during lockdown. Moreover, the appetite for quality viewing experience also pushed them to larger screens.

With smart TVs becoming more affordable, a number of TV households are replacing their old linear sets. Smart TV market has been on the rise over the last couple of years due to the entry of brands like Xiaomi, Vu, Real Me, One Plus, etc. In addition to that, traditional TV brands like Samsung, Panasonic, and LG also went aggressive in the segment. Reports have suggested the popularity of OTT content is driving smart TV growth in India.

"India is one of the most exciting countries in the world with more than 200 million potential TV households and still underpenetrated. Smart TVs have become more affordable over the last three years, and represent the vast majority of all new TVs sold. People love having the ability to connect to the Internet and stream their favourite films and series on demand. We see an ever growing need among audiences to watch Netflix on a smart TV, at home, with their family,” Netflix India business development director Abhishek Nag said.

Connected TV also includes streaming devices such as Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV. Users who don’t intend to invest in a brand new TV set are opting for these devices instead. Recently, Amazon said in a report that Fire TV users in India doubled consumption of entertainment content during their stay at home in 2020, with movies, cricket, online gaming and music gaining traction.

“In 2025, we expect connected TV will reach over 40 million homes from around seven million homes today. This will further grow OTT viewership as people  prefer to watch content on a large screen if possible. Both Airtel and Jio have announced growth plans for home broadband. Hence, that’s growing to drive connected TV homes and viewership,” stated EY India partner and media & entertainment leader Ashish Pherwani.

The prolonged shutdown of cinema halls and fresh content availability on OTTs also contributed to the uptake of connected TV. Over 50 per cent of Mirzapur 2 viewers completed the show within 48 hours of its release on Amazon Prime Video. Direct-to-digital releases Shakuntala Devi, Gulabo Sitabo, Coolie No.1,  Soorarai Pottru, Ponmagal Vandhal were the most watched movies from Prime Video on Fire TV devices. Users enjoyed sports content too as Disney+ Hotstar viewership increased 50 per cent during IPL 2020.

Zee5 witnessed accelerated adoption of connected devices wherein, three out of five SVoD users watched content via connected devices, recording over 80 per cent growth during Covid2019. Overall engagement of the platform grew and the audience spent more time watching content on connected TV versus smartphone.

“With the audience becoming acclimatised to the idea of work-from-home and social distancing owing to the pandemic, their content consumptions patterns have seen a drastic change and there has been a significant growth in terms of watch-time. The surge in content consumption is also partly driven by a big uplift in the use of connected devices,” shared Zee5 India chief business officer Manish Kalra.

Earlier in a conference, head honchos from Disney+Hotstar, Voot, Amazom Prime Video also spoke of the shift towards the living room as opposed to mobile device viewing.  As a result of rapid growth lately, the current ratio of mobile-connected TV consumption for Zee5 stands at 50-50, Kalra revealed. This signifies higher engagement levels on CTV compared to content consumption on smartphones.

“In terms of the genres, we have observed that the audience consumes more of family entertainment content. Some of the most watched content includes Jeet Ki Zid, Black Widows, Pareeksha as compared to crime and edgy content,” he added.

On the back of surging demand for CTV, OTT services are increasingly forging partnerships with OEM manufacturers. Netflix’s Nag said the platform has tied up with global TV OEMs like Samsung, LG, Sony, Xiaomi, and OnePlus, and local TV OEMs like VU and MarQ, to ensure that all the members get the same consistent, high quality app experience, no matter which smart TV they choose. Zee5’s Kalra mentioned that the platform is available across all leading Smart TVs and smart sticks available in the market – Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Sony; Amazon FireTV Stick and Mi 2k stick. Moreover, the streamer has a presence as Hot keys for Samsung, LG, TCL, Onida, Nokia and Marq TVs across all 2020 models.

Although smart TV penetration is phenomenally low in India, going forwards it is projected to grow more swiftly than smartphones which have reached the 400 million threshold, Elara Capital VP research analyst (media) Karan Taurani noted. Moreover, affordability coming in with new players will boost growth. Hence, the mobile consumption of OTT platforms standing at 80-90 per cent can come down to 70 per cent in the next few years, albeit mobile devices will largely dominate the viewership for some time to come. However, the growth of connected TV viewership in India will be led by boxes offered by aggregators like Jio, Tata Sky, Taurani remarked.

According to Deloitte India partner Jehil Thakkar, India is a mobile-first video consumption country and that will not change soon. Even, the launch of 5G can result in a better viewing experience for handheld devices. But viewership on connected TVs will parallelly go up, he asserted. During the Covid crisis, many users invested in new smart TVs or connected devices. These users will continue to consume content on those devices while they are homes, he opined. Along with that, the replacement of current TV sets in coming years will be mostly led by smart TVs only.

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