OTT players focus on better app features, easy payment options and streaming solutions

The aim is to create better user experiences.


MUMBAI: Indian OTT apps are figuring out ways to increase viewer engagement. New features such as voice search, regional language user interfaces and easy payment options are just some of them. Top national, international and regional OTT players are sharpening their knives for better user experience on the app.

Technology for better user experience

Eros International group chief marketing officer Manav Sethi’s focus for the OTT app Eros Now is to create a different consumer experience through an updated version of the app by using past data. Another player ALTBalaji is also looking at adding an Indic language interface and a voice-enabled search option in the future.

The latest entrant in the Indian OTT market is also investing aggressively in tech, product and design. MX Player chief of product, tech and operations Vivek Jain said that their aim is to constantly strive to build the most effective ML and recommendations algorithms to keep the viewing experience personalised for users. In addition to that, he said that the coming weeks will also see many product/tech interventions that will further augment user experience and build engagement on the app.

Regional players aren’t behind either. Says Hoichoi co-founder Vishnu Mohta: “The way we approached Hoichoi even on day 1 is that we wanted to build a scalable product. The way we did that is working with someone called Viulift who has been there for at least 10-15 years. Now what we are doing is building those resources within Viulift as part of our own who are directly responsible for the Hoichoi platform. The number is scaling up as we go along.” He also added that this business is about doing as many as partnerships possible and integrating those partnerships properly on the app.

Netflix is also looking forward to announcing new features this year. A spokesperson said that they are always learning from their members around the world and they run tests on what might be great features and could make the experience better.

Easy payment options

Even as Indians consumers are taking a step ahead by showing their willingness to pay for content, OTT players are also meeting them in the middle by creating easier payment methods. Balaji Telefilms is considering cash payments across 200,000 retailers in India. CEO Sunil Lulla mentioned that along with credit/debit cards and net banking options, ALTBalaji is working with nine wallets in India, some of which offer great cashback offers. Their research found that Indians use at least three wallets regularly for cashback.

About 10 per cent of the shows on ALTBalaji are watched on smart TVs. It has also recently launched payment gateways via Roku STBs, Fire TV and LG WebOS. Lulla highlighted that it recently moved to a mobile number-based login and registration as most Indians in smaller towns do not use email IDs as the primary means of identification.

“We are constantly looking at ways to make it easier for users to access Netflix and pay for it. While we have the traditional payment methods such as credit cards and debit cards, we continue to work with partners in India such as ACT Fibernet to enable seamless and integrated billing,” the Netflix spokesperson commented.

ErosNow is also revamping its payment experience. “We have been closely watching payment gateways experience not only on Eros now but all the other high transactional platforms. We are doing the right partnerships to enable that experience. Being a pure SVOD play, payment is a very important thing to focus on,” Sethi commented.

Hoichoi is also looking at enabling mobile OTP to make the usage easier for the mass audience. Its future goal is to create payment options within the app so that subscribers don’t have to leave it to pay.

Overcoming streaming challenges

While Jio has given a major boost to data consumption in India, buffering is still a pain at low data speed and remote locations. In response to that, homegrown platforms are also making the download option available.

MX Player has recently added the download section. Jain said that the platform will be introducing the ‘skip and play next’ button for those who love to binge. In addition to that, the ‘play next’ button further enables users to quickly skip the end credits and move to the next episode.

Lulla mentioned that ALTBalaji has consistently worked to improve the streaming experience for its subscribers by using better video compression and working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to ensure that the shows are available without any hindrances in buffering.

The Netflix spokesperson said that India is a unique mobile-leaning market witnessing its highest download traffic. “We went a step further to make downloads smarter. When Smart Downloads is enabled, the Netflix app automatically downloads the next episode in the series (on Wi-Fi), and deletes the watched episode to make space on the device,” he said.

As is visible, OTT players are also integrating and overcoming technology challenges. However, the experts also feel that the focus should not drift away from creating good content because a great app without good content is of no use.

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