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Vidnet 2021: Aggregation of video streaming platforms to pick up soon

A common measurement currency is required for advertising revenues to pour in.

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NEW DELHI: The three to four-year-young digital video entertainment industry has shown a massive boom in popularity, gaining prominence quicker than any other medium ever did. The right circumstances backed by the right technological and socio-economical interventions pushed the envelope for this impressive trajectory they are treading. Moreover, last year’s lockdown accelerated the growth prospects in a manner no one would have expected. On day two of Indiantelevision.com’s Vidnet 2021 conclave, a panel sat down to discuss this impressive growth story and its way ahead. 

Moderated by iProspect India CEO Rubeena Singh, the panel saw the virtual presence of MX Player head of marketing & business partnerships Abhishek Joshi, Sony Pictures Networks India SVP & head - programming & new initiatives digital business Amogh Dusad, Inmobi group director brand & marketing (Glance & Roposso) Calvin John, Chingari co-founder & COO Deepak Salvi, Mitron CEO & co-founder Shivank Agarwal, and Bolo Indya founder & CEO Varun Saxena. 

There’s no question that the video content consumption habits of people in India has changed, more so in the year past. Shedding more light on this, Salvi said that for the youth it’s all about making active choices and the growth of the digital video world has allowed them to do just that. 

“In fact, the younger generation has made significant steps from passive content consumption to creating their own content. They are spending more time streaming content, prefer watching it on their mobile devices, and in large numbers are shifting from linear to OTT television. There’s a huge demand for snackable content,” he added. 

Singh then went on to quiz Dusad over how a linear TV giant like Sony is dealing with this swift shift in consumer behaviour. 

Rather than a challenge, it’s a big opportunity for them, replied Dusad, as technology has given the users the choice to pick the right content and view it at their own convenience. “A big chunk of consumption on our OTT platform comes from smart TVs. People prefer watching live sports on their mobile phones because of the portability. This has increased the customer movement in our direction.” 

This point paved the way for an interesting exchange on the difficulty of acquiring new customers in a heavily cluttered market, where new players are popping up every few months. 

John shared that for his platform, the task is to keep a fine balance between the three main cohorts of customers – ones who are there to watch content, ones who create amateur content, and the ones who are the influencers, and get all of them moving on his platform. The first category is pretty much easier to get, since people are always looking for good byte-sized content to help them in small moments of boredom amidst a busy day at work. 

“The biggest challenge is to get people who are there to only watch the content to switch their cameras on. This requires a lot of innovation in terms of the content that is there on our platform. It has to be more focused on what people are doing daily,” he elaborated. 

Agarwal pointed out that the next leg of growth is going to be coming from the tier-2 and tier-3 cities. “We have seen that people are more loyal to regional content than mainstream. Simply changing the language of the content won’t work. They like to see content that is similar to their own culture, occupation, and livelihood.”  

Singh then asked if aggregating and consolidation can be the way forward, so each player benefits from this growing market. 

Joshi mentioned that the industry is still quite young to think about consolidating platforms, which also raises the question of “who will buy who.” 

“In this ecosystem of 42 OTT apps and seven to eight short video platforms, it is very difficult to scale a singular product. Consolidation happens only when you buy out the number margin, and that’s not possible right now. So, consolidation is imminent but not immediate. However, consolidation in the form of content has already started happening. You see so many food delivery and e-commerce apps running video content,” he noted. 

Further, aggregation of platforms will pick up soon, although content aggregation is far from becoming a reality, he added.

The panel then touched upon the topic of censorship of content. Saxena highlighted that most censorship bodies forget one basic clause while reviewing content, which is that all censorship should be in alignment with the social beliefs prevalent at that particular point of time. 

He insisted that there should be very limited censorship of OTT content as it not only adversely impacts creativity but also restricts the consumers from exercising their freedom to watch what they want to watch. 

From an advertising perspective, the panel agreed that while many big brands have started creating an efficient multi-device strategy, some still see OTT as an extension of television. The industry therefore collectively needs to work on creating tools and technologies that can assist the marketers better in understanding the reach and ROI these platforms can serve. 

Joshi said that revenues won’t come till there is a unified measurement system in place. While John added that it is still a long way to go for a common currency to come into shape, they may well have to deal with data protection laws to utilise and aggregate that information as well. 

All in all, the panel showcased great positivity towards the future of OTT and other digital video streaming services, insisting that the next few years are going to be great in terms on user engagement. 

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