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Vidnet 2021: Content diversification to define future of Indian OTTs

Indian content has gone global.

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NEW DELHI: It’s undeniably the heyday of the youthful and dynamic Indian OTT landscape. After going from strength to strength in the past two-three years, it is now the fastest growing streaming market and is on course to becoming the biggest. The acceleration that OTT players in the country got with the Covid2019 lockdown, in fact, has made them sturdier. However, there’s quite some time before they’re in the black, stated a distinguished panel comprising the industry’s leading names  on day one of Indiantelevision.com’s Vidnet 2021 – presented by technology partners Bitmovin, Pallycon, support partner Contiloe, and community partners mipcom and miptv. 

The panel discussed how to transform Indian OTT content, with Eros Now CEO Ali Hussein, Viacom18 Digital Ventures COO Gourav Rakshit, MX Player CEO Karan Bedi, Discovery Communications India MD - South Asia Megha Tata, and Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibashish Sarkar offering their detailed insights. It was moderated by Kurate Digital Consulting founding partner Uday Sodhi. 

“We are still a very young industry,” started off Bedi. “How soon one is going to get profitable will depend on how aggressively one goes about it, and also in which genre, region, and type of content. If you look at the global giant Netflix, it took around fifteen years to reach the first quarter of getting free cash flows. Before that, their cash registers used to be in the order of minus one to five billion. Today, they are generating two-three billion dollars of free cash flow. And that’s because of the investments they made in their early days. Same is going to happen here.”

However, the next few years will be marked by rapid growth and development in the space, riding on the back of strong content, regional diversification, and technological advancements, the panel noted. 

Bedi said that he sees at least one billion consumers settling on OTT platforms permanently in the next five years. 

These users are going to show more stable behaviour patterns than they do now, added Rakshit. They will know exactly what type of content they like and the platforms might have improved stickiness. He also hinted at the possibility of super apps becoming more popular. 

Hussein elaborated, “I think the concept of aggregation (of platforms) under one umbrella is going to be popular. Whether that aggregation happens by a large consumer player or a telco remains to be seen. But I think that the structure of a super app is kind of limiting or single window access to multiple touchpoints. This will take good shows and creators to global scale.” 

Sarkar, in the same vein, shared that the next 18-24 months will see more global players entering the Indian market. “Not just with platforms but also to create good regional content. One of the reasons being the North American market getting saturated and there is no opportunity in China. India is not only going to be a home for 1.5 billion consumers but great writers going global with their stories.”

Apart from great fiction stories, the OTT industry, especially platforms like Discovery Plus are hungry for good creatives that can create good non-fiction content and real-life stories, asserted Tata, and urged writers to connect with her and the platform. “I have the money and resources but I really don’t know where to spend it. We definitely need more creators in the non-fiction, real content space.” 

The panel also restated the long-drawn insight of regional content getting bigger and gaining more prominence in the Indian market. 

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