Mumbai: Today the lines are blurred as the streaming business is getting more complex and complicated, as monetization gets unclear. There is so much disruption happening, AVOD is offering SVOD and vice versa. Premium content is provided absolutely free and much more happening in this sector. Subscriber add-ons are slowing down. Time spent viewing on OTTs has plateaued for almost each and every platform, and high churn continues despite attractive annual schemes being offered by them. However, the good news is that the paid OTT subscription market in India continues to excite an increasing number of advertisers who are willing to put out their ads on these platforms. Mobile continues to be the main device of consumption even as connected TVs are increasingly getting into Indian homes. Investments in content continue to burgeon as viewers' insatiable appetite continues to demand more and more.
It is certain that this new ecosystem is calling for new relationships to be forged, new partnerships to be developed as TV manufacturers, Cable TV, and DTH, and telcos and other aggregators' presence as gatekeepers to their customers is increasingly being felt. So, what is the way forward for the OTT platforms? Where do the opportunities lie? What are the challenges?
This year's Vidnet 2023 looked at all these scenarios and more, and found answers to some of these questions along with experts from the industry.
White Rivers Media co-founder and chief creative officer Mitesh Kothari moderated the second panel discussion – the speakers included Friday Filmworks Pvt Ltd CEO Devendra Deshpande, BBC Studios India general manager Sameer Gogate, The Q India co-founder and managing partner Sunder Aaron, and Pocket Aces studio head – Dice Media Vidyuth Bhandary.
Kothari spoke about the concept of demystifying the OTT content landscape “I want to centre our conversation around the audience, Bharat, and technology. There are a lot of things that you’ll are tracking when it comes to content. What is this audience going to be actually consuming? Why should we make something? What should be going across into the OTT landscape? About acquisition and retention content – something that is big, and is going to be across and crossing seasons.”
He questioned the panelists, “Today’s consumers are quite explorative in nature, as we would like to believe. How has the content influenced the offerings that you’ll are taking? With the change in the audience consumption pattern, what are the changes that you are seeing in the selection and creation of content and how are OTTs picking up the content?”
Aaron put forth his view, “We did some research about the secondary towns and the consumption there, and it has been noticed that even in the last couple of years, there have been a lot of changes in consumption. A couple of years ago when we did the same study, we found that women in the household primarily did not have smartphones. And now, within a span of two-three years, 80 per cent of them have smartphones. So the consumption pattern that we are talking about, is not simply about women controlling the remote control of the television, it is that everyone can have their personalised entertainment experience now.”
He added, “About Bharat – it’s important to understand what is being watched here. I think the Indian OTT industry got going well five-six years back – we did a lot of creative and programming which was geared at the urban top metros. So, it’s not just about following trends – if you don’t do research and if you don’t understand what they are viewing, it’s just going to pass you by. The same goes for millennials and Gen Z – we are not really producing content for these audiences yet, and I think there is a huge opportunity there. But again, if you’re aiming at this generation but only in the urban cities, then you’re going to miss out.”
Deshpande brought out, “The answer lies in the statement that you made initially. Multiple genres, multiple formats – the content is so spread out, it’s very difficult to point out what is working and what is not. As a production house, we’ll only tell stories that we are excited to talk about and that we think we can do justice to. The question is, whether the content defines the trends, or do trends define the content. So a couple of good programmes work, and the audience preferences throw up a new trend. That is an ongoing process. Purely, we do subjects which have not been done before.” Giving the example of A Wednesday, which starred no celebrities and defined a new way of filmmaking, he said that that content would keep defining new trends.”
Gogate mentioned, “What OTT has done is it’s actually allowed us to cater to the young adult TG and infact platforms are so focused in trying to cater to them today, and we have been able to do that successfully. What OTT has done is that it has allowed us to operate at both spectrums – catering to the young millennials and also to the family audience. OTT has allowed us to operate specifically to different TGs and different taste clusters.
Bhandary said, “We started in 2015 as a content-first digital company. Pretty much most of our shows were young adults, slice of life for the urban audiences. Earlier we were making content for the Dice platform which had a lot of Gen Z content. As we started making content for the OTT platform, the content also started changing. We stuck through the young adults but we also have different kinds of shows. And yes, we are making a lot of shows, but we need to adapt as per the audience preference, and constantly keep tweaking our content accordingly.
Kothari concluded by asking what is going to be the state of OTT content in 2024 in India, to which Bhandary replied that young adult content is here to stay, and the premium will only become more premium. Aaron expects the business model to change and understands that producers should be appreciated more for the work that they do.