Digital trends that define 2018 & expectations from 2019

MUMBAI: The calendar year 2018 has been an eventful year for the media and entertainment industry. The Indian M&E industry is in the midst of a rapid change. Industry estimates peg the internet population of India upwards of 500 million. India emerged as one of the largest consumers of mobile data largely driven by the content consumption on mobile devices. Digital has transformed the access to content and participation in media, and the consumers have shown affinity towards great content on newer screens.

Big trends of 2018

Rise of tier 2 & tier 3 markets - Video based platforms have aggressively targeted users in tier 2 & 3 towns of India in 2018. This was predominantly seen amongst the Chinese & home-grown Indian companies and is a fairly different approach from ones implemented by traditional silicon valley based social platforms which start with metros and spread to smaller towns. This trend indicates that Indian language content has grown in popularity. From Southern languages to North/West regional languages - content creation and consumption across Non-Hindi Indian languages has seen a massive jump this year.

Democratisation of influence – This year has also witnessed the explosion of content creation on short video platforms. Be it sing along songs, shorter forms of interactive videos or long format live content - there has been a massive outburst of content creation by users on different platforms. This has resulted in the rise of a newer breed of influencers. In the past all we knew were YouTubers, but this year saw the rise of Musers (derived from Musically, now TikTok) and Smulers (derived from Smule). Brands and movies are recognising the power of their reach, especially among the youth.

Original Content Explosion – 2018 has been an inflection point in the history of OTT platforms. Indian and global OTT platforms have been extremely bullish on developing original content for consumers. To gain foothold in India’s highly competitive OTT segment, global players have increasingly signed content licensing deals with local players to expand their content library. While some platforms have chased Bollywood studios and actors to gain traction, some platforms have played it safe by banking on relatable Indian tales. All these platforms have employed aggressive marketing campaigns and promotional offers to feel the pulse of the audience. The verdict is far from out on the type of content that resonates with Indian audiences. Most industry figures suggest that number of people consuming original content on OTT platforms is a very small niche.

Expectations from 2019

Blind spots as we look ahead – With the launch of new platforms for short video content, risk of piracy and copyright infringement tags along. The content industry will have to pick and choose the right platforms to work with and ensure strict controls are put in place to protect the content.

Future looks exciting – The digital ecosystem in India is very well positioned to grow in 2019 as most conditions indicate that India is currently at the position that China was 5-7 years ago. 2019 will continue to see a high rise of content creation and consumption in India, thanks to the increasing internet penetration and data availability at low cost. 2019 will hopefully be a year of new platforms emerging with local/hyperlocal appeal and growth of language content at a fast pace. The year will have more and more people paying for content online. Newer monetization models with in-app micro-payments and gamification will also boom in the coming years.

(The author is senior vice president, investment operations at Times Bridge. The views expressed here are his own and may not subscribe to them)

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