Mumbai: The OTT ecosystem in India is growing every day with new players coming into the fray and novel, edgy content being churned out. The way we look at online streaming is also changing. Today the market has 40 odd players including regional players. For these platforms to sustain, there are two ways- one: is the AVOD, that’s advertising-supported and the second is the SVOD which is subscription-supported. In a market like India, SVOD remains a challenge. Even as the OTT subscription market in India continues to grow at a gradual pace, it remains an exciting prospect for an increasing number of marketers and advertisers who are keen to promote their brands and ads on these emerging platforms.
The sixth edition of IndianTelevision.com’s annual VidNet Summit took an in-depth look at the way forward for the OTT ecosystem and all the platforms on it, and the opportunities and the challenges in the space.
The two-day summit had technology partners Dell Technologies and Synamedia, summit partners Applause Entertainment and Viewlift, industry support partners Gupshup, Lionsgate Play and Pallycon, community partners Screenwriters Association and Indian Film and Television Producers Council, and gifting partner The Ayurveda Co.
Day one of VidNet 2022 saw an interesting mix of sessions on the subject of advertising on OTT from industry experts and stakeholders on the various panels. The panel on ‘Advertising On OTT - Connecting The New Brand Order’ oversaw bristling conversations from panelists that included MediaCom chief product officer Averill Sequeira, Swiggy head of brand marketing Saurabh Nath, Zee Entertainment Enterprises chief revenue officer-Digital & SMB, South Asia Gaurav Kanwal, ITC head media & PR Jaikishin Chhaproo, Byju’s brand and creative strategy vice president Vineet Singh and Syska Group head of marketing Amit Sethiya. The session was moderated by Madison World vice president Kosal Malladi.
Today data has become a complete commodity with large OTT players like Netflix, Prime Video, Zee5, Hotstar, Sony liv etc coming in, observed Malladi. Recently Netflix declared that it has decided to support advertising. The advertising revenues on these platforms in the last four years have grown by 400 per cent, Malladi shared. So will the subscription model stay or perish in India? Also, as brands are the numbers large enough for advertising on AVOD?
According to Zee’s Gaurav Kanwal, the OTT industry in India is in its infancy. “There’s a huge AVOD play for sure, with increased reach more brands will come on board. On the SVOD side, as the economy progresses, people will pay for varied content that they can watch at their convenience. We already have about 70 million people paying for content on various OTTs across the board," he said while adding, "As we evolve as an ecosystem, the pricing models will evolve as well and then we shall see a massive upswing in the SVOD subscriptions. It will be difficult to sustain only on the back of SVOD so an advertising-supported hybrid model will be the way forward."
Speaking about how OTT has caught the attention of brands, Syska’s Amit Sethiya said, “We have started exploring OTT from the last three to four years and the money that we are putting in it is increasing year on year in the entire media mix. From single-digit investment in the medium about four years back the brand has now expanded to double-digit investment. We are in a position to fetch incremental audiences with this new avenue and connected TV is aiding the entire process."
The role of agency here is more of a consultant or facilitator, rather than a gatekeeper in bringing the two worlds of brands and the rich, emerging ecosystem of OTTs together, MediaCom’s Averill Sequeira averred. “Am very bullish about the OTT sector, the pace at which they are growing, especially the phenomenal growth, regional OTTs and the void they have fulfilled in terms of quality content. They have opened people’s minds to new forms of storytelling."
Sequira spoke of two ways to validate OTT reach and audience. “As far as programmatic is concerned it is simpler as you're buying the audience and not inventory on the platform. But where programmatic is not available, she encouraged all stakeholders to actively seek metrics such as search volumes, brand recall, and social chatter to serve as ‘proof of the pudding’.”
On what attracted FMCG brands to OTT, ITC’s Jaikishin Chhaproo explained that their primary target audience is women. “We knew most women were missing the first telecast of their favourite shows and watching repeat telecasts. When that consumption moved to OTT they could watch it at their convenience on hand-held devices, rather than by appointment viewing as on TV. OTT provided that platform seamlessly," he said, adding that "the other huge chunk of their TG is the youth 18-40, who watch differentiated on OTT only and who aren’t interested in appointment viewing. This age group that forms the core TG of FMCGs is also present on OTT."
Swiggy’s Saurabh Nath pointed out that for a food tech brand, the consumer journey is key as there are specific times of the day when food is relevant to their lives. "One can only increase their ‘desire to action’ by building awareness via advertising but one cannot expect immediate action. The kind of marketing that we are talking about is changed and is different when it comes to tech and D2C from that of FMCGs as the cycle is much more condensed," he said, adding that, "the attribution for the FMCGs was very clear, that the brand will build over a period of time."
Nath shared three-pointers on brand equity for any brand to perform well- saliency, meaningfulness, and differentiation. Putting the ad on an OTT may give the brand salience but the outcome in terms of recall, engagement and differentiation will depend on one’s campaign relevance. The industry stakeholders agreed on the importance of "tracking the right metric" for the same.
For D2C brands like edtechs, content marketing is the way to create love for the brand, affirmed Byju's Vineet Singh, adding, “We need to figure out what works for us and what doesn’t as marketers first- Brand recall, salience, relevance etc.” Going back to basics is important such as understanding what our requirement is, instead of unnecessarily complicating. We've evolved from a world where just pushing the narrative is going to work. Creative excellence from a brand is important.”
Investments in content continue to burgeon as viewers’ insatiable appetite continues to demand more and more. With all agreeing that OTT’s a high-growth industry with everyone wanting 'a piece of the OTT pie,' panelists agreed that the end goal/objective has to be clearly defined for the brand or a particular campaign. Cookie-cutter branding is not going to work for brands.
It was agreed that OTT platforms need to take some responsibility too, even as marketers need to own it, for ‘passive integration’ will not work. With nearly 18-20 percent of FMCG’s money for television going to OTTs today, expectation setting needs to be clear and realistic.