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TRAI tariff order’s impact on OTT content consumption

OTT platforms are likely to gain with tariff order implementation

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MUMBAI: Amid debates over the impact of TRAI’s new tariff order on the Indian pay-TV ecosystem, over-the-top (OTT) platforms have emerged as probable beneficiaries. Several reports have indicated that streaming services stand to gain from the change in cable TV pricing. As digital continues to steadily emerge as an alternate content consumption avenue, the new tariff regime could stimulate the adoption rate of OTT platforms in the country. While OTT players seem optimistic about the positive impact of the new regulatory framework, there are those who believe there’s no direct correlation between the two.

FICCI-EY 2019 report predicts that OTT platforms are certain to benefit post the tariff order implementation due to an increased parity between television and OTT consumption – both in terms of content choice and costs. The report also mentions that trends could also be determined by the channel prices at which the market settles, which could take up to six to nine months.

This is not the only testimony in favour of OTTs gaining, as a report from Crisil too made similar observations. It said that OTT platforms could emerge as the big gainers amidst all these changes because many viewers could shift due to the rising subscription bills. In addition to that, it also mentioned that low data tariffs will also encourage viewership on OTT platforms.

Velocity MR, another prominent market research and analysis company, carried out a survey of 2010 respondents across Indian cities including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, and Pune. The report states that more than 80 per cent of subscribers will either opt for lesser channels under new price regime or switch to OTT platforms.

The CEO of India’s newest OTT platform MX Player, Karan Bedi, is of the view that the new pricing regime for broadcast channels is sure to add to the content consumption on OTT platforms especially for those audiences who no longer want to be restricted to a single TV screen. According to him, good content combined with the availability of better payment pipes and varied subscription models that come with OTT offerings, are the main drivers of entertainment today.

"It may help because cable ARPU moves up post the tariff order and I really doubt if the consumer will stand more on TV in this kind of space where there’s so much variety on digital. So definitely you will see some kind of spend getting allocated from TV to digital,” remarked Elara Capital vice president Karan Taurani.

The CEO of a top production house, which makes shows for both TV and OTT, said the new tariff order will definitely help OTT platforms to attract consumers. According to him, consumers that find it hard to access their preferred TV channels in the midst of this radical change are likely to shift to digital platforms.

“Viewers are aligning their cable TV packs as channels may have blacked out, resulting in higher than usual numbers for streaming daily TV soaps on digital platforms. A significant traffic is driven by OTT due to the convenience it offers to the users. In spite of rapid growth in digital consumption, TV has its own audiences and will continue to coexist with OTT in the long run as it remains to have its dominance in India due to several factors,” ZEE5 India business head Manish Aggarwal said.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partner and leader, media and entertainment Frank D’Souza does not find a strong correlation between the tariff order implementation and OTT consumption uptake. However, D’Souza is of the opinion that a lot will depend on the price points broadcasters opt for. Moreover, the other thing which needs to be considered is the nature of content that OTT platforms are trying to build. He also mentioned that one is really not an option over the other as there is significant programming that is being released exclusively on OTT.

“One is really a supplement for the other. So, we are not going to have a situation where someone is going to cord cut cable and get on to OTT. I don’t think there is a direct correlation between one and the other because the fact is that they operate in a different ecosystem. If the overall cable pricing gets expensive for a consumer he may try to kind of curtail it or he may choose only what he wants to see. That doesn't imply a natural migration to OTT,” he added.

"TV and OTT services cater to a distinct set of audience, OTT services have an edge when it comes to meeting the ever growing consumer demand for fresh and engaging content, available at the end users finger tip, on-demand and on the move. The diversity of content and consumer choice is unmatched when compared to traditional broadcast media. OTT serves as personal viewing experience and is an additional layer for viewers to choose from wide array of content. At Eros Now we support consumer choice and work towards creating engaging and high quality content serving multi user needs,”  Eros Digital CEO Rishika Lulla Singh commented. 

During the launch of Voot’s original short films label 'Shortcuts' in February, Viacom18 Digital Ventures marketing and partnerships head Akash Banerji had said that one would have to wait and watch how consumers eventually respond to the tariff order, and whether it finally ends up changing their deep habit of having access to 300 or 400 odd channels. While watching and having access to different channels is a habit developed over the years, Banerji felt it would be naive to start thinking and predicting that it would change instantly, with OTT platforms making rapid gains.

“The only thing that we need to be clear of and that we are preparing for if this change happens, we should be ready to give an equally good experience to a lot of new consumer acquisition that will happen on OTT. As a network, our ambition, of course, will be to ensure that the watch time and the consumer size and the scale do not go down at a network level and only keeps growing up,” he had said.

Whether new tariff order helps OTTs gain or not, the massive growth of the digital ecosystem in next few years is undebatable. The FICCI-EY report too estimates that digital subscription revenue is bound to grow at a CAGR of 55 per cent to touch Rs 5290 crore by 2021 up from Rs 1420 crore in 2018.

The Indian broadcast sector is steadily coming to terms with the radical changes the TRAI tariff order has resulted in. With most key indicators beginning to stabilize, the impact of the new framework in terms of content consumption trends on OTT platforms and digital media needs to be closely monitored, with patterns and trends beginning to emerge.

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