Digital entertainers battle experience challenge as viewership figures rise

Topics Hotstar | Netflix | Spotify

Photo: iStock
Last month Hotstar announced that it had notched up a single-day reach of 100 million, for the India-Pakistan match during the ongoing ICC World Cup. Cricket has been a crowd puller for the platform, especially in a year where the game has been played almost continuously for close to six months. But such largesse is not free of challenges. Even as OTT platforms such as Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix and others have ramped up their viewership numbers, they are also hit by the problem of rising customer expectations for digital viewing experiences.

According to the recently released Adobe Experience Index, the media and entertainment industry struggles to meet customer expectations with the lowest score, the least in anticipation of information needed (68 per cent). While the platforms are aware of the mismatch, they say that experience issues are mostly a fallout of poor connectivity and hence, out of their hands.

However to ensure viewer fidelity and stickiness, the companies (digital audio and video platforms) are focusing on regional content, building innovative features that appeal to their respective viewer communities and going all out to expand the content library.  

Amarjit Batra, managing director-India, Spotify said that the platform keeps listener experience at the core of its strategy, and works towards enhancing it on the app, and offline whenever an opportunity arises. At Netflix, the focus has been on creating and acquiring content that appeals to its core demographic while Amazon Prime has sought to build a large Bollywood and regional movies library.

Spotify and Hotstar have found other ways to enhance the experience of consumers, the infrastructural issues notwithstanding. For example, the music streaming platform has introduced a lower bandwidth consuming version of the app called Spotify Lite. Hotstar has built in greater interactivity on its platform, based on a viewer insight that the game is better watched together rather than in isolation.

Hungama says it has used gamification on the platform to enhance consumer engagement. Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO of Hungama says, “We are the only service in India to reward consumers for actions they take on our apps.” These measures are all aimed at the young viewer, still largely urban but also increasingly in semi-urban areas.

According to a report by Counterpoint Research, young Indians, under 35 years of age, accounted for 89 per cent of the total Indian OTT video content platform users in 2018. Among young users, the age groups of 16-24 and 25-35 contributed equally to the overall market. Male users account for 79 per cent of the total users.

According to the FICCI EY Media and Entertainment Report 2019, wireless broadband users grew from 363 million in December 2017 to 494 million in November 2018 while the total internet users in the country grew from 446 million to 570 in the same time period. In a price conscious country like India, where digital is traditionally viewed as a ‘free’ medium, digital subscription revenue grew 262 per cent to reach Rs 1400 crore in 2018.

As data costs reduce, and content availability increases, the report expects the Indian consumer to spend up to 3.5 times more time watching content on digital platforms. Already, entertainment is second only to social media in terms of what Indians spend their time over, on the phone.

However with more viewers and a more diverse target demographic, the OTT players will need to focus more closely on engagement and experience. It is towards that end that the two international platforms, Netflix and Amazon, are spending more on original content. Amazon plans to have 12 originals a year out of India by 2020, while Netflix is  is targeting a library of 22 original films from India by 2020.


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