India's online video streaming market: Where the 'big four' stand

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Google’s YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney’s Hotstar and Netflix are the big four in the Indian streaming video or over-the-top (OTT) market. It has over 50 brands, many of them from global majors, fighting for a foothold in a market with 600 million broadband users.

This intense competition will push up investments in original content to $1.4 billion by 2024 — a 13 per cent compound annual growth rate from 2019.

YouTube’s market dominance is being challenged, as emerging home-grown and Chinese user-generated content platforms flood the market with fresh advertising inventory. These include the very popular TikTok (145 million users), Vigo Video (20 million users), and Helo (50 million users) — all owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance. This and more is what the latest analysis by Media Partners Asia, a Singapore-based media research and consulting, says.

By the end of 2019, the Indian OTT market will be at total revenues of $1.2 billion, or Rs 8,000 crore, going up to $3 billion (Rs 22,000 crore) by 2024. That is also when there would a billion Indians consuming streaming video, says the report.

The most interesting part of its analysis, however, is its view of various players. So YouTube, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix are clearly among the top players, with investments from Apple and other tech firms being of interest.

Most OTT brands have introduced sachet-like pricing, which is delivering volumes. For instance, earlier this year, Netflix had introduced a Rs 199 per month mobile-only plan, against its Rs 800 a month one. “Netflix, with less than 2 million subscribers in 2019, will have 36 per cent of streaming video-on-demand revenue in 2019,” says Media Partners Asia.

It remains one of the more successful subscription-led streaming players in a market dominated by advertising. But, “the company also needs to be careful not to offend policymakers. Some of Netflix’s recent content has set the regulatory wheels in motion after complaints over its depictions of nudity,” says Media Partners Asia.

While YouTube has 60 per cent of the advertising revenues that online video gets, its challenges are different from Netflix. These include, “reversing continued declines in cost per mille (also called cost per thousand), improving low inventory utilisation, retaining as well as attracting new content influencers, and competition from a host of new vertical video user-generated content platforms in India,” says the report.

For some reason MX Player, the Times Group’s streaming video foray is missing in the report. Also Media Partners Asia uses the monthly active user figures claimed by firms as the basis for comparison. For instance, while Disney maintains that Hotstar has 300 million monthly active users, the latest data from Comscore puts unique visitors or viewers for Hotstar at 90 million.

Only YouTube’s claimed numbers match its Comscore number of about 275 million viewers. There are several reasons internal numbers are different from the Comscore ones, says an analyst. The questions to ask of these claims are: Are they based on logins and single users across devices? Are they the sum of all devices without duplication? Are these visitors who have visited the site or app and not seen a video? This incidentally is a familiar story across media segments in India, and OTT is no different. Eventually like most segments, OTT, too, will settle into some pattern.

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