OTT firms to widen range of original, regional content to grab eyeballs

Last month, media conglomerate Zee launched Zee5 — its new over-the-top (OTT) video platform which is the latest in a growing market where tens of players are vying for eyeballs. In a dynamic market which changes in accordance with availability of content, creating material that can engage a price-sensitive and impatient audience remains the key to gaining leadership position.


Zee, for its part, is projecting Zee5 as the largest digital OTT platform and banking on its content catalogue across 12 languages and multiple genres as its biggest differentiator.


“We have over 90 live streaming channels. Originals are a key area of focus for us and we will be launching one new original show in six different languages every month. Besides the 3,500 movies we have, we will be adding over 100 digital premieres across the next 12-18 months,” says Archana Anand, executive vice-president and head of digital, ZEE5 India business.


When asked, she adds that aggregation, curation and creation of content are all important. While Zee5 offers Zee’s network content, originals — comprising web series and short films for various audiences including youths — would aggregate to over 200 hours of content in a year. With Zee5, Zee has merged its existing video streaming platforms-Ozee, which was ad-based, and dittoTV (subscription-based). Both offered Zee insights into the nuances of the subscription video on demand and advertising video on demand markets, says Anand.


“Reaching our platforms to consumers is a critical element in the overall journey, so we put in place a robust distribution strategy for dittoTV through a set of strong telco partnerships and this resulted in great traction for the platform. We also realised consumers are looking for a comprehensive digital platform that caters to all their entertainment needs-this could be Indian or international TV shows, catch-up content, movies or live TV streaming. Another critical input was the tremendous demand and increasing consumer requests for content across languages.”


There are nearly 30 players operating in the Indian OTT video content market. According to Counterpoint Research, the OTT market was pegged at $280 million with Rs 100 million subscribers as of December 2017. Hotstar, owned by Star India, led the market with 75 million subscribers, followed by Viacom18’s Voot (15 million), Amazon Prime Video (11 million), Sonyliv (5 million) and Netflix (5 million), Counterpoint Research noted.


Vijay Subramaniam, director, content, Amazon Prime Video India, says India is one of the key strategic markets for the technology company. And given the significant customer demand for entertainment and the young demographic, India has emerged as its fastest growing market for Amazon Prime Video which is present in 16 other nations. The company is witnessing viewership from over 350 cities. “Customers love great entertainment and we believe there is demand and interest from customers in digital video. We want to do our best to meet that need and provide the largest selection of US and Indian movies and TV shows available on-demand on a reliable and affordable service,” he says.


While the company focuses on providing the largest selection of latest and exclusive movies and TV shows, kids programming, stand-up comedies and multiple originals, it notes that like any customer Indians love local stories powered by a strong entertainment industry in multiple languages.


“Our goal is to transform the way customers consume premium entertainment in India and also transform the creation of content for Indian and world audiences. We evaluate content based on customer demand. If Indian customers want to see a certain genre, we do everything we can to make it available,” says Subramaniam.


Viu, the OTT video on-demand service of Hong Kong’s PCCW Media-backed Vuclip, has over seven million active users in India and ranks only behind Netflix in terms of usage time, according to SimilarWeb data.


Vishal Maheshwari, country head, Viu India, says “original” and “regional” content are the key focus areas for the company. “We believe OTT is a business that will be run through fresh and contemporary content for a specific target group of millennials who are looking at moving away from more conventional modes of consumption.”


The broadcaster’s OTT platform is there to protect its TV turf, as they providing a mix of catch-up and original content. Secondly, there are content owners and third, the OTT market includes the likes of Amazon and Netflix that are neither broadcasters nor content owners. Maheshwari agrees there is an overlap of audience, therefore feels a need focus sharper on a specific target audience to be distinctive.


Viu follows a freemium model-following a strategy of providing content free of charge along with charging money for additional content. “The Indian consumer is willing to pay for content only when she sees value in it,” says Maheshwari, adding that in its couple of years of presence in India, a key learning for Viu has been that creating content on the OTT-primarily mobile-first-mode is different from that of content for the big screen or television. “Consumption in OTT is characterised by impatience, where the number of scenes has to be higher for the same amount of time than in other screens.”


Hanish Bhatia, senior analyst, devices and analytics, Counterpoint Research, says the business model —premium, freemium or advertisement based — is the primary driver of the firms’ targeting and content strategy. Netflix has been pushing its global content, mainly targeting premium audience, while others are diversifying with localised content to target masses. Amazon Prime has gained traction lately with more Indian content available in regional languages, he adds.

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