Maximum entertainment through OTT platforms tells the India mobile story

Topics Amazon Prime | Netflix | Hotstar

The 2020 State of the Mobile report by App Annie, a global analytics and market intelligence firm, puts India right on top in a list of nations, when it comes to app downloads. Between 2016 and 2019, there was a 190 per cent increase in downloads by Indians, which is the highest in the world. Compared to this, globally, downloads went up 45 per cent and China at second place, grew at half the pace at 80 per cent.


Break it down further and for the majority of downloaders, the internet is an entertainment zone with the time spent on entertainment apps in India growing 80 per cent between 2017 and 2019. Globally the number is 50 per cent.


The story that the numbers tell has been in evidence for a while. The ubiquitous mobile phone has long replaced almost every other form of entertainment in the country and in the process, also steadily overhauled the way we get entertained. Hence, India is the only country where Netflix offers a mobile-only plan at hugely discounted rates and everyone else, from Amazon to Hotstar is bulking up their content libraries at significant cost.

High quality streaming, growth in user-generated content, and the offline mode becoming standardised have helped reframe the choices for viewers, the report noted. It lists the country’s breakout streaming apps in 2019 as MX Player, Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Jio TV. At a recent event in Mumbai, founder Jeff Bezos said his video streaming platform is doing better in India than anywhere else in the world.


The numbers have turned the app-based entertainment industry into a magnet for all nature of companies—be it old traditional media houses that are expanding their binge-able content or non-media companies slicing their way into the game with specialised shows. But experts say, those jumping in, must heed a few warning signs.

More downloads is not an indicator of demand they point out, pricing matters most and the initial highs could peter out when companies begin charging more and reducing the free content on their libraries. S Swaminathan, co-founder of Hansa Cequity, a data-driven customer-marketing solutions company, says that only those OTTs or content providers will survive, whose content is relevant and contextual. He also reads a consolidation on the cards.


“In the near future there would be something like a marketplace of content, where consumers can pick what they want to watch. Instead of installing dozens of OTT apps on their phones, an ecosystem model will work,” Swaminathan adds. Much like what Tata Sky is to TV.


Experts also point out that the $ 5 billion (estimated size) video-on-demand market is a high volume, high investment play. Amazon has invested heavily on its app, optimising it for Indian viewers and on building a library of original content. Market sources estimate that for some of these titles Amazon has paid as much as Rs 25 crore.


Even as Amazon has focused on providing language-led mass content, Netflix's pitch has targeted a more urban audience. Netflix is not yet in China, faces a saturated market in the US and has hence pinned India as the most fertile hunting ground for its next 100 million subscribers. Increasingly the OTT platforms will need to join hands with large production houses and other digital entertainment channels because as Swaminathan says, going solo and niche is unlikely to work, “It is an ecosystem that succeeds rather than a walled garden,” he adds.

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