Telcos align with streaming platforms to deepen consumer relationships

ll the telecom operators have tied up with one or more OTT partner
Telecom operators and over-the-top (OTT) platforms are plugging into each other’s subscriber bases, hoping to build stickiness into their customer relationships. For Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio, the tie-ups are also an attempt to step away from conversations around service issues and breakdowns, as more and more people log into their networks from home, and steer the online chatter towards entertainment.

All the telecom operators have tied up with one or more OTT partner. Vodafone Idea has tied up Sony Liv, Zee5, Shemaroo Me, Discovery Network, Hoichoi, Lionsgate Play, Hungama, TV Today and others and also has premium associations (some of which are from before the lockdown) that allow subscribers to access Amazon Prime and Netflix too. Airtel and Jio have tied up with the same set of players and Jio also has Disney + Hotstar as a partner.

This is the way forward according to market researchers as four out of five smartphone users have at least one OTT entertainment platform installed according to a report by Google-KMPG, indicating the desire for on-the-go entertainment. In a report on the media and entertainment sector released mid-2019, KPMG had said that the nature of growth in digital adoption in India called for collaborations across the value chain. And a recent survey by Amdocs, a digital communications network and software company indicates that carrier-bundled, premium over-the-top media services are directly linked to higher consumer loyalty, user acquisition and revenue per user.

Anshuman Thakur, head of Strategy, Jio, said that such partnerships open up a new world of entertainment for JioFiber customers. The aim is to be present where the popular entertainment lies, given the numerous pulls and pressures on tariffs and premium plans that some telecom operators are subject to. Avneesh Khosla, director-Marketing, Vodafone Idea said that the telecom players, through partnerships with content providers, want to make a rich repository of content available at no additional cost to customers. “It is always a demand versus supply game. We focus on the former and ensure relevant propositions are launched to entice our customers,” he added. 

It is not just OTT platforms that the telecom brands have sought out as partners, gaming companies are on their radar too. Jio has a gaming app called Jio Games. The company is also partnering with Microsoft to bring the Microsoft xCloud game streaming service to India. Bharti Airtel and Nodwin Gaming have also an­nounced a partnership. Many have also looked at acquiring social gaming apps into their family as several reports indicate that such games are gaining popularity during the pandemic. For instance Ludo King has emer­ged as the most popular game downloaded during the pandemic according to a report by BARC-Nielsen (TV + smartphone consumption report during crisis, April 2020). The­se changes are being closely tracked by telecom brands as they look to stay relevant, especially among young subscribers. 

Shashwat Sharma, chief marketing officer at Bharti Air­tel said added video remains the biggest content play on smartphones. And he hints that it is not just the telecom operators that are gaining from the associations, OTT players benefit too. “Airtel’s deep distribution reach also helps take this content deeper into emerging markets where smartphone pene­tration has exploded. A prepaid recharge is also a highly convenient mode to get this subscription and re­moves payment barriers for customers, in particular youth in smaller towns,” said Sharma.

However, when all telecom brands align with the same set of OTT platforms, how does it help differentiate their fare? Market researchers say that there are many reasons at play when brands collaborate, some may want to demonstrate agility while some may want to be seen as different from the rest. However in their partnerships with OTT platforms, telecom brands are not looking for either. They are merely following the customer into his or her areas of preference. 

Manpreet Bumrah, vice pre­sident, Business Development & Commercial Head, ZEE5 India said that a partnership makes it simpler for millions of customers to access rich and diversified content from the platform, making such alliances beneficial for all. 



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