Lockdown: Big boys missed the OTT party; Netflix, Amazon Prime gained

Topics OTT users | OTT services | OTT space

YouTube stood firm. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, the two smallest players, saw the biggest gains in unique visitors even as Hotstar, Zee5, and Voot saw them dropping. 

And news consumption online continued to go through the roof. Four of the top 10 mobile news brands in the world — Times Internet, Network18, India Today Group, and Dailyhunt — are Indian. If one looked at the top 25 worldwide, the list includes Zee Digital, The Indian Express Group, and HT Media. 

Those were the two most significant nuggets from comScore’s latest numbers (as of April) for ‘Covid-19 and its Impact on Digital Media Consumption’. comScore is a global analytics firm that offers audience measurement across digital, linear TV, theatrical, and OTT. 

The current report analyses data from April this year over March. 

The monthly report looks at online media consumption across categories ranging from gaming and health care to travel and entertainment, among others.

The time spent on the internet rose 11 per cent in April over March. That is less than half the 28 per cent growth in March over February. Not surprising, given that the lockdown and binging were petering off by the end of April. The data for May is not yet available. This trend is in line with what is happening in the television (TV) space, where a surge in viewership has now settled down.

A look at the TV space also explains why the biggest OTTs are not seeing any surge in traffic: Just like theatres and linear television, these platforms do not have enough fresh programming to offer. For example, a nice chunk of Hotstar’s traffic comes from cricket. Disney Star owns most of the large cricket properties, including the biggest one — IPL or the Indian Premier League.  But this year, IPL has been delayed, leading to a fall in traffic.

Even if an OTT is not sports dependent, it is definitely linear TV dependent. Roughly half the OTT traffic is catch-up TV. Without fresh programming, there isn’t enough to watch.

On the other hand, the bulk of the growth in traffic went to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which have huge global libraries on offer and invest heavily in local Indian programming. Amazon has been splurging on acquiring big films, such as Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi for a direct OTT release, point out analysts.

Netflix, on the other hand, treats India as a major commissioning hub for originals, in addition to scores of other countries. This makes Netflix’s offering a smorgasbord of multi-cultural programming. Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are subscription-driven brands and anything that reduces the video ecosystem’s dependence on advertising is a force for good, says one observer.

That brings this to the second big takeaway — news consumption. While most Indian news TV channels are nothing to write home about, the sheer volume of this market ensures that any surge in traffic pushes their online news versions into the top 10 list. In September 2019, India had than 625 million broadband users going by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data. On television, which reaches 836 million people, news jumped from being 7 per cent of all TV viewing to 15 per cent after the Covid-19 outbreak. That is what is being reflected in comScore’s online data. The silver lining is that some of the good quality brands from the print side, too, have made it to both global list and one for the top 10 Indian news brands online.

In case you are wondering where the growth in time spent online is going, gaming is the biggest gainer, followed by ‘business continuity tools’ like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, among others.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel