A few decades from now, a child in the future will ask “When did everyone start watching shows?”, and all we’ll be able to instantly remember is The Big Binge. There was a mixture of TV, Youtube and torrents in the beginning. Suddenly OTT struck, and everything expanded into a huge digital content universe.
How The Scene Opened With OTT
It might have escaped public memory, but BigFlix was the first Indian streaming platform launched back in 2008, with a few indie ventures before that. It wasn’t OTT as we know it today, of course. It was an on-demand movie platform competing with the likes of cheap Moserbaer movie CDs. Although it did well initially, it didn’t revolutionise content, nor did it feel the real need to. Internet penetration was at 4.4% at that time after all.
In came significantly better net services around 2016. Internet penetration shot up to 34%*, and people across the country could access the likes of Netflix India and Amazon Prime Video that launched the same year, and Hotstar the previous. India recorded having the second highest mobile download speed over the world** in 2017, and how convenient was the timing of it all! Whether it was your Naani watching the previous episode of Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, or your brother bingeing on 3 seasons of House of Cards without going to a shady torrent site, everyone was enchanted by the entry of these streaming platforms.
Space For Every Wacky Taste
Turns out it was possible that your brother also started secretly watching Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. Hotstar’s India Watch Report in 2019 found that 41% of Game of Thrones viewers also watched Hindi family dramas, and 40% of family drama watchers were men. While it’s possible the result was because of shared accounts, there’s no denying that the Indian audience has diverse tastes. Netflix and Amazon were popular in most metro cities, but on the other hand, it’s SonyLIV and ErosNow who run the show(s) in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas.
Where Consumers Roam, So Do Marketers
Streaming platforms and brands alike have already started making original shows targeted to the specific preferences of a wide audience. Voot’s creating content targeted for urban women, and does actually have the highest number of female users among all platforms. Then there’s Zomato with its food-centric shows. During the cricket season in particular, over 4 billion content pieces about cricket were consumed. This was quoted by Huaiyuan Yang, vice president of UC Browser himself, who also noted, “The OTT market is becoming a major leisure destination”. It’s up to marketers, then, to find who’d like to relax and watch the waves, or go climb a mountain, and which of those audiences we want to sell our services to.
This universe is in fact perfect for micro targeting that way. With the range of genres and specific content, it’s easier to cater to your niche audience - Burger King and Coca Cola managed to reach urban youth specifically through their partnership with Netflix’s Stranger Things 3, for example. And that brings us to the question of what brands should be looking to explore in OTT. We’ve already seen them launch their own OTT platform, such as Flipkart and Zomato. Other times, they’re involved in creating original content with existing platforms; like how Ola was behind season 2 of ‘Permanent Roommates’ on TVFPlay. With the success of vernacular content, there’s also way more original content in regional languages we’re getting to see too!
Then there’s influencer marketing, social content and special in-platform ads that brands have been harnessing to get to their customers. Asian Paints used an influencer video with the cast of ‘Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hai’ to promote a long-lasting paint product in tier 2 cities, for instance. Campaigns that feature an integrated approach with social posts, in-platform ads, scripted shows and more appear to do well, like Vikas Khanna’s web-series with Hotstar that reached over 22 million viewers. Brands can go beyond presenting content, and look at featuring interactive content on OTT too!
Into the Wormhole And To The Future
In the space between now and the future, there’s only more places to expand to. India’s video streaming industry is estimated to grow by 22% by 2023, as more people buy smartphones and 5G launches. With increasing accessibility and personalisation, folks are also curating their own media experiences. Brands will more than ever have to figure out how to point potential customers instantly towards purchase after holding their attention, while providing meaning to that experience. At the same time, as TV viewership also continues to increase, there’s a need to bridge offline and online strategies to make the most of it. How we go about that will determine how seamless brand communications will be in the future. Hopefully, in this futuristic universe not so far away, a child will get to watch content placed with ads that can make the show even better. The ads will feel like a part of the entire experience; an experience so good it makes them ask the question, “When did everyone start watching shows?”
* Source: Internet Live Stats (www.InternetLiveStats.com) with elaboration of data by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Bank, and United Nations Population Division.
** Source: Speedtest 2017 (https://www.speedtest.net/insights/blog/global-speed-2017/)