Now that things are slowly returning to normal, what are your expectations from 2021 for your company?
The year 2020 altered digital content consumption habits and patterns. While consumption on OTT platforms had been increasing year-on-year, a lack of options for outdoor entertainment made users rely even more heavily on video streaming platforms to fulfil their entertainment needs. An immense amount of content exploration, discovery and eventually, consumption happened across the industry. On Hungama Play, we witnessed a 53 percent increase in streams over the last year and a 48 percent growth in time spent watching per user. Tier-II and Tier-III cities led the growth, with a 53 percent and 78 percent increase in streams, respectively while streaming in Tier-I cities increased by 32 percent. Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, and Bhojpuri emerged as the fastest growing languages. Additionally, we also saw a tremendous increase in new users, particularly those in the 35 to 44 and 45+ years age group.
We believe that the significant amount of habit formation that happened last year is here to stay. Users who explored streaming platforms for the first time will continue to explore, while those who were already habitual of consuming content online will do so in an even higher proportion. In 2021, we expect to see a further increase in consumption in regional languages and expect them to claim as much as 40 percent share in the overall consumption pie. Our content strategy for 2021 has been designed keeping this in mind. We intend to launch over 20 original shows in six languages – Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Bhojpuri. We have always laid emphasis on having a robust distribution strategy and are already available across telecom, device, DTH and ISP ecosystems. In 2021, we intend to strengthen our network even further and increase our reach by 2x by the end of the year.
AI and ML applications are becoming a part of most sectors. What role will AI/ML play in the video streaming sector? How will direct-to-consumer streaming technologies and content personalization shape-up in the coming years?
Users today have plenty of choices to explore and it is important to invest in improving recommendation and search engines as they lead to a direct improvement in consumer engagement. Even before the pandemic, we had been scaling up our deployment of AI and ML to enhance the consumer experience on our platform. Both of these technologies are critical for progressive profiling that allows us to create user profiles based on their recent consumption habits, likes, dislikes, and interactions. This helps us understand and predict their behavior better, and serve them content that they are most likely to enjoy, making the overall experience slicker and more interactive. Our content specialists are able to study the data and develop a library that is most likely to appeal to our users. Not just that, AI can quickly track behavioral changes and adjust to consumer patterns. AI-based systems also make advertising more meaningful for both, users and marketers. This has improved the precision with which we are able to engage with our users.