In a digital world, where we have the flexibility of consuming content anywhere anytime, and across mediums, our relationship with television has changed. With the flood of digital content, television as a device also serves as an extension of the digital medium via technologies like Google Chromecast and Amazon Stick.
So, does this mean that OTT (over-the-top) or digital content viewership will affect television content viewership and our good old friend will lose its sheen?
While this might be a possibility in the distant future, the television medium is not going to fade away soon. Yes, the time spent and the way we consume television content is bound to see a shift; but television will still be one of the dominant mediums for the coming few years.
One of the reasons for this seemingly contradictory trend is audience expectations from both the mediums are different. When it comes to the digital medium, most video content is seen on the smartphones. The drawback of this is the shrinking attention of viewers, where users are constantly switching between apps. Further, most of the digital content is watched while the users are on a commute, and hence, shorter versions of episodes or web series work. However, when it comes to TV, people expect longer versions of episodes. Another important aspect is television is a part of the daily family routine of Indians, a place that is difficult for any of the digital media platforms to occupy at present.
In the last couple of years, there has been a huge explosion of online content consumption and this has been primarily led by video. YouTube is the big boss of online video and over the years it has been joined by the likes of Facebook, Hotstar, SonyLIV, and Voot, to name just a few. There has been an added excitement in the OTT space with the more recent entry of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in India.
Let us look at it from the TV viewership point of view – the average viewership for total TV in 2015 stood at 21.2 billion impressions, which currently stands at 29.2 billion. Apart from that, even the youth (15–30 year olds) that are considered to be the highest consumers of OTT content, contribute 32 percent of total TV viewership, the highest amongst all age groups. This too, has been growing year-on-year. In fact, youth continues to engage increasingly with television. The daily time spent watching television by this age group has increased since last year and now stands at 3 hours 34 minutes, almost on par with the time spent by the entire TV viewing universe.
As TV penetration increases, we can only expect this number to go higher and the potential for this growth, in a country like India, is humongous. Yes, consumption of OTT platforms is increasing, but there are still challenges, including bandwidth issues. According to reports, the country currently has 300 million internet-enabled mobile phones and 250 million viewers consuming online content. When compared with TV viewing individuals, there is still a long way to go for digital consumption.
TV remains the medium which attracts the maximum advertising revenue, even today. This is growing year- on-year. Thus, in the near to medium term future, television is not likely to be under threat from OTT, with a complementary co-existence being the most likely scenario.
In fact, OTT is likely to evolve as a complimentary screen, given that more than 97 percent of the TV market consists of single TV households, as per industry estimates. OTT feeds off of this latent demand and positions itself as an individual screen allowing viewers the flexibility of anytime, anywhere media consumption over and above the traditional family appointment viewing on TV. The popularity of live and catch-up TV content on OTT is a testimony to this fact. India provides a huge opportunity for online video providers. Apart from the traditional OTT players in the market, major broadcasters in the country have also invested in this segment and launched their own OTT platforms. The main hindrance to the OTT market in the country is the average price for cable and satellite subscriptions, which limits subscription revenues for the OTT players. While OTT is likely to open doors to a lot of content creators, broadcasters, and aggregators, it will also open opportunities for people working towards improving digital infrastructure.