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OTT platforms are here to stay!

OTT platforms are redefining possibilities in the entertainment landscape, opening new horizons for creativity and innovation. This transformation is driven by the accessibility to affordable data, wide array of content choices, technological advancements, the overarching evolution of consumers, and the industry collectively working to meet this significant shift.

With seismic shifts in content creation and consumption, the OTT industry has created headlines in the last few years. Players in the sector have meticulously built a content ecosystem that resonates with viewers across various segments, arguably making content the most powerful fuel propelling the OTT ecosystem. From gripping thrillers to uplifting dramas, from comedies to thought-provoking documentaries, streaming platforms today offer a wide expanse of titles, ensuring there’s something for everyone to watch.

India is also a culturally rich nation, home to a spectrum of diverse languages. This multilingual richness is mirrored in our OTT platforms, which continuously create and acquire an array of regional titles. According to a 2024 FICCI and EY report, the share of regional content produced in the mid to long term is predicted to reach 55% of the overall content roster. This appetite for localized narratives has further fuelled content diversification, leading to platforms launching original content slates in regional languages, catering to the cultural nuances of India. Last year saw the release of many intriguing and thoughtful regional titles. I particularly enjoyed Koose Munisamy Veerappan, a Tamil docu-series chronicling unseen footage of the real-life cult-figure.

As streaming platforms drive collaborations within the creator ecosystem, the future of storytelling is evolving daily. An example of this is the upcoming series “Gyaarah Gyaarah” which marks the first-ever OTT collaboration between globally acclaimed filmmakers Guneet Monga Kapoor and Karan Johar. This partnership is a significant testament to the power of streaming platforms, underscoring the extensive reach and the popularity it currently experiences among audiences.

This hunger for good storytelling is also contributing to video streaming growing at a staggering pace, where growth in tier II and III cities is often outpacing metros. High-speed internet along with affordable data and smartphones have played a critical role in the widespread adoption of video streaming. 5G technology is also revolutionizing the OTT industry by enabling high-quality streaming while eliminating buffering woes. Simultaneously, OTT platforms are also focusing on mobile-friendly interfaces and data-saving features to ensure accessibility for users with limited bandwidth.

With this exponential growth, seamless access across devices becomes paramount. India is anticipated to have 40 million connected TV users by 2025. This rising potential of smart TVs connected devices, and features like SharePlay have revolutionized the entertainment landscape, further enhancing collective viewing experiences through technological integrations. Streaming platforms today are able to create a dynamic ecosystem that seamlessly provides access to diverse titles through cross-device synchronization and leveraging AI tools across different aspects of their operations.

For example, AI-powered dubbing & subtitling, machine learning-based search and recommendation tools, holistic viewing exposures, and audience analytics have been key enablers for audience loyalty and retention. User experience (UX) and interface design (UI) have also emerged as critical aspects for shaping the future of OTT platforms. Streaming platforms have today been focussing to enhance its UX with personalized recommendations, streamlined interfaces, and simplified navigation. This holistic approach has not only been enhancing user engagement and satisfaction but has also been empowering platforms to optimize content libraries and refine their marketing strategies.

Along with leveraging these technological advancements, OTT platforms are also catering to diverse consumer preferences and market dynamics by strategically utilizing various monetization methods like AVOD (Advertising-based Video on Demand), SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand), TVOD (Transactional Video on Demand), and hybrid models. By leveraging data analytics, market research, and user feedback, platforms are tailoring their subscription plans to give back the purchasing power of the consumer. So, while SVOD offers uninterrupted premium viewing, AVOD acts as a content sampler and frequency builder with catch up TV content. With a strong growth trajectory and projections for a further upswing, the AVOD segment will be one to watch out for, especially for a dynamic, cluttered market like India. The industry also believes that if the current pricing remains unchanged, we can witness a growth in the households subscribing to one or more SVOD services in the near future.

However, the hybrid framework, which combines the above models, is poised to have the most success. It has the potential to reduce acquisition costs, maximize conversion rates, and create a seamless transition from free content to premium subscription. With so many options, audiences will also have the power to manage their budgets better while platforms continue to provide them access to high-quality content. Additionally, OTT bundling services have also upped the convenience quotient for audiences, consolidating content libraries and streamlining user experience.

This burgeoning growth does come with its share of speedbumps. In the dynamic ecosystem of the entertainment industry, engaging audiences with compelling content while delivering value is a constant learning curve. The surge in OTT popularity and the reach of digital media demands swift content creation. Moreover, combating content piracy poses a significant hurdle. It threatens the efforts invested in crafting high-quality stories and impacting the entire content ecosystem. However, it is encouraging that the government is addressing these concerns and is taking steps to bolster the grievance redressal mechanism.

Interestingly, a 2024 study on US consumers indicates that customized plans on streaming platforms can improve overall customer satisfaction. As per the study, majority of the consumers prefer to curate and pay for a plan limited to the content they are interested in than an entire library they might never get to explore. With so many platforms and content to choose from, the consumers’ needs are becoming more nuanced than ever. Will India see such a trend too? Well, ours is a far more nuanced and fragmented market than the US. And such a development will probably create room for multiple fresh conversations.

Either way, as the industry navigates content diversification and technological advancements, one thing remains certain: the audience is at the heart of this transformation. By prioritizing user experience, embracing innovation, and fostering a collaborative creative ecosystem, OTT platforms will continue to redefine entertainment in India, reshaping a democratized future filled with diverse, high-quality content, accessible to all users across the world.

The article authored by Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, Zee5 was first published in Business Today.
BCS Bureau

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