From a ₹5000 crore opportunity and also a survival strategy, things have changed drastically since 2018, when we discussed OTT as an opportunity for the broadcaster. From being an alternative source of accumulating viewers and monetizing content beyond linear broadcast space, OTT will emerge as a cost-effective platform to watch content which cuts across target audience.
In the wake of the recent TRAI regulation, Pay for what you watch, the consumer will pay only for channels which he wants to see rather than taking preset package from cable operators and paying for channels, which are not consumed. Given the current scenario, many channels which were viewed otherwise, while flirting and flipping, are likely to lose viewership. Also, in hindsight is the much-awaited EKAM by BARC, which measures total unduplicated audiences across all devices and platforms, measuring combined program impressions or advertisements regardless of where and how content or ad is being consumed. The intent of monitoring audience across media, including the internet and mobile and with the launch of much-awaited EKAM, the viewership will be platform agnostic.
With changing landscape of linear TV consumption and growth of OTT and cheaper data, there will be a lot of shift seen among viewers who watch traditional channels otherwise on linear TV platform like cable or DTH to OTT platform. In Pay for what you watch, you end up paying for all channels. The audience who consume niche channels may prefer to watch same content on OTT rather than linear television, as one pays for a monthly subscription with unlimited access to content across genre. Besides one also chooses the time as per their convenience rather than watching on fixed timing scheduled by the channel.
The new wave of OTT launches is on a high, it is offering unlimited choices to viewers plus, most of OTT’s are also being launched by major broadcasting networks. To name a few, ZEEL owns ZEE 5, Star owns Hotstar, SonyLiv belongs to Sony Network, Voot is owned by Viacom, also the wave of large international players like Netflix, and Amazon Prime, which are independent OTT operators, are making a strong pitch to Indian viewers. Broadcasters are using their own OTT platforms, not only to distribute web-only content, but also channels which are owned by them, and are also acting as aggregators for channels from smaller or standalone networks. This opens up more avenues from a viewership perspective. With the TRAI regulation, OTT will come to rescue of broadcasters, who can distribute channels on an alternate platform at zero distribution cost and it will not be restricted to linear platforms, which in turn may, with a la carte pricing, see a dip in viewership.
While transition in domestic business is far-fetched and will take a lot of time for sizeable viewers to migrate from linear television to OTT for channel viewing, things have already started moving on a fast pace, in international markets for Indian broadcasters. Recently, ZEEL to curb piracy and make channels available to Indian and Asian population residing in Europe, Australia and Fiji, had pulled the plug off linear services and offered content only via OTT platform, Zee 5. Similarly, Star India had discontinued distribution of television channels in Canada and the US and has been offering content only through its video-on-demand player, Hotstar. This move of Go-to-market with OTT services, will not just save the cost of distribution and transmission, but also help ensure that the customer is getting content in a legal way. A high cost of the Indian channels forces some of the consumers to buy pirated boxes.
Given the changing distribution dynamics, cheaper Internet, TRAI regulation, Pay for what you watch, a plethora of content is being made available on OTT along with channels, which were available earlier only on linear TV to be consumed on the move. The way television is consumed is poised to change. Its interesting times for OTT platforms to leverage huge Indian netizens, 612 million internet users available on Web, looking for snackable content and spoilt for choice. At the risk of repeating myself, the future definitely is orgastic and OTT is facing in the right direction, all it needs to do is to Keep Walking!