While the world stayed quarantined in their homes during the COVID-19 lockdown period, the one thing a majority of the population claimed was a godsend during the confined times was their access to the OTT world.
These ‘Over-the-Top’ platforms are arguably among the primary reasons behind how people of all ages and demographics could maintain their sense of sanity and live in harmony with those stuck together inside the four walls.
Now, with the pandemic waning or say the fear of pandemic waning, what is the future of OTT viewing? Does it sustain the high-speed growth or was it short lived to the pandemic environment? Let’s take a look.
Pandemic acted as a catalyst
The seeds of growth for OTT were sowed well in advance with the growth in broadband and increased smartphone penetration. With people, especially the working sector, spending more time on their phones and laptops, these OTT platforms have become a more engraved part of our lives. The ease of anywhere and anytime viewing suits the need of fast paced life of a digital consumer.
The market has shown steady growth from a two-player market in 2012 to a more versatile market with more than 40 players currently, and with an unending scope for many more. The bundling of OTT content with data plans by the telecom companies have tremendously helped in expanding the reach and awareness of OTT platforms.
OTT is one of the very few industries to have benefitted from the pandemic. In the absence of original content on linear broadcast medium, there has been a significant off take in the subscription and consumption of OTT content.
Shift from linear to OTT is permanent
The growth in the OTT industry could bring a degrowth in the DTH industry. With more to offer, OTT is a better choice for a DTH subscriber. The OTT industry may also negatively impact the broadcasting industry. Even those who prefer the big television screen over their smartphones and tablets have taken to these OTT platforms.
Even after the return of fresh content on General Entertainment channels (GEC) channels, it’s quite expected that the consumption of OTT platforms will continue in the form of catch-up TV.
For a consumer, OTT brings in many perks, right from the choice of content, multi-screen play, any time – anywhere content, and a lot of personalisation. In this fast-paced world, which has the ‘right now’ attitude, OTT has come around as a blessing.
The only roadblock to the growth of such platforms has been the adoption or the digital migration of the consumer. However, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst. The number of hours spent by consumers on OTT platforms during the lockdown might not be sustainable in the near future, but the shift is very much permanent.
In the light of the pandemic, these OTT platforms witnessed a huge surge in their usage and very few are expected to go back to their prior preferences.
Non-metro markets, regional and localised youth-driven content to drive growth
At present, the subscribers are evenly spread between the metros and rest of the markets, and the future would be driven by the non-metros, semi urban, and rural markets.
With the boom in almost every consumer-based industry, players here have understood the importance of personalising and catering to the consumer base in Tier-II and Tier-III cities of India. It has become a matter of growing importance to understand how to enter these markets as these segments have different user behaviours as compared to the metropolitans in India.
Localisation of content would be a driving factor for the growth of OTT platforms. With more than 46 percent of the population between the age group of 15-45, OTT platforms will have to focus significantly on building regional and youth-driven content library that appeals to the local flavour.
Innovation on subscription and packaging, need of the hour
The right localisation of content needs to be complemented with innovative subscription packaging, especially since India is a very sachet-based, price sensitive market. OTT platforms have to migrate from a one-size-fits-all subscription model to a more diverse subscription model, which caters to the populace of different income levels.
Digital first trend to continue, big production houses might refrain
Ever since March 23, 2020, when the lockdown was first imposed in the country, cinema halls around the country were asked to shut.
While the single-screen owners and multiplex owners were then struggling hard to open their shutters, Over The Top (OTT) players sported a big smile on their face with every second film coming their way for streaming. Moreover, the absence of fresh content on GEC further pushed consumption on OTT channels.
Prominent OTT channels were seen thanking their stars for giving them the opportunity to make good business by attracting good viewership on OTT and acquiring the ready for release big ticket films at attractive price points.
However, these were special times and OTT players might not find Big ticket releases so easily for a digital first release at the price point they could acquire these assets. For a production house which can expect a big box office collection through a theatrical release, digital first doesn’t seem attractive for them. The South Indian film industry refrained from digital first and delayed their release.
Nevertheless, in future, the need for differentiated content might push the platforms commission Digital Only/Digital first content and the trend might continue.
In a nutshell, the future of OTT viewing looks bright and shining, more than ever. The pre-existing growth got a catalyst in the form of the pandemic and from here there is no looking back for the industry.
And not to forget the social impact as an added windfall. We can certainly say that these platforms have played a gigantic role in certifying that members of the same household did not end up pulling each other’s hair out! If not for it, every house would have resembled the Big Boss house and not Hum Saath Saath Hain’s. After all, yoga and meditation can only do so much!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)