2018 at a glance: OTT’s steep growth curve on back of Originals, disruptions, regional

The year 2018 saw the OTT space reach greater heights. OTT players experimented with Original content, offering a bonanza to their viewers. Regional content found a strong footing in the content mix, even as technological innovations continued to disrupt the space. 




Sunil Lulla, CEO, Balaji Telefims

Looking back at 2018:

To break from the clutter, 2018 was a year of experimentation involving a host of innovative concepts that spanned a variety of genres for us at ALTBalaji. With a total of 18 new originals launched in 2018, the assorted content-library is growing bigger and getting more extensive. Currently standing at 29 path-breaking originals, our offerings are definitely setting a benchmark with an amplified catalogue.

This includes the recently launched thriller series Apharan that received rave reviews for its gripping content and was trending with a rating of 9.2/10 on IMDB while our romantic drama Broken But Beautiful, that was rated 8.8/10 had an overwhelming response. The Test Case resulted in sparking off conversations on the role of women in the Indian armed forces and Gandii Baat, a show on rural sensual stories, were shows that revolved around never-done before topics. HOME was a award winning drama that is part of ALTBalaji’s exclusive repertoire that is constantly producing, engaging, clutter-breaking shows.

We have expanded our library by making content available across four Indian languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam and three international languages including Malaysia Bahasa, Indonesia Bahasa and Arabic.  We have witnessed a threefold increase in direct subscribers this year and 2.5x rise in video views. The steady growth in numbers certainly stands testament to the traction the platform is receiving.

The technological innovations in OTT

The OTT market in India is one that is in the nascent stages of growth. Considering the demand and consumption patterns based on the viewers, multiple OTT players are constantly entering the digital space promising innovative offerings. With smart phones and data becoming affordable and rapidly available, consumers have more accessibility to content on the web. AVOD and SVOD models are driving growth in the OTT space while partnerships with telecoms, internet business, such as e-wallets and brands across ecosystems such as Ola, have enhanced entertainment being provided to the audience even further. All these factors continue to facilitate engagement, viewing habits and growth and will be seen in the coming year as well.

Disruptions in 2019:

We are expecting tremendous growth in terms of consumers, subscribers, content and revenue. The availability of cheaper smart-phones and affordable internet rates improve the viewing experience for the users as it, has given rapid surge to content consumption, which will also amplify opportunities for advertisers. Another aspect that we are going to witness is the enhancement of the regional language space on these OTT platforms. Due to an increased demand in multilingual content, it has now become significant for OTT players to reach out to Tier 2 and Tier 3 regions of the country and broaden their content library in the local and regional language space. Maybe, potential offerings will be much more interactive and immersive experience to their audiences. With the implementation of several creative formats, viewers are going to feel more involved compared to other forms of media. With an end to a magnificent year, ALTBalaji has a highly anticipated line-up for 2019 across diverse genre with originals like Gandi Baat 2, Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain 2, Cold Lassi aur Chicken Masala, Puncchbeat, The Verdict state Vs Nanavati and Cartel. Audiences are surely going to be entertainmed by a content library that is not only varied, but new and captivating as well.

Outlook for 2019:

OTT platforms have observed massive development with respect to creating original content. With the number of OTT players increasing, users have been exposed to various genres and formats of content which will continue to sustain in coming year as well. ALTBalaji has been entertaining their audiences with clutter breaking original content across genres in geographies and age-groups. With an extensive library of original content, there has been an unprecedented rise in subscribers that has increased threefold. ALTBalaji is constantly experimenting with content across genres like thriller, comedy, humour drama and romance drama by associating with the best talent from the industry. To establish ourselves in coming year we have also made huge investments in strengthening our content offerings and will be launching 45 to 50 original shows in the next two years.

Uday Sodhi, Head – Digital, Sony Pictures Networks India 

Looking back at 2018:
It has been a phenomenal year for the OTT industry and SonyLIV. The FIFA World Cup was a remarkable success, with SonyLIV garnering the highest-ever football viewership in India with 70 million users. We had 3 cricket tournaments with India playing in South Africa, the England and the ongoing India vs Australia series. We also scaled up our English content offering by announcing a strategic partnership with Lionsgate. Lionsgate Play, bundled within SonyLIV’s current slate of programming, is a significant high in our premium English-language offering to viewers. Our second screen initiative KBC Play Along was the most interactive show of 2018 with close to 600 million interactions. Delivering to our promise of offering heightened consumer experience, we created interesting and engaging campaigns like #ScreamLoud, which touched 100 million social interactions. The OTT industry at large is on the growth path now. The sector is expected to grow at a fast pace in the next five years and will drive digital innovations in India. The number of advertisers grew by 3X as compared to last year, which is proof that there is power in advertising on digital. As 2018 comes to an end, we are looking for an entertaining 2019. 

Key milestones and metrics of 2018:
We scaled up our offerings in sports and English content, which led to a dramatic rise in viewership in 2018. For FIFA WC 2018, we did a lot of innovations with regional language feeds, live score, player stats, etc. SonyLIV was the biggest broadcaster in APAC and Japan region as per Akamai. Our FIFA campaign was ranked No. 7 in the world as per the YouTube Leader board. Apart from registering benchmarks in viewership for FIFA, SonyLIV’s biggest highlight this year were the results for our second screen initiative, KBC Play Along. It has been a year full of emotions and entertainment. 

The technological innovations in OTT:
Digital India’s penetration in the Indian hinterlands, reducing data costs and proliferation of smart phone users were surely the major innovations. To ensure a sought after viewing experience for our viewers, SonyLIV brought in virtual channels, tailor made to specific genres basis users’ needs. For the more evolved audience, we introduced sleek new apps on FireTV, Apple TV, Android TVs, MiTVs and other Connected TV devices. With the most exhaustive coverage of Asian Games 2018 and UEL that offered 18 simultaneous streams and multi-language feeds for FIFA 2018 and the on-going India Vs Australia cricket series, SonyLIV redefined the dynamics of live sports streaming in India. 

We also offered consumers with data consumption control methods. Users can now choose the video quality in sync with bandwidth and also download videos to watch offline. OTT in India is expected to grow at 17.3 per cent in the next five years and is going to drive digital innovation in the country simply because of the sheer value of the market that India offers. 

Disruptions in 2019:
OTT platforms would be more accessible than ever and consumer preference would reach the zenith. This, in turn, amplifies the need to be relevant and differentiated to offer content that cuts across genres, genders and languages. We plan to continue investing in high quality and relevant content. We will kick off 2019 with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 2, followed by ‘Victoria’ and ‘The Good Doctor’ Season 2, which promise engaging narratives. Plans are also on for an exciting set of Originals in Hindi and other regional languages along with our bouquet of sporting tournaments. 

Outlook for 2019:
SonyLIV will kick-start 2019 with a host of award winning English shows for its viewers. Building the momentum, we wish to up the game in content curation and consumer engagement initiatives over the next year. We will continue to invest in product, technology, marketing. We will also continue to have an increasing thrust on original content across languages to tap into an expansive consumer base. Along with our premium English content offering and sports content, we have plans to develop host of regional content across regional languages, including south Indian languages. There is going to be an upsurge in OTT content consumption that will reflect a raise in terms of viewership and growth and SonyLIV will be at the forefront of this development. 

Manish Agarwal, Business Head, ZEE5 

Key milestones and metrics of 2018:
In terms of ZEE5’s growth:

  • As of September end, we had 41.3 million monthly active users (MAU), recording a growth of 190% compared to April 2018
  • Over the same time, video views grew 340% and videos viewed per user almost doubled, leading to a significant improvement in user engagement
  • Most of the OTT platforms are male skewed where as we have witnessed a balanced mix of male and female audiences
  • ZEE5 users currently spend an average of 31 minutes per day on the platform
  • ZEE5 has been consistently amongst the top-5 free and the top-3 grossing entertainment apps as per the Google Play store rankings.
  • We recently clocked 50 million downloads on play store
  • The app downloads more than doubled in the second quarter, making it the second most downloaded entertainment app on Google Play store during the quarter
  • ZEE5 also featured as the editor’s choice app in the ‘Made by Indians’ section on Independence Day

Our Original shows and films have been the key growth drivers for ZEE5. Some of our biggest shows launched were Sunny Leone starrer ‘Karenjit Kaur – The Untold Story of Sunny Leone’ - Seasons 1 & 2, ‘Rangbaaz’ with Saqib Saleem, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘Zero Kms’, our first Bengali Original film ‘Aranya Deb’, our first Hindi original film – Emraan Hashmi starrer ‘Tigers’, Saie Tamhankar starrer ‘Date with Saie’ (Marathi), Paoli Dam starrer ‘Kaali’ (Bengali), ‘B.Tech’ (Telugu), ‘Kallachirippu’ by Karthik Subbaraj, ‘Alarm’ (Tamil) and many more. 

The technological innovations in OTT:
Enhancing consumer experience and offering them a great value is the key focus for an OTT platform. Since inception, we have done our best to achieve this. The following are the initiatives that we undertook:

  • The video content on the platform is dubbed in 6 languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi Tamil, Telugu & Malayalam
  • Display Language Navigation & Content Language/s Customization – searchability in 11 languages
  • Offline download available for shows & movies LIVE TV Guide for Channel Programming
  • Smart Content Search, including voice search & recommendation
  • Adaptive bit rate – it adjusts as per your bandwidth to minimise buffering

Disruptions in 2019:
Regional content is going to be the game changer in the coming year. It is estimated that the next set of 400-500 million users will be added at the regional level. Content in regional languages will be the key growth drivers for OTT players and we are proud to have led this piece in 2018. At ZEE5, regional audiences have been amongst our primary focus areas. We launched one regional original from the ZEE5 stable almost every week which are also dubbed in six different languages. 

Content strategy for 2019:
2018 was a special year for us. ZEE5, as a platform, grew from strength to strength. We have achieved many milestones and we are certain 2019 is going to be even more exciting for us. We already have a strong line-up of content and are associating with the best names in the industry for our upcoming shows in Hindi as well as regional languages. Arjun Rampal has come on board for our upcoming Original, ‘The Final Call’. We will also soon be announcing our second Hindi Original film after ‘Tigers’ and many more regional shows for our audiences as well. In addition to this, there will also be partnership announcements with telcos, payment gateways, smart TVs and others. 

Ali Hussein, COO, Eros Digital 

Looking back at 2018:
This year we were able to bring new interesting content and formats out into the market. We launched our first straight to digital film, called ‘Meri Nimmo’, earlier this year. We did some interesting work with the Eros Now brand campaign. We rolled out shows like ‘Side Hero’ and ‘Smoke’ and we launched another brand called Eros Now Quickie. So from the content side we introduced some fairly interesting things for the audience this year that was quite exciting. 

On the technology side, we have done an entire relaunch of our interfaces. If you see our iOS and Android interfaces including large and small screen you will see that we have done a reface based on our consumer behaviour pattern and as a premium SVOD service. Those are several other improvements in customer experience have been done on our backend. 

On the distribution side, we obviously do a lot of work with telcos in India, but our distribution is tied up with OEMs and telcos all around the world. Earlier this year, we had partnerships with Xiaomi and Freesat. Our IT distribution deal in China was also the first any Indian OTT has done in 2018 so many exciting things on the distribution side. 

This was a good year in general because it is not just one good thing that goes into the secret sauce, it is many. This year we saw a good overall growth in our registered subscriber base. Our output from studios with films like ‘Manmarziya’ and ‘Tumbbad’ also added to the mix of the larger Eros Now offering. Our promise is to be a premium VOD player and we will continue to build our strategy around that. We want to continue being at the top of the pyramid from a quality perspective to our users. That quality shall trickle down to the content, technology, distribution, and everything else. 

Key partnerships:
By and large there are three distinct kinds of partnerships that we do. Fashion TV is a content partnership. A content creator of sorts is providing content for our platform. While we are in a partnership with Fashion TV we are still working out the tech play with them and their content has not yet been launched on our platform. But we expect to launch their content in early 2019. Fashion TV has about 12 channels that we will be bringing to India both on a linear and an on demand basis. That has not been launched as of yet because it is a fairly exhaustive tech exercise that you have to do. There are a lot of content partners that we tie up with whose content we provision on our platform. 

The second kind of partnership is our distribution partnerships with telcos, OEMs and deals with cable providers around the world like Freesat, for example. These are all example of distribution partnerships. 

The third kind of partnership is marketing partnerships. There are people who don’t specifically work with video but are collaborating with us to offer special deals. We initiated a CRM program where at a certain subscription fee you can be a part of both Grofers and Eros Now. Similarly, we have done partnerships with Nature’s Basket and Gold’s Gym and quite a few others to offer value to our Eros Now subscribers. 

Trends in short format segment:
We were doing a lot of trailers and talk shows. We are working on a talk show called ‘Black and White’. There was some short form work that we had worked on earlier with Royal Challengers Bangalore. We had created a video with Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers. One of the things we learned was that a lot of consumption is device based and a lot of consumption is on the go in our country. Another learning for us was that people don’t watch movies in one go they break it up into three or four sessions; they are not watching the entire film at once. While you see a lot of creators on YouTube, there is no professional creator that works on high quality short form content. It is a very different behaviour because it is not lean back but rather device based and on the go. We decided that since content creation and customer understanding was one of our strong areas, we launched Eros Now Quickie, which had high quality short form content in the country which we thought nobody was doing at this point. 

We launched a show called ‘Date Gone Wrong’ and another called ‘Paisa Phek Tamasha Dekh’. We are launching 2-3 more in early January that are in different stages. Of course, certain genres lend themselves well to the short form space but we will be launching stories in various genres because we are more consumer centric rather than genre centric. We are a mass entertainment player so we will be available across genres. 

Another thing that we have done is launch a short version of the film. It will be a 15-20 minute version of the film so in case you don’t have time to watch the entire 2-3 hour flick you can get an extended smaller version of the entire film within a quickie format. 

Expansion plans for 2019:
I don’t think one thing floats the boat. While quality content will continue to play a big role in the larger Eros Now strategy, other components like distribution, marketing, brand creation and technology will play a big role in furthering the brand. Our core objective is to be at the top of the pyramid when it comes to offering quality service to the customer because we are the very few incumbents in this space that provide quality SVOD. 

Disruptions in 2019:
There are a couple of things I think that are going to be interesting from an industry standpoint. A few of those things happened this year, but I really believe the next year we will see a lot of use cases. Disruption is a loosely used term, but I do think these changes will be transformational if adopted well. 

Voice search is one such case. Discovery of content is a massive challenge not just for OTT players in India, but globally as well. Voice search becomes a major enabler to help discover relevant and interesting programming. There have been some use cases of Voice search but I don’t think people have been able to use it to its full potential. 

A lot of people talk about Machine Learning and AI, but again I haven’t seen many interesting use cases. However, I do believe this will be a lot more interesting in application and will aid time spent and consumer level customisations. 

The third thing I believe which will affect the OTT space is we will see a lot of larger screen consumption happening, especially when compared to the contribution 2018 had. For a large player like us, our content is a lot more suitable for viewing on a big screen. Larger screens will play a bigger role on contributing to the overall time spent on OTT platforms. A lot of TVs sold in India and around the world are Smart TVs. Once the infrastructure and user experience drastically improves then we will surely see the actually share of contribution increase significantly in 2019. 

Siddhartha Roy, COO, Hungama Digital Media 

Key milestones and metrics of 2018:
We launched Hungama Originals in June this year and have released 4 Original shows so far. While the first three – ‘Damaged’, ‘Hankaar’ and ‘Bar Code’ – were in Hindi, the fourth one, ‘Padded ki Pushup’, was in Marathi and marked our foray into the regional original content. Between the three Hindi Originals, we have touched approximately 100 million episodic streams. Our maiden show, ‘Damaged’, crossed 20 million episodic streams within 30 days of its release itself. Our first two shows, ‘Damaged’ and ‘Hankaar’, together have over 38.5 million episodic streams. Since the launch of Hungama Originals in June, our user base has increased at a rate of 15 per cent month-on-month while our registered user base has doubled as well. 

The technological innovations in OTT:
Big Data continues to transform the OTT sector. Improvements in analytics have helped VoD players understand consumer preferences better and accordingly, work on tailoring content and recommendations to suit their audiences. This is also helping brands gain better insights into the audiences’ consumption habits, improve ad targeting and drive more premium and relevant brand interactions. In the coming year too, big data will play a key role while the ability of OTT players to offer sleeker, innovative ad formats will see marketers strive to reach their audience in a more effective manner. 

Disruptions in 2019:
2018 placed Tier 2 and 3 markets, and in turn, regional content on the map. The industry realised the potential of the market and worked towards offering hyper-local content in languages besides Hindi and English. This trend is expected to continue in 2019 with video consumption expected to double, driven largely by regional markets. The focus would be on creating stories that have a universal appeal irrespective of the language they are told in. 

Content strategy for 2019:
We plan to launch around 10-12 Original shows in 2019, with a focus on shows in languages besides Hindi. Our aim will be to create shows that explore a variety of genres, narrate local stories and yet, can be enjoyed by a global audience. 

Greg Armshaw, Head Of Media, Asia, Brightcove 

The technological innovations in OTT:
In 2018, most of the OTT providers were racing to invest in local and regional content as a competitive differentiation strategy. However, they also need to make their existing content libraries work harder with creative ways to monetise. Take Oovvuu, for example, who are clipping premium long form content from the likes of the BBC and Bloomberg into short form, syndicating to third parties sites and generating ad revenues. 

In 2019, OTT providers should go beyond AVOD, SVOD and TVOD models and think hybrid business models that involve dynamic pricing instead of one-price-fits-all approach. Dynamic pricing can cater to various users’ price points. Pricing should differ based on the context of the viewer. Taking into account if viewer is local or streaming from overseas, seasonality, weekday pricing, and even offer based on affordability. Sachet pricing can help viewers sample content or consume content for a short period of time with a very low financial commitment to an OTT service. Sachet pricing can also potentially turn that customer into a repeat customer. 

Disruptions in 2019:
The OTT market in India has seen tremendous amount of growth in the last six years – from nine OTT players in 2012 to 32 OTT players as of end of 2018. With these many players, India is one of the most highly competitive OTT markets in the world. In 2019, how OTT providers differentiate and add value will be the key. It will all come down customer retention strategies as well as acquisition. Success will depend on factors like orchestrating content, business models, pricing and even user experience to attract and retain customers. 

To enhance user experience, OTT players can focus on content discovery and recommendation engines, as well enhance the mobile app experience. Features like offline playback can enable users to watch when they are not on Wi-Fi or have no mobile network coverage. To help encourage binge watching, video continuity features will allows users to continue where they left off or ‘travel’ in between devices, such as from laptop to mobile. 

2019 will also be a year where scalability of OTT platforms will come under scrutiny. Marquee events like major cricket tournaments and the General Elections will drive ever more consumption of OTT video and we may see platforms buckle under the load of their own popularity.


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