Shweta Mulki

Where will the next 100 million consumers of online video come from?

At vdonxt asia 2017, Vanita Kohli-Khandekar got media expert Paritosh Joshi, Spuul's Subin Subaiah and Mindshare's Vinod Thadani to discuss this.

A vdonxt asia 2017 session that addressed the next phase of digital video consumption in India, had Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, contributing editor - Business Standard get panellists Paritosh Joshi - principal at Provocateur Advisory, Subin Subaiah, chief executive officer at Spuul and Vinod Thadani, regional mobile director - South Asia, Group M, to put forth their views on 'Where the next 100 million consumers of digital video will come from, in the country'.

Pointing out that currently, there are 360 million plus internet users in India, the moderator asked the panellists for some initial thoughts on the subject. Joshi felt that the speed at which things are moving in this space have now achieved a sense of urgency, also citing television audience measurement body BARC moving the wheels on its digital measurement system. "The better devices bit is more important than better bandwidth. Today connectivity is not the issue... even your phone card recharge vendor can sell video, so the next 100 million need not be through connected video," he noted.

Where will the next 100 million consumers of online video come from?
Subaiah stressed that it was mainly based on three components - cost of customer acquisition, a product that gets those consumers to pay, and the engagement to retain them. He spoke about Spuul which takes Indian content to global audiences, and has relationships with players in Bollywood as well as the regional market. "What do the catchment areas want to watch? India is really 28 markets, so we look for high propensity to consume here and marry that with content," he added.

Thadani too, agreed with Joshi on the point that the 100 million mark is not far. He said. "I think by 2017 itself we'll get the viewers. If you meet the top 5 publishers, they all have a plan on how to get users." He added that it will come from mobile-first consumers in tier 2 and 3 cities, and from content made for mobile, with an emphasis on regional languages.

When Kohli-Khandekar asked whether there will be 5 or 6 big video players in this space soon, Joshi replied, "In television today, there are 270 million homes, out of which 170 mn homes are TV- connected... every single connected home has a mobile phone, half of which are feature phones, adding millions every month. As far as content is concerned, everybody is a content player now."

Joshi also reasoned that the moot point lay elsewhere, saying, "The third biggest operating system in India called Indus is looking at creating operating systems in local Indian languages. Once a device runs on an operating system in Tamil for instance, a content creator in that space need not know English as all the menus will be rendered in Tamil. So it will be all about individual initiatives." He added that education and sports will be big drivers in this space going forward.

On the key issue of monetisation, Joshi pointed that all revenue for the content creator need not come from the medium. "There are 22-year old beauty mavens creating their own line of cosmetics or skincare backed by revenue. The first male face on an international beauty magazine Covergirl is a 19-year-old boy who's a digital make-up maverick with his own line", he noted.

Subaiah added to that saying that the demand side of millions of users was well established, and the consumer has been enabled. "The problem exists on the supply side; which is struggling to figure out what to provide to this emerging and complex customer base. There is a demand for both user-generated and professionally generated content, he said, adding that in this congested space, gravitating to the softest option, which was free and for 'time pass', would be inevitable.

Subaiah felt that the digital space was however, evolutionary. "Cable television had forced a new wave of content creators so there was an opportunity that got created - digital is going through the same thing. The big problem is that in a metrics-driven world we have nobody here who is able to give creators feedback saying what works" he expressed.

Kohli-Khandekar asked Lakhani to talk about metrics, to which he said, "When you buy content based advertising, the way you used to buy versus now when you measure it with third party tools, there is huge difference with what your hypotheses were. So you go pack to the players and ask them to package differently." He added that there are many new tools, and that they always depend on third parties and also ask publishers whether they are open to it.

The final question posed to the panellists were on the challenges beyond broadband and electricity. Subaiah responded, "We are gung-ho about infrastructure. It's moving fast but will still take 12 to 24 months to optimise. Payment mechanisms also need to improve. When you want to reach a million more you need to sachet prices." Joshi added that metrics from joint industry measurement can address the issue of currency, while Thadani, felt that OTT models need to understand how to monetise well, but there's nothing holding back growth.

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