Jason Wang
Guest Article

Why binge-watching is catching on in rural areas

Our guest author presents his case.

From small bus stations far south in the city of Pondicherry to fancy restaurants up north in the city of Varanasi, you can always find someone streaming something as international as 'Friends' or even something as local as the one seen on regional channels. Cheaper mobile data, increasing number of OTT players and more localized content are the reasons why the trend of binge-watching has become so popular in India and not just limited to tier I cities but also to tier II, III, and rural areas.

Why binge-watching is catching on in rural areas

Jason Wang

Much like urban areas, online consumption in rural areas has also been growing rapidly. IAMAI reports that 87 per cent of users in rural areas consume the data from the internet. Accessing the internet to watch videos contributes the most to these rural areas' consumption accounting for about 58 per cent of internet usage in rural areas followed by online communication for 56 per cent, social networking for 49 per cent, online services for 35 per cent, and online financial transactions for 16 per cent.

Rural areas are rural at a very nominal level today; rather they are the real developing India. The market has been evolving at great speed, with higher adoption of technology and the need for a better lifestyle. People wish to optimize the time that they invest in commuting or while doing odd jobs by binge-watching or catching up on their favourite video content that they missed due to the lack of time. In fact, people have also started exploring new content on the OTT platforms as they are not time bound and can be watched at one's convenience.

According to the India Mobile Broadband Index 2018, video streaming contributes 65-75 per cent of mobile data consumption in India. This phenomenon is a result of the sudden expansion in 4G offerings by telecom operators. It all started when Reliance Jio disrupted the data market with cheap internet plans and pushed other operators like Airtel and Vodafone to announce new data plans, one cheaper than the other to maintain and gain market share. This phenomenon is good news for both internet streaming users in metros and rural areas as there is no need to worry about consuming too much mobile data while they stream movies, as their mobile phone bills wouldn't be as expensive as before.

With increasing 4G penetration and the trend to watch content through online platforms, the number of OTT (over the top) players has been increasing. In a recent Frost & Sullivan's analysis, there are more than 40 OTT players in the country, about 180.3 million active online video viewers and almost 4 million registered subscribers in India's OTT market. These players keep coming up with specially catered content to attract users and have them subscribe to their platform.

In fact, there have been talks of 5G adoption in India. If reports are to be believed, the infrastructure for 5G has already been laid and the country is looking forward to TRAI directives on 5G data usage. The speed that 5G promises along with the accessibility of data that it can lead to, promises tremendous opportunity for content platforms. This may also show new trends in content consumption, especially in a diverse market like India. It will be interesting to see a blend of regional content with data evolution.

A report released by Google and KPMG last year estimated that 536 million Indian consumers are expected to use regional languages for online services by 2021, compared to about 199 million users who are expected to access the web in English.

Times Internet has also released a study titled 'The Changing Lingual Face of Digital India' highlighting the rapid shift of digital users towards regional content consumption. With this study, Times Internet has validated the rising trend of online content consumption across the eight most widely consumed regional languages in the country. To map the magnitude of this trend, online content consumption patterns of over 90 million netizens were evaluated unveiling many future possibilities and the impact of content in the regional language.

To face these matters and gain market share, OTT players are now bringing regional content into the market by providing content in localised languages. The need for content in a local language is not just limited to rural areas or native states anymore as there is also a fast-growing demand for regional language content especially among young audiences in the age group of 25-34 years old.

With cheap mobile data for Indian users to stream as much as and as long as they want, increasing offers that caters to user-personal preference for content by OTT players and content in regional languages to provide better streaming experience, binge-watching is believed to be a trend for millions of Indians from metros to rural areas, at least for now and the near future.

(The author is managing director, SHAREit India, a cross-platform sharing app).

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