Anirban Roy Choudhury
Media

How a mobile-first video market warmed up to consuming OTT content on large screens

Access to high-speed internet, drop in the price of smart television sets, premium cinematic content are the factors driving OTT consumption on larger screens.

India is witnessing a growth in the penetration of smart television sets. According to FICCY-EY report 'Playing by new rules', there was over 20 million smart television in use in the country in 2020 and that is expected to grow to 25 million by 2021. Out of them, in 2020, five to seven million got connected to the internet and the global consultancy EY, estimates connected TVs to grow to 14 million by 2023 and 40 million by 2025.

For the most part of 2020, Indians were restricted inside their homes. Most of them had to work from their residences, necessitating good internet connection. "With increasing disposable incomes, improved access to high-speed internet and wide availability of functionality-rich affordable smart TVs & streaming media players have all contributed to the increased access of entertainment on the large screen," says Venkatkrishna Rao, Head - Living Room Partnerships, Prime Video.

Venkatkrishna Rao
Venkatkrishna Rao

He shares, "Indian audiences have been spending an increasing amount of time watching high quality cinematic long-form on-demand content from the comfort of their living rooms – a trend that’s only accelerated during the pandemic. And the interesting thing is that we see this as a pan-India trend and (not) something that is confined to just the big cities and metros."

The pan-India trend of watching content on a larger screen is also fuelled by the drop in the price of smart television set. According to EY's insights, the cost to a buyer of a 32-inch smart TV fell from Rs 8,499 in 2019 to Rs 7,200 in 2020. The streaming platforms are striking deals with the television marketers to cash in to this increased smart TV purchase. "We've partnered with global TV OEMs like Samsung, LG, Sony, Xiaomi, and OnePlus, and local TV OEMs like VU and MarQ, to ensure that all our members get the same consistent, high-quality Netflix app experience, no matter which smart TV they choose,” asserts Netflix spokesperson.

"It’s important to note that in India it is more often about 'and' and not 'or'. We will continue to see growth in both living-room viewing as well as viewing on mobile devices,"
Venkatkrishna Rao

The global leader among video streaming services, Netflix sees India as one of the "most exciting countries in the world" with more than 200 million potential TV households and still underpenetrated. "People love having the ability to connect to the internet and stream their favourite films and series on demand. We see an ever-growing need among audiences to watch Netflix on a smart TV, at home, with their family," adds the Netflix spokesperson.

Manish Kalra
Manish Kalra

Apart from the smart television penetration, the growth in subscribers has also played a pivotal role in triggering a change in consumer behaviour. "On our platform, we have witnessed that three out of five SVOD users watched content via connected devices recording over 80 per cent growth during COVID-19. Overall engagement grew as well as audiences spent more time watching content on CTV versus smartphone. In fact, 50 – 50 is the ratio with growth seen in consumption on CTV. This signifies higher engagement levels on CTV compared to content consumption on smartphones," says Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India.

He adds, "Witnessing a rise of 45 per cent in our paid viewers, we observed a 3X growth in the viewership on connected devices.

According to Ficci-EY report, 28 million Indians, up from 10.5 million in 2019 paid for 53 million OTT subscriptions in 2020 leading to a 49 per cent growth in digital subscription revenues. "Before the pandemic, it used to be 10 per cent. But now, we are seeing that at least half of our consumption is coming from smart and connected television," says Ferzad Palia, Head – SVoD & International Business, Viacom18 Digital Ventures.

Ferzad Palia
Ferzad Palia

Palia feels people who were not even trying to watch OTT content on Smart television believing it's something complicated, happened to try it during the lockdown last year. "Now they find it comfortable and that is why we see all kinds of content being consumed on the smart television. Nuclear families sit together and watch. But primarily, it is the premium content behind the paywall that is more likely to be watched on smart televisions and larger screens," adds Palia.

He says, at least 60 per cent of the content created by the premium OTT platforms in India can be consumed by "large joint families" sitting together. The starting point of OTT in India was that this is one medium that need not cater to all age-group in the house something that television aspires to do. In the case of premium OTT, viewership is not the metric of success as is the case on television where that determines the advertising revenue.

Palia is of the view that as more and more people start consuming content on smart televisions and OTTs become the "Central mode of entertainment" for Indian households, the premium platforms will start taking it into cognizance while commissioning content.

"It’s important to note that in India it is more often about 'and' and not 'or'," says Venkatkrishna Rao ruling out any decay in the importance of mobile viewership. "We will continue to see growth in both living-room viewing as well as viewing on mobile devices," he asserts.

Another aspect, that is growing in India is infotainment on OTT. Curiosity Stream, launched by the founder of Discovery Channel, John S. Hendricks has started getting noticed globally. In India, Anand Mahindra backed IN10 media rolled out a platform specifically for documentary content - 'Docubay'. But the biggest investment came in from Discovery India when they launched Discovery Plus. With a library of three hundred thousand hours of content, Discovery Plus adds a new dimension to OTT in India, which is otherwise dominated by drama, thriller and the stuff that Indian television could never make.

Issac John
Issac John

"At any given point of time we index close to 60 per cent of our consumption happening through big screen devices," informs Issac John, Head, Direct to Consumer- Marketing, APAC at Discovery Inc.

He adds, "We believe that for our product and quality of content- big-screen viewing is the best experience that we can give our consumers. As a result of which we consciously optimize for our product to be available on multiple big-screen platforms. We recently launched on Jio STBs apart from being present on LG, Xiaomi and FireTVs."

It is clear that consuming OTT content on larger, connected screens is a trend that will continue to grow across the country. Films are also getting released on OTT, Salman Khan starrer 'Radhe' will be on ZEE5 as a part of the multi-platform global release. However, what remains to be seen is if the OTT players, like television, start targeting family audiences and move out from catering to niches. Experts feel this trend along with the Government of India's 'Hawk's eye' approach on OTT will slowly start influencing the content that is streaming.