Anirban Roy Choudhury

Is the OTT space over-crowded?

Why are so many companies joining the online video bandwagon? Walmart-owned e-commerce giant, Flipkart being the latest one. By the time this story is read, there may be another platform launching in some corner of the country.

Recently, Flipkart announced that it will integrate a video streaming mode within its existing app to provide a value-added service to its customers. It's arch-rival, Seattle-headquartered Amazon’s India version already offers Prime Video to its customers. For Rs. 129 per month or Rs. 999 per year, one can access international and locally-created original content, films and other videos.

We wish there was a single measurement and rating body for the digital space.
Gopa Kumar, COO Isobar India.

Flipkart, however, has taken a different route. As per Prakash Sikaria, head growth and monetisation, Flipkart's video service is going to be free, personalised and curated. The organisation with its official statement made it clear that it is not entering the online video space to compete with media houses but to clock in higher time spent and increase engagement on the app.

There is definitely a problem of plenty with the rapid growth of OTT platforms.
Manisha Lath Gupta, Marketing Director, Uber India & South Asia

Kalyan Krishnamurthy, chief executive officer, Flipkart was quoted in a press statement saying, “In the past 10 years, our vision and ethos have been to create India-specific tech solutions. What we are rolling out is taking forward the founding principles of access and affordability by addressing the needs of the next 200 million users in our country.”

Currently, there is a dearth of original content in India.
Deepak Dhar, founder and CEO, Banijay Asia

In the initial stage, Flipkart said it would not get into commissioning original content but sources in the industry hint that they are already combing through scripts. But are there enough available? As per an EY report, 1,200 hours of fresh original content was created for OTT platforms in 2018. Experts believe that the number could grow three times in 2019.

There are speculations that another unicorn in the e-commerce space, Paytm Mall is also planning a similar move. As players with deep pockets enter the race how will the course change? With no standard industry body (like BARC India for TV) to measure , is it not a race without a referee? Where will so much content come from? Is the online video space already crowded or is there room for more? We spoke to a set of experts and here is what they had to say:

Edited Excerpts:

Manisha Lath Gupta, Marketing Director, Uber India &  South Asia
Manisha Lath Gupta, Marketing Director, Uber India & South Asia

There is definitely a problem of plenty with the rapid growth of OTT platforms. However, given the increasing time spent on OTTs by consumers, it is imperative for us to be present where our target consumers as well as existing users are so we don’t see the space as cluttered. OTT platforms, at least in the current state, seem to have unique nuances - be it their demographic or content strategy which still allows us to be strategic from a choice making standpoint. Currently, based on our data, the overlap between two major OTTs is not very high and as of now, so we continue to invest across platforms that are meaningful for a particular campaign. For example, a Zee5 is preferred in Maharashtra, whereas Voot which tends to have higher viewership in North India among the age group of 18-24.

The first and foremost criteria for us is to evaluate a minimum threshold reach the platform offers, with respect to our target consumer base. Depending on the campaign objective, we evaluate the reach of the platform with respect to our target consumer or existing user base. The other key evaluation criteria for us is the platform’s brand safety features followed by targeting options/flexibility that the platforms offer, that ties in with our campaign objective. We are also increasingly trying to work with key OTT platforms to open their inventory via programmatic platforms that will increasingly allow us to be more efficient with our media buys through centralized reach & frequency measures, instead of looking at individual OTT platform.

The brand's role is very important for any marketer to trust whether it can deliver. We prefer collaborating with partners that already have a brand because consumers do have their preferences locked in. With OTTs, their content acts as brand as well. At times, consumers may be loyal to a particular brand but could also be loyal to the content across different OTT platforms. The consumers are happy to have multiple OTTs on their phone because the content varies and their liking of the content plays a big factor.

Having said that, marketer’s on the buy side or sell side are first and foremost custodians of the brand and the underlying principles of ensuring this custodianship remain the same. For instance, the level of sophistication & future roadmap offered by certain OTT brands when it comes to Campaign Measurement, Brand Safety, Creative Formats and even the content strategy clearly signals to us the strategic focus OTT brands themselves lay on building a unique & strategic customer centric brands

Gopa Kumar, COO, Isobar India.
Gopa Kumar, COO, Isobar India.

Yes, this space is exploding with many emerging players who are vying for the attention of consumers and advertisers. I feel it's getting cluttered now. Most of them do not have any differentiation or depth in content . Over a period of time, this will stabilise and consolidation may happen.

Also Read: Do marketers still think of video ads in online-offline terms?

We wish we had one single measurement and rating body for the digital space. But lack of it does not stop us from evaluating platforms on their merits. Platforms get evaluated on viewership, number of people on the platform, concurrent users in case of a live event, time spent, and other digital metrics. This can be validated through various third party industry tools like Comscore, SimilarWeb, App Annie, etc.

Hotstar and YouTube are established brands in the content OTT space. Having invested ahead, they had a head start in the market and are benefiting from the early investment. They have occupied concrete space in the consumer's mind in the OTT space and content line up. While Flipkart is a known brand and will be top on consumer's mind, it remains to be seen how they will shape up in the OTT space. Beyond doubt, they will use their existing base to drive the initial numbers and also subsidise on the subscription. Flipkart may also get into a licensing distribution arrangement with other OTT players to start with, but in the longer run, they will have to carve out their narrative to justify why viewers should tune into their platform.

Deepak Dhar, founder and CEO, Banijay Asia
Deepak Dhar, founder and CEO, Banijay Asia

This is the first step towards Indian e-commerce companies coming into video streaming space. Amazon, for example, has already developed an ecosystem for shopping, video and music streaming. With Flipkart entering this space, there is a shift with not just telcos like Jio, but e-commerce companies moving towards video-on-demand (VoD). We are going to be making announcements in this space very soon.

Also Read: Hotstar makes its 'Specials' debut with MS Dhoni feat 'Roar of the Lion'

Currently, there is a dearth of original content in India, be it Amazon Prime, Netflix or other platforms... what we are consuming is library content. Gradually, there will be enough original content created in India and appreciated around the globe.

Rajiv Bakshi, CEO, Reliance Big Synergy
Rajiv Bakshi, CEO, Reliance Big Synergy

Flipkart’s entry offers another opportunity for creators to produce differentiated content for a captive base of millions of consumers across India, who visit the platform daily. Each player have their own business and content strategy and require a matching response. Reliance Entertainment's Big Synergy is geared up to help grow engagement quotient and build immediate reach through its multiple, non-fiction game, quiz shows and web series that will have a natural emotional appeal for heartland consumers.