Benita Chacko

Live Streaming on OTT platforms going beyond sports and reality?

ShemarooMe has been offering ‘Live Darshan’, OHO Gujarati live streamed a literary festival and aha plans to offer live local sporting content.

The 2022 Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan on Sunday (September 4) was watched by 1.4 crore viewers on streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar. The previous match between the two countries last week attracted 1.3 crore viewers.

Live-streamed sporting events have consistently brought in massive viewership for OTT platforms.

Apart from sports, reality shows have also garnered strong viewership in the live format. For example, Voot has been offering a 24/7 live-streaming of its tentpole property ‘Bigg Boss’ since 2020. More recently, ALTBalaji and MX Player provided a 24/7 live-stream of the reality show ‘Lock Upp’.

But now, OTT platforms are taking the live format beyond sports and reality to other content as well.

ShemarooMe has been offering ‘Live Darshan’ from sought-after temples across the country. OHO live-streamed the Gujarat Literature Festival (GLF) on its platform in May this year. It also intends to go the sporting way, but with local events from across Gujarat. aha also has similar plans with sports, and intends to live-stream music concerts starting next month.

The live format brings in a sense of urgency, as the content is available on the platform only at that given time. Viewers can’t watch it on-demand, like other content. This ensures that viewers keep coming back to the platforms regularly.

Manik Bhambha
Manik Bhambha

Manik Bhambha, co-founder and president, ViewLift, a technology platform that enables OTT platforms to live-stream, says it can even help platforms deal with the decline in viewership, post-COVID.

“OTT platforms witnessed a spike in viewership during the (COVID-induced) lockdowns. But as people resumed their normal lives, the viewership has declined. Live-streaming can help platforms combat that decline,” he says.

ViewLift is in talks with other platforms to enable live movies and show premieres. A movie will be launched every week at a certain time, and the cast will be present to speak about the movie and interact with the viewers. “This will not only keep the audience engaged, but since it is available only at a certain time, it brings in a sense of urgency,” Bhambha says.

Currently, aha live-streams news channels, but intends to do a lot more. It has been streaming Telugu ‘Indian Idol’, and now intends to do live concerts with the contestants and judges. The first concert will be in Hyderabad next month.

Vaasudev Koppineni
Vaasudev Koppineni

“As an extension of our AVoD plans, we have created a vertical called ‘Impact Property’, where we will be doing a lot of on-ground events, in association with brands. As a part of that, we will be having on-ground concerts and those will also be live-streamed on aha. It will give us an opportunity to extend the content to aha audience, who have not been able to come to the show. It will reach audiences outside Hyderabad. It also gives the brands extra visibility,” says Vaasudev Koppineni, vice president - content and strategy, aha.

Continuing on its localisation agenda, aha is also in talks to live-stream regional sports. “We are in talks with Telugu gamers. Many consume local sporting content. If we can provide a distribution channel for that, it will become a new arena for growth,” he adds.

With its devotional live streaming, ShemarooMe has targeted a unique cohort. Currently it offers live feeds from 10 shrines. During festive seasons it adds more pilgrim centres. For example, during Ganesh Chaturthi it is live streaming the aarti from Mumbai’s Lalbaugcha Raja and Pune’s Dagdusheth Mandir.

Zubin Dubash
Zubin Dubash

“While this content is available on YouTube and on-demand, the stickiness with live streaming is much more. The average watch time of a customer on live is much higher than with VOD,” says Zubin Dubash, COO, ShemarooMe and Digital Business.

Devotional content offers a unique advantage to the platform. People keep coming back for it everyday or at least every week. “For example, if someone believes they want to visit a particular shrine every Tuesday, they will keep coming back for it week after week. The stickiness is very high and there is repeatability as well. Devotional is a unique and underserved cohort of customers and we believe there is a lot of room to grow here. There is also a lot of potential for unique innovative experiences,” he adds.

While OHO Gujarati tried a live format with GLF, with local sports and events, it aims to create more engagement and get new users on the platform. It is in talks with government agencies to cover regional sports, like athletic meets and inter-district meets, that happen locally. It also plans to live stream events like Navaratri.

“With GLF we could reach a wider audience. It has a very distinct audience and has a good interest overseas. OHO can reach that TG unlike traditional mediums,” says Suryadeep Basiya, CEO, OHO Gujarati.

“Other than sports most events are easily and freely available on YouTube. There’s no point in live streaming content that’s easily available. That is the problem for pan-India platforms. But with regional we are at a sweet spot because local sporting events are not so easily available. There is a good demand for it locally and overseas but they aren’t so well covered,” he explains.

It is very expensive for platforms to offer live streaming content. Viewlift’s Bhambha says it is double the cost of video-on-demand. However, it can also help platforms garner more revenue through branding opportunities.

“The engagement is much higher with live streaming as people can’t rewind or pause content. If they aren’t paying attention or they go away they will miss content. So the CPMs on live are 10 times that of VOD,” he adds.

Koppineni sees huge potential in this format, but says the challenge is to figure out the right content for live-streaming, beyond sports and reality. “We are heading towards those answers. It may not be exponential at the moment, but it is growing linearly.”

In an interview with afaqs! last month, Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment, had also said that they are looking for the right content to be live streamed.

“Platforms will definitely try various experiments with live streaming content and see how it works and how they can drive consumption. We would be keen to try content that can be live streamed. We have not yet found the right thing. I am not entirely sure which is the right one to pursue but it is an interesting thing to do,” he had said.

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