Benita Chacko

Tata Play's Harit Nagpal on why OTT aggregators are key to growing SVoD Biz

The MD and CEO says Tata Play Binge's recent move to offer its services to non-DTH subscribers will widen its base to the entire pay TV universe of 120 million users.

After a successful experiment that began in October last year, Tata Play Binge is confident of expanding its addressable market from its 20 million direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers to the whole pay television universe. It can be consumed across mobile, desktop, tablet and television without having to be its DTH subscriber. 

As an experiment, in October last year, Tata Play Binge offered its services to all smartphone users, irrespective of whether they are subscribed to the DTH service. Now it is available as an app on Smart TVs as well. "The purpose of experimenting was to put the app in many more hands, so that if there are any glitches, they're all taken care of at a smaller scale. This phase was aimed at getting a glitch free and bug-free app and not aimed at gaining subscribers," says Harit Nagpal, MD & CEO , Tata Play.

Earlier, Tata Play Binge was limited to its around 20 million DTH subscribers. Nagpal says now it has the potential to expand to the entire pay TV universe of 120 million pay TV subscribers.

"The opportunity is so big and currently we are scraping only 2% of the total opportunity," he says. 

The platform has also launched a campaign called Bachcha Bachcha Janta Hai, featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan, to amplify the new offerings.

The platform offers access to 27 national, regional and international apps in 13 languages. With Binge, a consumer can access 22 apps for Rs 249 per month and 27 apps for Rs 349 per month. With a single subscription, up to four viewers can simultaneously access the platform. It is in the process of integrating Apple TV+ for its customers over the next few weeks. It is also in negotiations with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to make them a part of the bundles. Tata Play Binge would be the first OTT aggregator these apps will be partnering with. 

From its DTH subscriber base it has gained 1 million subscribers. "We haven't even gone outside our base. And we are merely 15% of the market," he adds.

These aggregators help consumers get all their content needs on one platform and also help them with content discovery. 

"If 500 million people are consuming content on OTT, only 10% are watching paid content. Of this 5% comes through aggregators. The remaining 5% are only watching one or two apps. Because it is cumbersome to subscribe to many apps, and secondly, it is difficult to look for content across apps. We take the pain out of OTT subscription and make it easy for consumers to subscribe and watch," he says. 

Since the SVoD universe in the country is relatively small, OTT aggregators, like Tata Play Binge, help expand the paid subscriber base in the OTT universe.

"The SVoD universe is small, not because people prefer free content, but because SVoD content is not being aggregated in a way that it becomes convenient for other people. In television, it was the cable operators and the DTH operators that provided access to channels. The same thing is being replicated here. Aggregators are needed for the paid category to grow," he explains.

While the telecom operators were among the first to offer an aggregated OTT service, today the market is flooded with app-based aggregators, DTH operators and even OTT platforms themselves. For example, Prime Video Channels streams content from platforms like Discovery+, Lionsgate Play, DocuBay, and many others. It is easier for Tata Play as a DTH operator, as it does not produce content. The apps do not see it as rivals but only as facilitators.

Nagpal says that he wants more competitors to enter the space as that will help the aggregation business grow. "I am not worried about competition. I alone can't grow the aggregator space. The space will grow only when there are four or five of us," he says. 

The OTT bundles mimic the television channel bundles the DTH operator provides consumers. What are the lessons from the DTH business that are now applied to the OTT aggregation business?

Nagpal says there are three things that it needs to do- forge alliances with owners of content in the order of the viewership, create packages for customers as per their liking, and make content discovery easy for the customer. Just as the DTH operator catalogued the channels based on the genres and languages, Binge is doing the same with OTT content. 

"Our benchmark is in five seconds of switching on the device, one should start watching what they wanted to watch," he says. 

What has been the impact of the OTT aggregation business on its traditional DTH business?

Nagpal says it has only lead to increase in the consumption of content and in the number of viewing hours.

"I always believe that it's an 'and'- people watch TV and OTT. When both are available, I end up consuming more content, some live and some on demand. The combination of television and OTT gives the audience something to watch at any point in time. That is why we created for the homes, a hybrid Android box. It allows one to switch from TV to OTT at will through one remote without changing the input source of the TV," he concludes.

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