In a recent online panel discussion, top business executives discussed the challenges and opportunities that the regional OTT platforms face these days.
Streaming platforms have undergone quite a transformation over the years to enhance their user experience. With more streaming platforms in in the picture, along with various subscription-based models, the factors essential to engage and retain the users need to be revisited.
Discussing this very topic was a panel of top business executives, including Gaurav Trehan, founder and director at Heeroz; Pallav Parikh, co-founder of CityShor; Radhakrishnan Ramachandran, founder and CEO at Studio Mojo; Rohonesh Kar, presales leader, India at Akamai Technologies; Vishnu Mohta, co-founder of Hoichoi; and Zubin Dubash, COO, digital businesses at Shemaroo. The session was moderated by Anirban Roy Choudhary, associate editor at afaqs!.
The session commenced with the panelists discussing the factors which led to the boom of regional OTT consumption in India. Studio Mojo’s Ramachandran shared that the lack of visibility for regional content on large OTT platforms has led to niche creators and producers searching for more opportunities.
Trehan of Heeroz added that the fundamental aspect of regional content has always been the relatability factor. People relate it to their lifestyles, upbringing, and approach to life. Once we have tech acceptance from the regional audiences, the regional OTT players can expect to have a place of their own, he said, as relatability creates demand.
When asked about the essential tech aspects that need to be kept in mind when there is an increased demand for regional OTT, Kar of Akamai Technologies said that the idea is to always collaborate with someone who can help deliver a personalised, on-demand and reliable video experience to the users. Selecting a partner who can provide you with that scale, performance and reliability, is crucial.
On being asked about the role technology plays in OTT platforms attaining scale, Kar added that in a country like India, it’s not just the metro cities that drive viewership, but also Tier-II and III cities. Several published data pieces reveal that the cities outside of the core metros have considerable online audiences, and they drive significant video traffic. Hence, one must be able to reach the remotest parts of the country, while ensuring a consistent viewing experience.
Talking about the diaspora audiences and the scope of growth for regional OTTs spreading across tiers, Hoichoi’s Mohta mentioned that OTT, as an ecosystem, is at a very nascent stage. When one dissects that ecosystem further, one will see that the pockets of growth are spread across tiers.
The problem of delivery and distribution of OTT is solved through the Internet, unlike television and theatres, where you need a physical presence. Hence, having universal connectivity allows you to have customers and users across the globe, despite the niche content created by the platforms.
On whether consumer expectations change as we go deeper into the country, Dubash of Shemaroo stated that he did not observe any specific trend around device consumption over geographies, at least in terms of tiers. What can be clearly stated, he added, is that the smart TV experience is family-oriented, and the smartphone experience is individual. Identifying a certain device for geography may not be the right way to look at it in terms of consumption trends.
Sharing his views on the changing consumer experience, CityShor’s Parikh said he had observed in the Gujarati community that there were pieces of content made specifically for rural audiences, while others were made for the urban viewers. There was a very evident demarcation in the content for rural and urban Gujarati audiences. He also shared that 8-9 years back, the majority of Gujarati content was created for rural viewers.
Towards the end of the session, the panelists were asked to share one challenge that the OTT ecosystem needs to overcome and a tech challenge that needs to be addressed. Mohta and Ramachandran said that their main focus would be on content strategy and creation.
Responding to the second part of the question, Mohta added that content piracy remained a top-of-mind concern and technology may help solve it. Ramachandran felt that more features could be added to their platform.
Dubash stated that the biggest challenge was reducing customer acquisition cost and, from the tech perspective, having a platform that could help gather deep valuable insights. Kar rounded off the session by saying that for the OTT providers in the region, fraud detection/content protection was going to be an area of investment in the future .
The session was part of an afaqs! event in partnership with Akamai Technologies on June 17, 2021.
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