Aishwarya Ramesh
Marketing

Are OTT platforms trying equally hard on the product front?

OTT platforms are going all out to get great content.

"Product is a word all of us use a lot," remarked Sreekant Khandekar, afaqs! founder, as he prepared to begin moderating a panel on the topic 'Playing the product game'. The panel discussion was held at the fourth edition of afaqs!' vdonxt awards at the JW Marriott, Mumbai. The panel comprised N Dilip Venkatraman, chief executive officer, VideoTap, Rohonesh Kar, Akamai Technologies, Taranjeet Singh, ZEE5 India and Zubin Jimmy Dubash, Shemaroo.

(L-R) Sreekant Khandekar, Dilip Venkatraman, Rohonesh Kar, Taranjeet Singh
(L-R) Sreekant Khandekar, Dilip Venkatraman, Rohonesh Kar, Taranjeet Singh

"As users, we instinctively like things but we're not necessarily sure why. A good product has functionality, affordability and ease of use. Thousands of crores of rupees go into creating content - are we lagging on the product side in a bid to create consumable content?" Khandekar asked. "When we think of a product, the first thing we think about is our consumer. Data is one of the three pillars that we use to build consumable content. We're investing a lot in building data capabilities," said Taranjeet Singh.

He turned to the audience and asked how many people exclusively opt for on-demand content. The number of hands that went up in the room helped drive his point home - "the number of people consuming on-demand content is increasing and these users also expect a fully personalised product that shows them recommendations according to their taste," Singh pointed out.

Rohonesh Kar (L) and Taranjeet Singh (R)
Rohonesh Kar (L) and Taranjeet Singh (R)

"At Shemaroo, we have our own OTT player which is Shemaroome. The one thing we keep in mind is that user experience needs to be simple and personalised. We keep the complicated stuff such as storage, data, etc at the backend. Innovation on products lasts only three months in today's world," said Dubhash. He went on to explain in detail a content innovation that led to product innovation. Shemaroome is the only OTT platform that offers content at a fixed frequency rate. "For example, you have a new movie releasing on the platform every Friday - that's our promise that we make to the customer for the fee that he pays to us. While this is a content innovation, its delivery is very complex. We spoke to the product team and briefed them that the customer needs to have a flawless UI-UX experience and needs to have notifications delivered to his inbox at the right time," explained Dubhash.

Taranjeet Singh (L), Jimmy Dubhash (R)
Taranjeet Singh (L), Jimmy Dubhash (R)

Rohonesh Kar of Akamai Technologies said, "There is a reason that 25 million people watched the IPL on Hotstar - that number is the highest in the world. Customer experience is one of the key pillars that OTT players are focusing on." He mentioned that the challenging part of India as a market is that the country is a very mobile-heavy market and 90-95 per cent of users are watching shows on their mobile screens. "India is always on the go and we don't necessarily have the infrastructure to provide that kind of data, without buffering. This isn't a product issue, we just don't have the network to support this kind of data consumption," he said.

Dillip Venkatraman, founder of Video Tap - a non linear video streaming platform, said, "Unknown linear video streaming platform is one where different users can have different experiences while consuming the same content." His platform allows for instant personalisation of mass viewed content. "It's clear that streaming is the Holy Grail in India. We are largely a copycat market. We are adept at adopting and innovating on that. People have to create an ecosystem of product innovation here," he added.

(L) Sreekant Khandekar and Dilip Venkatraman (R)
(L) Sreekant Khandekar and Dilip Venkatraman (R)

"Easy to fall into a trap when you place your algorithms only on one particular incidence," said Taranjeet Singh. "We look at data very carefully to understand how we can build taste clusters to serve user needs on the app. We've seen almost 25 per cent increase in time spent on the app once we started paying more attention to details and personalising the experience. Our biggest fear is that the app shouldn't crash when people are watching content on it - that's a horrible experience for users to have, especially since they're vocal about bad experiences on social media too. It becomes our responsibility to ensure that he has a good user experience," said Singh.

How successful do you think you'll be when it comes to keeping your advertisers happy with their experience? asked Khandekar.

In response, Singh listed measurement and transparency as the two pillars that build adtech. "I can be transparent with the advertiser if I can show him how I measure data, but there's no standardised way to do that. Google, Facebook and Amazon are the companies that have the most amount of data and they are not going to disclose how they measure," he said. Kar also pointed out that many times, when a user encounters an ad inside the OTT space, it tends to ruin the experience, unless the ad is something that they can interact with.

Venkatraman pointed out that with the way things were going, most content consumed these days is programmatic in nature and that we should get over the need for nomenclature. "It doesn't matter if it's OTT or any other platform - we're in the video industry. We will survive, as long as we make sure we deliver the right customer experience," he signed off.

Watch the full session below.