The last two years have altered the way Indians consume video content. From television to device-screens, the journey has been a never-ending race of innovations and disruptions and a lot of the credit for this surge can be attributed to smartphone penetration, affordable data and a consumer demand for differentiated content. Entertainment is one of the first categories that a user explores and experiences on a smart device making the environment favourable for OTT platforms to thrive and flourish. At the same time, the boom is also helping cultivate an ecosystem for related fields to grow as well.
A diverse content slate
Storytellers are no longer restricted by the constraints of the conventional medium. A predominantly single-television nation, programming on the conventional medium was created for a homogenous audience. However, the audience in India is anything but homogenous and OTT platforms enable the viewers to personalise their screens. This presents a virtually limitless expanse for storytellers to experiment with. From diversity in narratives and stories that appeal to specific demographics to genres and formats that were previously unheard of - content creators now enjoy the creative freedom to explore a wide canvas that was unavailable to them before.
Breaking the barrier of languages
A few years ago, almost 75 per cent of online video consumption was in Hindi. Users who did not speak the language had to either settle for linear programming - which again, was created for a homogenous segment or watch what was offered to them in a language they didn't understand. The advent of online video platforms, however, has led creators and platforms to offer stories that have a universal appeal, yet, are deeply rooted in the local culture and are in a language that is native to a specific region. What this essentially means is that a story could be narrated in a particular language, highlight the customs and practices of a region and yet, manage to strike a chord with a global audience. Once again, this has opened the doors for local storytellers, creative heads and technicians who always had ideas and vision, and now have a medium too.
The rise of digital stardom
Like storytellers, the acceptance of online video platforms has also enabled artistes - actors, singers, comedians, dancers, performers and more, to connect easily with their audiences, ruling out the tedious process of 'getting a break'. With thousands of stories being told, millions of content pieces being created, there exists a scope for local talent like never before. Similarly, the digital medium has also blurred the lines between television talent, film talent and online talent. With enough examples of crossovers, it is now about content and who can be best suited to be a part of a particular story.
The dawn of super-targeted advertising
Digital platforms have given marketers a medium that is driven by Big Data allowing them to understand consumption habits and preferences for customising their messages and improving ad targeting for more relevant brand interaction. Ad messages today, can be customised and segregated to reach a micro audience group, making it easier for even local brands to reach a significant pertinent audience. Both platforms and advertisers, will continue to introduce newer, more immersive ad formats over the next few years.
The growth the industry has seen in the last two years is just the tip of the iceberg. The next 2 to 3 years are going to be critical for the industry. New consumers are expected to come under the digital umbrella, new players are expected to enter the market and new storytellers are likely to emerge, making it a really optimistic space to be in!
(Siddhartha Roy is COO, Hungama Digital Media).
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