OTT platforms are determined to meet the growing entertainment appetite of viewers. According to a recent survey by mobile marketing platform In Mobi, 46% of viewers are watching increased content online after the COVID19 outbreak. Another survey conducted by Hammerkof has found that OTT consumption primetime has moved to 7 pm onwards, as opposed to 10 pm – 12 am before. Thus the range of time OTT is consumed has also increased. In an interview with OTT viewers in recent times, out of 300 viewers interviewed, it has been found 60% of the viewers log in to OTT platforms generally from 12 noon onwards and 20% spend early morning time in bed viewing OTT content; while asked about night viewing 75% respondents reported that they spend time on OTT, viewing movies and their favourite web series till early morning, as they do not hurry up to office next morning.
How are the OTT players in the market responding to this increased demand? The increased viewing time calls for added and a variety of content over the OTT platforms. The implication of this for Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, ALTBalaji and Voot Select will be that they have to increase their games and shows.
Experts believe that viewership on these platforms could grow further in the coming days, as television channels run out of content. During the COVID 19 related lockdown period, the channels are unable to create new content, as a result, they are running old content. “In such a situation, people will drift towards OTT to watch new content”, says Paritosh Joshi, media consultant and principal, Provocateur Advisory (Singh, 2020).
With the pandemic COVID 19 and announced lockdown, the country witnessed the shutdown of schools, colleges and offices and the huge number of people have taken resort to OTT viewing. Cinema, theatres, restaurants, parks and all entertainment points are closed, staying at home is the only option for people and OTT has turned out to be their entertainment saviour. OTT platforms need to cater to this enhanced demand of viewers. So they are having to respond strategically. In an article, Tarun Katial, CEO, Zee5 India, has been found to comment that their platform has seen an 80% rise in subscriptions and over 50% increase during this COVID19 phase. Platforms like Hotstar, Amazon Prime and Netflix have witnessed an 82.63% upsurge in time spent on the OTT platforms (Bloomberg, 2020).
Another step that the OTT platforms have adopted is to make a few shows available free to the viewers. #Be Calm Be Entertained initiative, Zee5 is offering premium shows and movies to viewers without any additional cost, to be precise, for free.
As all children are at home, to engage children viewers, Amazon Prime is offering shows and movies for children segment as well. There has been a huge increase in the number of subscribers in Viacom18’s Voot Select and SVoD space. Viacom18 mentions that the viewing of the platforms have witnessed three times higher than expected (Singh, 2020, April 6).
Looking at the scenario for the genre perspective, it can be found that content is being consumed across a wide variety of genres. Starting from thrillers, drama, action, to romance, viewers are consuming every kind of genre (Dey, 2020). Besides, viewers, who are normally hitched to shows, soaps and web series are now watching more movies with a 28% increase during the lockdown period, reported by Singh (April 6, 2020).
OTT players have majorly seen two kinds of changes, one is total viewing time spent on OTT has increased among viewers and second, the number of subscriptions has increased. When it comes to OTT players with a smaller market, it is expected that their subscriber numbers will be doubled.
To this effect, the challenge is continuously holding on to with these customers. Players have to networks be particularly careful about the quality of OTT streaming. To avoid the pressure on the cellular networks because of increased streaming, Cellular Operators’ Association of India asked OTT players to reduce the quality of streaming of videos, which has already been implemented.
Again, another challenge expected is that if the lockdown continues, and the income level of people might drop, and they might tend to curtail expenses which are not very essential, this might lead to reducing OTT subscription expenses. As OTT platforms operate on ad models, subscription models and bundled models, to sustain at this peak period, subscriptions have to be emphasized but this kind of subscription increase might be just a one time upsurge. There is a competition among all the OTT players to capture the market making subscribers retention a challenge. Plus most of the players have to focus on their ‘original’ content, which is pretty difficult to produce in the lockdown phase. With respect to Indian viewers, it has been found that most of the Indian viewers are ready to subscribe to OTT channels, with a budget of Rs. 25 per month, and they won’t mind changing such platforms and subscriptions on and off.
In sum, OTT platforms have witnessed a change in the lockdown phase; the social distancing among people has played a catalytic role in it. Handled well, new contents developed, subscription rates reduced, bringing variety to the table will have to be adopted to retain this increase in the number of subscribers.
Even after the lockdown is eased, it would be quite expected that the fear psychoses with regard to infection spread will keep haunting theatre visitors and they might still continue to enjoy OTT platforms at the safe zones of four walls of their rooms. Theatres might be adopting all precautionary measures like Sanitization, contactless food and beverage delivery, socially distanced seat arrangements, online ticket sales, mandatory masks and gloves still it will take some time for people to come out of their houses for entertainment where social proximity is unavoidable. So, OTT platforms have made its place, and continue to be people’s choice as a safe option or as the inertia of social distancing measures.
- Bloomberg. (2020, February 20). How India’s top local streamer is battling Netflix and Disney’s Hotstar. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.livemint.com/industry/media/zee5-how-india-s-top-local-streamer-is-battling-netflix-hotstar-amazon-prime-video-11582157790760.html
- Dey, A. (2020, April 02). ALTBalaji’s Divya Dixit on how Indian content is picking up. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.financialexpress.com/brandwagon/altbalajis-divya-dixit-on-how-indian-content-is-picking-up/1916597/
- Singh, D. (2020, April 05). Now streaming, more than ever: Netflix, Amazon, others need to up their game. Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/now-streaming-more-than-ever-netflix-amazon-others-need-to-up-their-game/1918370/
- Singh, D. (2020, April 06). How is coronavirus impacting the streaming platforms with an increasing appetite of viewers? Retrieved May 11, 2020, from https://www.financialexpress.com/brandwagon/how-is-coronavirus-impacting-the-streaming-platforms-with-an-increasing-appetite-of-viewers/1919916/
- Varma, N. (2020, April 13). Coronavirus lockdown: As people stay home, TV and OTT usage sees a massive uptick. Retrieved May 26, 2020, from https://www.deccanherald.com/business/coronavirus-lockdown-as-people-stay-home-tv-and-ott-usage-sees-massive-uptick-824700.html